People who know me well know that I studied German in college (yup, that’s me: BA in German) which explains why I spent 30 years working in financial services and now have begun my second career as an exercise and nutrition coach. Anyway, I still love the German language, because they have mastered the compound noun. They have a word for over-eating caused by grief, loss, and emotional distress: Kummerspeck, which literally translates as “grief bacon”. There is also Frustfressen, or frustration eating.
We understand and recognize the grief we feel from the death of a beloved person or pet, but there are many other things we may grieve. A financial loss, the loss of a way of life, or the loss of an identity – all of these could be tied to a job loss, even if only by retirement, especially if one’s sense of self was strongly tied to one’s occupation. We might mourn the loss of an idea, i.e. “this is the way the world should work.”
Some of this sound familiar?
You can feel grief and loss physically in your body: lethargy and fatigue; unexplained aches and pains; like something is missing, an “emptiness”.
We often use food to soothe the pain of our grief and loss. If we feel it as emptiness, we might use food to literally fill that hole. Eating, or overeating, becomes our “happy place”.
We’ve spent a lot of the last 3 weeks talking about awareness and mindfulness; pausing, taking stock, checking in. If we do this, with a little planning and preparing thrown in, maybe we can find a different “oasis” from the stress, anxiety and grief we may be feeling at this time. We started our journey of self-care by chasing recovery; let’s circle around and finish by finding our oasis, and getting ourselves some de-stressing.
De-stressing is different from “blowing off steam”, like pounding the pavement with a hard run, going at a punching bag, or screaming in the car at the idiots on the highway. Even watching TV or playing video games – while it may be fun, “good stress”, it’s still stress. They amp you up; we want to chill you out. Try de-stressing with a relaxing walk out in nature; listening to relaxing music; singing along to your favorite song (it’s deep breathing, to music!); having a good laugh, or having a good cry; physical non-competitive play, like dancing or throwing a frisbee; yoga, tai chi or slow gentle stretching; or the big Kahuna of de-stressing – meditation.
Meditation has a ton of health benefits, requires absolutely no equipment other than your own bad self, and it’s free – what’s not to like? Well, other than that weird feeling – that you’re supposed to be enlightened, chanting, or that you’re sure you’re just doing it wrong! If the idea of meditating freaks you out, call it “sitting quietly with my eyes closed” instead.
A beginner’s guide to meditating: find a comfortable, quiet private place. Set a timer for 5 minutes, because you know you’re going to be fidgety. Find a position where you can relax, seated or lying down. Close your eyes, do a body scan, encouraging each part of your body to relax. Focus on your breathing, but don’t feel like you need to change it. Count 10 breaths. Let your thoughts come and go; like loving pets, let them wander in, then shoo them away. Keep coming back to your breathing. Repeat until your time is up. Open your eyes. (Now, doesn’t that feel better?)
So, plan and prepare: when you know you may go looking for an oasis in a box of cookies or bag of chips, can you pick an option from your de-stressing list first? (Go ahead and post your list right on the outside of the snack cabinet. If you still want that snack when you’re done, go for it.)
Think of de-stressing as purposefully chasing relaxation, as self-love and self-care – which you need and deserve. Find your oasis by asking “what truly relaxed and calms me?”
Information for this post is sourced from my nutrition coaching program, powered by Precision Nutrition's ProCoach platform.