Jenna Petersen, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

November 26, 2020

Eating during a season of grief is hard. 

During 2020, we have encountered hardship. Those of us face-to-face with the reality of tragedy find ourselves grieving.

We grieve the loss of life. Just last week, two people who I know in my local community had a parent or grandparent die due to COVID-19 related complications. My heart extends to these dear friends. I have also been meeting more and more women who have shared about the loss of life in their miscarriages. These lives are equally as important. I admire their honesty in grieving their unborn children.

We grieve the loss of life as “normal”. We find ourselves not knowing what to expect before upcoming events because there is so much uncertainty. We are sad to not see our families gathered together in-person on significant holidays like today. 

We grieve the loss of relationships. How many people went through a break-up or lost a friend during the last 9 months? Probably quite a few of us. Grieving these types of losses take time and energy. 

We grieve the loss of jobs. The comforting stability of co-workers, income, status, or meaning that are tied to a specific place of employment has evaporated in an instant for many of us. The aftermath is a period of intense shock. It doesn’t go away with the start of a new job, either.

Trying to eat normally when you feel the pain of separation from losses such as these is not always possible.

Instead of large meals, one way to plan to eat during a season of grief is to give yourself small, frequent meals throughout the day. This strategy works well for any time when you may be very busy, such as when traveling, taking an exam, giving a presentation, or if you generally don’t feel like eating because of the stress your body is undergoing. You can pack or purchase 4-6 smaller meals during these seasons. I recommend that each meal would include a carbohydrate and a protein source to sustain you.

Some professionals call this tactic “eating for self care”. I like this term because it acknowledges that you may not feel like eating, but you prepare to eat despite the difficulty of whatever is going on during your day. Another reason I like this term is that God tells us to do whatever we do, including eating and drinking, for His glory. 

I Corinthians 10:31 says: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” In this passage, Paul is talking to the Corinthian Christians about having the freedom to eat whatever meat is sold in the market without getting hung up on the fact that it may have been offered to idols. Paul also states that if another person is concerned about the meat previously sacrificed to an idol, it’s best to respect their conscience and don’t eat it. Despite the main application of 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 being geared toward serving our neighbors’ consciences, the truth of verse 31 shines forth: all of our lives are meant to reflect the glory of God, including our eating.

So in these moments when, in your despair, you want to refuse the gift of food, consider how you can eat to the glory of God. Here are 3 tips that I suggest:

  1. Receive the gift of food with thankfulness. As Christians, we often pray before we eat. Think about how you can actively thank God for the meal that you are attempting to eat while grieved. Thank God for the farmers, truck drivers, grocers, and every other person who contributed to this food arriving on your plate. Thank God for your ability to eat, although it may be compromised. Receiving the gift of food with thankfulness, even when you don’t really feel like eating, can help shift your mindset and your lack of appetite. 
  2. List the ways that eating this food blesses others. While eating, try to come up with a list of the main reasons WHY you want to eat that have nothing to do with your body needing nourishment. Maybe you have kids and want to be able to be there for them. Think of the specific ways that you will be able to invest in them by eating. Maybe you have a job that requires a lot of physical or mental stamina. Think of the ways it will benefit your co-workers if you were to be nourished and ready for action. Maybe you serve at your church weekly. Think of how eating this food allows you to engage in that area. Write down your top three reasons and put them somewhere in your kitchen to help you remember why you’re cooking and eating every day.
  3. Eat for satisfaction. When you eat what tastes good, in an environment that is pleasing, you will be more satisfied. Maybe during grief you find yourself craving foods that you wouldn’t normally eat–whether that is ice cream, chips, a salad, or an apple. If you want it, eat it. Give yourself the freedom to eat what will be satisfying in that moment, even if you might have reservations about the nutritional content. By nourishing yourself, your body will thank you. Another aspect of eating for satisfaction is your environment. Try setting up your meal or snack for success by stepping away from electronic devices, lighting a candle, putting on calming music, sitting down instead of standing, eating with another person, or using nice dishes and napkins. Try one or more of these ideas and see what helps you most! Thank God for this food, including its taste, texture, smell, and mouthfeel. Praise God for providing the place where you are eating!

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