Overeating in times of grief


It’s been two months since Michael Jackson died, and recently Janet talked to reporters about what she has been through.  It’s sad to see that she has turned to food to comfort her.  Anyone who has watched Janet Jackson over the years can see that she has had a weight problem.  In recent years, she has maintained a healthy weight, but if she is binging now, it may spell disaster for her.

It’s not surprising that grief can trigger an eating binge.  After all, overeating is a common symptom of depression, and grief is a temporary form of depression, which may become pathologic.  So, what can one do?

Social support is always important in dealing with grief.  Without it, a person may go into a nervous breakdown.  Being able to express their inner turmoil helps vent negative feelings.  When a death is expected, people have time to go through the stages of grief, but when it is sudden, there is no preparation.  So, those individuals go through grief without adequate closure.  If there is no social support, that person would best be advised to seek professional help in the form of a counselor, a pastor, or someone they can trust.

Medication, in my opinion, should be avoided if possible.  For one thing, many antidepressants can cause weight gain, which is no advantage to comfort food.  For another, antidepressants may dull a person’s senses, which does not help in dealing with all the emotions in grief.  Furthermore, there is always that “addiction” potential.

Relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation, may be helpful, if you know how to do it.  But, everyone should have an idea of what makes them relax.  Maybe, it’s just a nice soak in the bath, or listening to their favourite music. Adding these things into their routine may help relieve their minds and bodies.  Grief and depression wears a person down mentally and physically.

Some people turn to food because they recognise it as something that makes them relax.  They are feeding the body to relieve the mind.  This is understandable, but dangerous, as it can lead to obesity and other health problems.  It is difficult to remind yourself of the dangers of bad eating habits when your mind is on your grief.

So, the best thing is to focus your mind on something else.  When you’re sad or depressed, this may not be easy.  I find that sometimes, writing down my thoughts and feelings allows me to free my mind up of a problem.  I know that I can come back to it later, but I don’t have to focus on it in my mind after I’ve committed it to paper, or computer.  The same can probably apply to sad feelings.  This may be useful to those who do not have an immediate friend to turn to.  They can vent their frustrations and leave it.

Another technique to clear your mind is exercise.  Oh, yes, I can hear the groans.  But, it is true that exercise, even as it wears the body down, can refresh it.  Sluggishness accompanies weight gain and inactivity.  Exercise will keep you from reaching for that fattening snack or from making a nice, large comfort meal.

Going out to eat, or even shopping is always going to be a challenge.  There is overwhelming temptation in supermarkets and grocery stores to impulsively purchase snacks.  I know this because it is extremely tempting for me, even when I’m not feeling down.  The best way to avoid doing this is to make a list of what you need, not what you want.  Perhaps, making a menu and sticking to it (always provided that the menu is healthy).  Make sure the list does not include any unnecessaries and make sure not to buy anything not on the list.  As for eating out, if it is done infrequently, there is no need to be extra careful.

Overeating is an addiction and in times of sadness, addictions are very hard to overcome.  Finding other things to do to avoid overeating may be difficult.  Activities that were once enjoyed may not be able to satisfy.  However, it should be continued.  Normal routines should not be neglected.  In fact, making sure that they are done (such as household chores) can keep the mind off food.  Similarly, avoid activities associated with food, i.e. watching TV.[ad#ad-1]

But, perhaps, the best chance of succeeding in avoiding comfort feeding is to have someone who can encourage you to stick to your goals.  Lonely people may be able to help themselves, but it has been documented that those who are socially isolated do have more health problems.  So, in times of grief and depression, you should not avoid all social events.

One Comment

  1. WHO HAVE YOU LOST? If so how much weight did you gain? Did you loose someone or is this about your ever day kind of problem that you are equating to the death of a child or a parent? Do you know this really or are you just saying this because, God forbid someone walks around “chubby” and invades your space!
    Guess what? All of the skinny people are going to die! No matter how skinny a person is. No matter how much they exercise. YOU CAN’T STOP THAT CIRCLE OF LIFE. WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE. EVEN THE NON SMOKING, free range meat eating, jogging 10 miles a day, mask wearing grass cutting don’t eat sugar people are going to die. That is life so don’t try to fool yourself…Or others.

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