Food and Mood.
Grief affects people in different ways – whether we’re talking about bereavement, redundancy or the breakdown of a relationship. Feeling down and anxious following a loss can affect our eating habits, which in turn can affect our mood.
Some people eat less; they skip meals because they just can’t be bothered. Some people eat more, seeking comfort in the yummy things that give you that happy buzz – for a few minutes anyway.
We all do a bit of comfort eating once in a while and a little bit doesn’t cause any harm. However, when you’re grieving and feeling low, the kinds of foods you tend to turn to for comfort can make you feel worse in the long-term.
I met Jenny when I was working for the NHS weight-loss services. She had been gaining weight for a year or so, following the loss of her husband. He’d been the one who cooked and when she was left alone she just didn’t have the heart to cook for herself.
Missing meals left her peckish later on and she would snack on crisps and biscuits all evening. She wouldn’t feel satisfied after a few biscuits so she’d keep eating until she’d finished the whole packet or two. More and more she had turned to sweet things like cake or chocolate if she was feeling down. The happy buzz wouldn’t last long and she’d feel rubbish after a while. Apart from piling on the weight, she felt tired, sluggish and depressed most of the time.
If this sounds familiar, here are a few tips that may help you:
1. Eat regular meals.
Base meals on starchy carbohydrate foods like granary/wholemeal bread, oats, brown rice or potatoes and regularly throughout the day. This will give you a nice steady stream of energy which will have a positive effect on your mood and you’re likely to sleep better too. Eating regular balanced meals means you’re more likely to give your body what it needs so you’re less likely to crave things and snack. Find out more about starchy carbs here. If you’d like to learn more about how to get a healthy balanced diet, check out my free course.
2. Make it easy for yourself.
If you don’t feel like cooking then find ways to make it easier for yourself, instead of calling for a takeaway you could go for a ready meal. Yes we are meant to be reducing processed food, but a ready meal wouldn’t be as fatty/sugary/salty as a takeaway. You could improve it by having some salad or heat up some frozen veg on the side and follow it with some fruit too. Having a ready meal with some extra veg would be healthier than skipping dinner then eating a whole black forest gateau later on. There’s nothing wrong with going for a tin of soup or a sandwich instead of a cooked dinner if that’s all you can manage to get for yourself. Just include some fruit and veg and you’re on the right track.
3. Find other ways to comfort yourself.
Like I said there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to that massive indulgent ice-cream chocolate brownie sundae once in a while. But if you’re struggling and you’re regularly drowning your sorrows in chocolate pudding, it’s not going to help you feel better. If you want to break free from comfort eating, one thing you can try is to look for other ways to treat yourself without using food/alcohol. What do you enjoy doing? Is it time to try some new hobbies? Learning something new helps focus your mind and that sense of achievement gives you satisfaction that lasts longer than the biscuit buzz.
Keeping it real.
Above all things, when it comes to eating healthily, just do what you can, and avoid beating yourself up if it all ‘goes wrong’. Simply focus on one thing at a time if you think you have a lot of habits that you want to change.
Ask yourself, what habit do you think will be easiest to change, but will make the biggest difference to how you feel? You don’t need to eat perfectly all of the time to be healthy, it’s what you do most of the time.
Louise Tanner-Stokes is a Food Relationship Coach who is on a mission to help mum’s ditch the diets. Please join us in The Anti-dieting Revolution for more tips and support on eating well without depriving or punishing yourself.