personal essay

How Cooking for One After Divorce Taught Me to Love and Treat Myself Better

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Andrii

I got divorced during the pandemic and I had a hard time adjusting to cooking for just one. But, Laura, you say, you have children. Well, yes. I do. But they eat mac and cheese, apple slices, strawberries, and not much else without a huge upset, so whenever I want to eat a comprehensive, “balanced” meal, I have to make it as a single-serving meal. 

After getting through the initial chaos of the divorce, I had a working, stocked kitchen. During our split, we decided I had first dibs on the kitchen stuff, as I was the main cook in the family. I didn’t have too many deficits. I had my favorite skillet and Dutch oven. I gave him the toaster I hated and bought an extra-large toaster instead that could fit everyone’s waffles and toast at once. Yet, I still wasn’t cooking. I was eating mac and cheese and apple slices and going to bed cranky. At the time, it didn’t seem worth it for me to cook up a big stir-fry or pot of soup for just myself to eat. I didn’t see the point in doing all those dishes if no one was there to appreciate my hard work or thank me.

Then, I started talking to my therapist about intuitive eating, which is giving yourself permission to eat whatever you want, without any food guilt, and trusting your body to make food choices that feel good to you. By working on the principles of honoring my hunger, discovering what satisfaction felt like (not just hungry versus full), and respecting my body and its needs, I began to actually heal decades of disordered food behaviors and attitudes

I began doing some light meal planning to ensure that the foods I liked were available to me before I was too hungry or busy with kids to cook, and I stocked my fridge and freezer with some go-to favorites. I slowly began to enjoy cooking and food all over again. 

Intuitive eating — and the cooking for one that came along with it — was the first big step for me in noticing my own body and what it truly needed. My body, both the literal flesh and the spirit, if you will, that embodies it, needed love and nourishment. 

By treating myself to the basic dignity of a meal that made me feel energized and satisfied, I began to see other areas of my life where I needed to up my self-love game. I showed myself more self-compassion when it came to my parenting, my work, and my relationships. I stood up for myself when people treated me poorly, which happened both in real life and in my professional life. (Every time a woman writes about her body there’s someone on the internet who has to get mad at her about it.) My mental health as a whole has improved.

I’m a work in progress. I still sometimes eat leftover mac and cheese for dinner (mac and cheese is yummy). I still sometimes catch myself being self-critical. While cooking for one, at first, felt like a sadness to me, now it feels like an opportunity for continued personal growth that I will continue to embrace.