Grief and Nutrition: an unlikely pair but the truth is that they are intricately connected. If you are not feeding your body in a healthy manner, you may be extending your grief beyond its natural limits. Here we will take a look at how nutrition (and exercise) can positively impact your grieving process.
Food is Our Fuel
We are all conscious of what we should be doing: eating more fruits, vegetables, and protein and cutting down on fat, sugar and processed products. The food that we put into our bodies is the fuel that it runs on. If we put low-grade fuel into an expensive car, it will eventually show! Obviously, the fuel we eat affects our mental health as well as our physical health. Studies have shown that comparing a typical Western Diet to a “traditional” Mediterranean diet or Japanese diet, those who have a “traditional” diet have a 25% – 35% lower risk for depression than their Western counterparts. Now that is compelling evidence!
Tips for Eating Healthy
One researcher suggests that a good starting place is to pay attention to how eating different foods makes you feel — not just at the moment, but the next day too. Then start a “clean” diet for two to three weeks, cutting out all processed foods and sugar. To really boost your healthy eating, add fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, or kombucha. You could also consider going dairy-free or grain-free and see how your body feels. Once you’ve been clean eating for a few weeks, start re-introducing food back into your diet slowly to see how it affects you. That way you can see which food makes you feel good and which food makes you feel sluggish and adds to your grief.
Drink More Water
Most of us know that we should be drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water per day (which is about 2 liters). This prevents dehydration, which if untreated can lead to fatigue, difficulty concentrating and mood changes. These alone are good reasons to drink more water this year. In addition, did you know that you can actually get high off of water (not recommended, though!)? Water can, in fact, make your mind feel good. If you are grieving, anything you can do to help your mind feel better is a benefit.
H2O is Your Friend
Water consumption has also been associated with a number of other benefits, such as improved memory, reduced stress, improved cognitive capacity, and better sleep. Research even shows that it can aid in weight loss. Why not put down the coffee and grab a water bottle instead! And if you’re really craving caffeine, try tea instead!
Exercise is not technically part of nutrition, but you can’t really have one without the other to have a healthy lifestyle. We all know the health benefits of exercising more but what are the additional benefits if you’re grieving? Exercise is said to be one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. Consistent exercise can have a distinct positive impact when you’re grieving. It relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better and boosts your overall mood. What’s more, you don’t have to be an exercise-aholic to gain these benefits. Studies show that modest and consistent amounts of exercise are a game changer.
In addition, exercise adds benefits by creating healthy change in the brain. From neural growth, reduced inflammation, and even new activity patterns; these adjustments in your brain’s functioning promotes feelings of calm and well-being. You will feel the benefit of exercise in your emotional state! Not to mention that during exercise, endorphins are released. These are potent chemicals in your brain that invigorate your mind and make you feel good. What more reasons do you need!
While food and exercise can’t make the pain go away, you can use the tools given to you to remember your loved one and continue to live a life that honors their memory. Now the challenge sits with you. How are you using your food and exercise to help process your grief?