Grief Eating Alternatives

Asma Rehman, LPC

In the last post, we chatted about grief eating after a loss and why we tend to overeat while we are grieving. We looked at some of the challenges caused by comfort eating and how we can rationalize our grief eating. We also touched base as to the consequences of grief eating and how detrimental it is to substitute our loneliness with food.

Knowing these new revelations about grief eating, however, what can you do to overcome the challenges of grief eating? What are some grief eating alternatives available to help you cope as you go through your individual journeys of mourning and grieving?

You may be in the midst of your grief journey or about to begin your grief journey. Regardless of where you stand, you may want to make some sense of the grief eating you have started to soothe your senses. Here are some tips on alternatives to consider when you feel that grief eating has taken over your grieving process.

Understand Your Grief Eating Patterns

It is essential to know and be conscious of the habits and patterns you build during your grief journey. It is so easy to fall into the traps of going through the motions with day-to-day activities and not pay attention to your eating patterns when you are grieving. As such, you can quickly begin an unhealthy and overindulgent grief eating pattern.

The most significant challenge is in noticing the changes in the way you eat and becoming aware of the unhealthy food choices you are making to help you through the problems of grieving. Consider eating because you are actually hungry instead of eating because you need comfort or a distraction. Pay particular attention to the times when you feel triggered to eat your grief away or want to become numb to your pain through eating.

Have Conscious Grief Eating Alternatives to Turn to

Instead of grief eating to get through the challenges of your grief journey, be conscious of alternatives you have available to you instead of food. As much as you may way to turn to that giant bucket of ice-cream that will give you comfort in your times of need, choose to give yourself a healthy boost of happy hormones through working out. It is about having a plan of attack when you notice those triggers reminding you of how good it feels to choose grief eating instead.

Some other alternatives include choosing to drink water or some tea instead of ingesting more calories or to learn Yoga or some type of meditation and breathing exercises to do instead of reaching for that bag of chips. If food and grief eating is your natural go-to for lowering your stresses and anxieties, do understand that it was a habit you have formed and you can definitely break out of it.

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Work through Those Tough Times

It may be a tough journey during your grieving process, but grief eating can only further your progress because you are replacing your grief with food versus working through your pain.

A grief journey is not a steady one that you go through different stages and be done with once your grief journey is over. As author Vicki Harrison describes grief, “Grief is like an ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” It is essential to learn to tolerate and experience those intense emotions of loss instead of running away and avoiding those feelings by grief eating.

Create New Habits

Grief eating will easily trap you into a pattern and cycle of overeating because consumption is such an unconscious activity. This is especially the case if you eat while you are watching TV because your mind can go adrift and you can quickly eat way more than your hunger calls for food.

It is also effortless to overeat when you are bored. During your grieving process, there will be the day, and even weeks, where you won’t want to go out to be around people. This can be dangerous as you can quickly become bored and be tempted to snack. This new habit of snacking can soon turn into full-on grief eating especially if food is easily accessible to you. Create new patterns and go for a walk, journal, and meet with your support network instead because it can help you work through your grief more easily.


Become Mindful While You Eat

Grief eating can bring unconscious pleasures to our brains because our brain releases dopamine or the ‘feel good’ chemical when we eat. This can cause you to unconsciously seek out and find pleasure in food, especially foods that are high in sugar and fats. Grief eating replaces those terrible feelings of loneliness and loss without any effort or mindfulness. Thus, it is vital that we become fully aware of the eating habits we have and practice on focusing on the foods we eat. This way, you can then teach your mind to learn that although there is a pleasure from eating, this good feeling you have does not replace the loss you are grieving through.

Grief Eating

How Can You Stop Grief Eating and Choose Alternatives Instead?

If you are genuinely struggling with grief eating, don’t be afraid to get help and get around a support network that can lead you to make better choices. At the end of the day, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Being conscious about your eating habits during your grief journey does not mean that you need to deprive yourself of the simple pleasures that can bring you joy. The key is to understand the boundaries you need to build around food and grieving. If you don’t know where to begin, why not start with contacting our counselor at the Grief Recovery Center in Houston, TX for more info today?

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