By: Alyssa Everitt, RD
Summit Veterinary Referral Center – Social Work Intern
If you are grieving the loss of your pet, it is important to know that nutrition is an important part of self-care, especially during grief, but it doesn’t always get a lot of attention. Your body experiences a lot during the grief process–it can be stressful and exhausting. Incorporating some healthy foods into your diet during this time can bring comfort, healing, help you sleep better and improve your mental state.
TIPS FOR EATING HEALTHY DURING GRIEF
- Consider asking a friend to start a Meal Train for you in the early weeks of grief. Bringing you healthy meals a couple of times per week can be one practical way for your friends and family to support you during this difficult time.
- Keep plenty of easy-to-grab healthy snacks in your house. Stock up on things like apples, nut butter, whole grain bread for toast, fruit, carrots and hummus, hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, nuts, trail mix or other healthy items that take little prep and that you enjoy. Choose whole foods or foods made with whole ingredients as much as you can.
- Try to eat a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal and snack.
- Include foods that have been shown to boost mood whenever you can. Leafy greens, fruit, beans, nuts, whole grains, fish, flax and olive oil contain nutrients that like folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients that are important for mental health. Try making a salad with mixed greens, apple slices, walnuts, lemon juice and olive oil for a healthy lunch option you can feel great about.
- Limit alcohol. Alcohol can cause trouble sleeping and can be a tempting way to numb the pain of loss. Avoiding or limiting alcohol to one or two drinks per week during grief can be a helpful way to take care of yourself.
- Limit fast foods and sugar. Fast food and foods high in sugar or refined carbs can be an easy go-to when we feel depressed or unmotivated, but they often make us feel even worse. When you eat a meal high in sugar, it causes a quick energy spike, followed by a crash that actually increases the stress hormones in your body. Choosing healthier options–a mix of fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and proteins–throughout the day will help stabilize your energy levels and improve your overall mental state.
- Make sure you are eating enough. Many people lose their appetite when they are experiencing grief. Try to eat about 3 meals and 2 snacks, even if they are small, throughout the day to make sure you are giving your body the energy it needs in the healing process.
- Drink plenty of water. Make it a goal to drink 6-8 8oz glasses of water per day. Getting plenty of fluids can help you feel less sluggish and prevent headaches.
- Limit caffeine. Caffeine is dehydrating and can increase symptoms of anxiety and hurt your ability to sleep well. Try limiting your caffeine intake to one cup of coffee or caffeinated tea in the morning.
- Do allow yourself some comfort foods in moderation and be intentional about focusing on the pleasure they can bring you. Food is comforting and meant to be enjoyable. Eating foods that have a deeper meaning for you can aid in your healing process, especially when you eat them with intention.
- Focus on the ways you can feel empowered by the healthy food choices that you make –every apple you eat is an act of caring for yourself. Celebrate the wins!
- Share a meal you enjoy with someone you love. It can be hard to eat alone, especially when you are grieving. Reach out to someone you trust and make a plan to cook and eat together at home or visit your favorite local restaurant for a meal you love.
- Be kind to yourself and pay attention to your self-talk. Grief is a time of increased sensitivity and the way you talk to yourself matters –try to reframe critical or negative thoughts by replacing them with more positive ones. For example, replace the thought “I’m super unhealthy,” with something like “I am able to choose health with each decision I make and it’s ok if I don’t do it perfectly.”
Remember, this is a sensitive time and you are deserving of care and plenty of space to heal. Nourishing your body through healthy food can bring you pleasure, ease the pain of grief, and aid in your healing process. Give yourself permission and time and take care of yourself well.
For more information and support on caring for yourself after the loss of your beloved pet, please reach out to the Summit Veterinary Referral Center Social Work Team:
253.983.1114, extension 116