November 30, 2019

People handle seasons of grief in different ways—and one area where you see that quite clearly is in their relationship to food.

Kylie Newsom Licensed Funeral Director, Longview Funeral Home & Cemetery

When buffeted by a loss, some individuals essentially stop eating, needing to be reminded by their family members to get three healthy meals a day. This is a normal response to grief. However, the opposite scenario is just as common, and just as normal: Many of us turn to food to provide us with comfort, craving calories as a way of dealing with complicated emotions.

Believe it or not, the concept of “comfort food” comes with scientific backing. The important thing to know is that foods rich in fat content, sugar, or salt tend to stimulate the brain’s reward center; they can produce a temporary “high,” a temporary yet noteworthy elevation of mood.

That’s why, when you’re feeling down or depressed, it can be tempting to reach for a chocolate shake, a candy bar, or a bag of chips. These foods really do make you feel better, at least in the short term.

Of course, there are a couple of problems. One is that these foods are not especially healthy— and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with splurging every now and again, you don’t want to develop habits that will compromise your physical wellbeing.

Additionally, comfort food can become a tool for self-medication– and while it effectively minimizes feelings of sadness, it doesn’t offer a constructive way to cope or to heal. The worst-case scenario is that comfort foods take the place of most meaningful therapies, like talking about your grief with a close friend or with a counselor.

Keep all of this in mind as you reach for those comfort foods. You’re not crazy to think that they work—but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best way to handle your grief.

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