As a certified holistic health coach and mindset coach, I know the importance of processing our emotions. So many times we use food to cope with how we’re feeling (even helping us push away those feelings we don’t like) because it gives us a quick and easy boost to feeling good. 

It’s especially easy to use food to cope when we’re dealing with something as painful as grief. Grief is one of those emotions that are all consuming, debilitating, and isolating – if you allow it to be. For most of my life I had been that person that didn’t cry in public, didn’t make a scene, or didn’t really show any other emotion other than happiness. I was totally uncomfortable being vulnerable to show anything else. 

Do you ever hear people say how a bad thing that happened to them actually turned out to be a huge blessing? Well, I have one of those stories. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), back in 2016 and I was completely shell shocked. I thought I was “healthy” because I worked out 6 times a week, ate salads everyday, and was a normal healthy weight. But I didn’t realize at the time that there’s so much more to health. PCOS was my wake up call to how I was living my life – including tucking those pesky uncomfortable feelings into a dark corner and never allowing them to see the light of day. I truly feel grateful for the diagnosis every single day!

Once I started on my journey to bring my hormones into balance holistically, I began to notice just how many emotions I was suppressing on a daily basis. Now, it didn’t happen overnight but I did get to a place where I was OK expressing and showing to others if I was sad, angry, in a funk, frustrated, lonely, along with all of those other vulnerable feelings. I’m glad I put in the work that I did because I’m not exactly sure how I would have coped with the next negative monumental event in my life. 

In August 2018, while I was still working in the corporate world in New York City, I got a call from my dad saying that my mom had maybe had 24 hours to live. Thank goodness I worked on accepting my emotions because once my dad told me, I ran to my close co-worker and started hysterically crying in the middle of an office with an open floor plan. I didn’t care if people were judging me, I didn’t care if people remembered my face being all red and blotchy and snot coming out of my nose, and I didn’t care if people called me “weak.” All I could think of was that my mom was dying and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to see her alive again.

Long story short, I drove all the way down to Virginia Beach from NYC with enough time to see my Mom alive, though unconscious, before she passed. Being surrounded by family and loved ones for the next 2 weeks was the absolute best kind of medicine. 

I asked for help and support from those closest to me even though it was difficult to ask for a favor. I allowed myself to cry every single day. And instead of bottling up my emotions and trying to “put on a brave face” I allowed myself to feel and be vulnerable. 

Being the nutrition focused person I am, I also made sure to prioritize things that made me feel good and didn’t put more stress on my body – like easy to digest smoothies for breakfast/lunch and cooked vegetables at dinner time. Of course my family had several bottles of wine during this time, but I made sure I was only fueling my body with what worked for me – not gorging myself on sweets or fried food because that would make me feel weighed down and I didn’t need anymore of that. Grief over my mom passing was heavy enough and enough weight to bear. 

I would also highly recommend not doing any intense workouts during this initial stage of grief. Grief puts intense stress on our bodies and higher energy or HIIT exercise also puts stress on our bodies, albeit positive versus negative stress. Instead of going to that spin class, look to take a walk outside instead or do some yoga. Don’t push yourself beyond what your body feels capable of doing. This initial grief stage won’t last forever and you will eventually get your energy back. 

If you’re going through grief right now for any reason – be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to cry. Allow yourself to ask for help – because believe it or not people actually feel good when they’re helping you. And remember most of all not to bottle up the emotions that you’re feeling. Even if it’s anger at the person who passed. Because when you suppress those emotions they actually get worse and more powerful over time. And so often we turn to food to help console us. We may think this pain or emotion will break us, but we’re so much stronger than we realize. We can handle anything. 

Kristin Burdi is a Mindset & Certified Holistic Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She owns her own practice, Daily Smile by Kristin, where she helps women balance their hormones naturally and conquer disordered eating habits. She’s suffered through a number of disordered eating habits, but used mindset techniques and tools to finally put that behind her. Since she’s experienced the absolute life-changing ability of this work and that is why she is passionate about helping other women become free from food rules and obsession! She loves sharing her paleo sweet treat recipes on her website and can often be found hiking, skiing, and adventuring around the Denver area in Colorado. Kristin is accepting new clients at this time and you can learn more about getting one-on-one support here