Thursday, January 1, 2009

"The Grief Diet"

You know how it is. After your husband or wife passes, you don't eat. You lose weight. I lost 15 pounds in the first 6 weeks after my husband died. I wish I had kept it off, but later, I relied on fast food and junk to get me through a crazy single parent life. Bad, I know. I've played the yoyo diet game ever since. I'm now working on taking it off for good.

Whether you are fighting the grief diet, put on weight after or just need to take better care of yourself, this column should help you. I've asked JJ Virgin, PhD, CNS a celebrity nutrition and fitness expert, author, public speaker and media personality for some advice.

She is internationally recognized as the expert in overcoming weight loss resistance and trains other health care professionals in her program. She is a proud board member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, is one of the biggest assaults on our health and going through the death of a spouse ranks right up there in all time most stressful events. Stress has a biochemical impact on your body both initially and chronically that can make you tired, depressed, hungry, gain weight, lose muscle and lose your overall joy if not dealt with. The good news here is that with good self care you can heal from the stress and reclaim your health and vitality.

In addition to JJ's tips, I added a little commentary.

1. Get 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Sleep is the number one way we repair our adrenal glands(body's stress system). (Often, widows/widowers can't sleep well at night. Try to nap when you can too, but JJ is right that sleep helps.)

2. Supplement with some extra Vitamin C, I love those Emergency Packets-try adding 1 to some sparkling mineral water once or twice a day. Vitamin C is the number 1 vitamin used by the adrenal glands and is critical for repair. (I actually got sick easier because I didn't take care of myself.)

3. Ditto on a good B complex. Your body burns up B's under stress so grab a good B Complex and take 1 with breakfast and lunch daily. (What's important here is that you need to eat. Even a small light snack. When we're grieving we don't want to eat. The number one thing is that we need to start adding some good nutrition into our daily life.)

4. Lose the sugar. Chronic stress depletes serotonin, your feel good brain chemical, which can leave you craving sugar to crank it back up. Trade your sugar for some low glycemic fruit options and if you are still struggling with those cravings try taking 5 HTP 50-300 mg, raising the dose slowly. NOTE, if you are on anti-depressant meds, please make sure you talk to your doctor BEFORE starting any supplements! (I relied waaay too much on sugar to get through the day. To show you how bad it was, I would drink pepsi and grab handfuls of m&ms...not good! It only made me crash later and want more. Then I was stuck in this terrible cycle. If you can't give it up at once, do it little by little.)

5. Get out in the sunshine and move it! Okay so sunshine naturally raises serotonin and so does exercise so try a little burst training outside. Burst training is where you alternate all out movement for 30 seconds-like a sprint, with active recovery for 60 seconds, like easy walking. This type of training is tops for helping your body burn off fat BUT even better it helps retrain your stress system to deal with stress and recover. I have clients start with accumulating 4 total minutes of bursting and then build to 8 minutes over time. (If this is too much in your condition, then just sit outside on a nice day. Of course, many of you might want to just pull covers over your head. I understand. But sitting outside will actually help the grieving process.)

6. Laugh with your girlfriends. Okay, you may not feel like it but with a good chick flick and a few buddies, your body will take over. Laughter raises serotonin too and lowers stress hormone. A recent study showed that women deal best with their stress by talking it out with their girlfriends. That phrase, 'laughter is the best medicine' is spot on. (I totally agree w/this. We're not saying forget about grieving. Just start small and build up from there.)

7. Eat three balanced meals that include 6 ounces of clean lean protein, 2 cups of NON starchy veggies, a small amount of a healthy fat(olive oil, cold water fish, raw nuts and seeds, avocado) and a half cup of a high fiber carb choice or a low glycemic fruit(oatmeal, lentils, sweet potato, berries, etc.). Eat every 4-6 hours, eat within an hour of waking up and stop eating three hours before bed. Most importantly keep a journal of your food intake and partner up with a pal to hold each other accountable. (Like JJ said, a journal is important in helping with weight loss, but if you're not up to that point yet, start with the balanced meals and what JJ recommends and work up to the journaling.)

Thanks JJ!

If you are frustrated with your body and feel like nothing you are doing is working, grab her free special report, The 7 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid in Weight Loss at and receive her monthly LeanZine loaded with insider information on fighting fat and getting lean for life FREE!

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