Have you found yourself struggling with weight gain after your loved one passed away?
If so, you’re not alone. Experiencing grief can take comfort food to a whole new level. I gained 60 pounds in six months after my fiancé passed away. I couldn’t believe I had gained 10 pounds per month. Initially when my fiancé passed away, I lost weight. In the first couple of months after the loss, I dropped about 30 pounds in two months. I had no appetite and was eating virtually nothing.
Everything changed about six months after I lost him. There was a part of me that was missing—a huge void in my soul that I was desperately trying to fill. Unavailingly, dumped into that void was copious amounts of wine and fast food. This consumption was coupled with both binge drinking and binge eating. Did it make me feel better in the moment? Yes. Did I feel better once the wine and junk food was gone? No. However, the instant gratification that the alcohol and food expeditiously brought kept me going back for more.
Even though the pleasure of binging was fleeting, it was still pleasure. It was the only comfort, the only joy that I was capable of experiencing. The sorrow, the pain, the memories, the trauma, the grief was temporarily washed away. Why would I have wanted to stop that? Why would I have wanted to rid myself of the only delectation I had after losing the love of my life?
Ten months after my fiancé passed away, I was emotionally the worst I had ever been. I moved to a new city and quit working while living off of my savings in an attempt to face my grief and adapt to my new life without him. Haplessly, the binge eating and drinking got worse. Instead of merely facing my grief, I had succumbed to it. Without working and having something to shift my focus, the grief began to consume me. In turn, the efforts to numb the anguish resulted in drastic drinking and eating beyond any level I had previously gone to before. Ordering pizza, Chinese food, and fast food delivery three times per day became my daily routine. I was drinking two bottles of wine per day—one in the morning and one at night. I was spiraling out of control.
In the six months after I moved and had stopped working, I had realized I gained 60 pounds. I was the heaviest I had ever been and my depression and anxiety were through the roof. On top of that, my self-esteem was shot, which resulted in isolating myself. The result was a continued desire to numb my feelings and therefore I continued the binging. It was a vicious cycle I was hopelessly trapped in. Any attempts to stop consequently led to extreme feelings of sadness and anger coupled with panic attacks. I felt trapped, not only in my grief, but in my own body and mind.
Shame began to consume me. At this point, I knew I needed help. While it was difficult, it’s important to note that there is no shame in asking for help. I began being treated by a psychiatrist and started antidepressants. They began to help and allowed me to take a step back and look at my choices, feelings, and goals as objectively as I could. Initially, I was met with disgust at myself. It was difficult to accept that I allowed myself to completely let myself go. Then, it clicked; I cannot begin to change my physical self and health without first shifting my mental perspective.
I knew that I couldn’t be alone in my feelings and experience, so I sought help from a grief support group. It brought solace to know that others were going through the same thing that I was. This helped me to begin to be kind to myself. Through the principle of being kind to myself, I began to research self-compassion. I came across self-compassion.org by Dr. Kristin Neff who states, “With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.” I would absolutely never give a friend the harsh, shameful, and disgusted treatment that I had been giving myself. If a friend were in my situation, I would show them support and encouragement. I knew this was what I had to do for myself.
Quickly, this new self-compassion mindset began to lift the dark clouds that were covering my mind. This self-compassion didn’t mean that I was okay with my choices or going to continue them; however, I could accept that this is where I currently am and that I have the power to make change.
A new revelation occurred; I viewed my weight gain almost as a battle scar. I lost my fiancé suddenly and tragically; I had lost so much since losing him and I survived and endured all of it. This was something to be proud of. My weight was the result of surviving the unimaginable. That didn’t mean that I was okay with the weight, but it meant that I could accept it and make changes compassionately.
I am still at the beginning of my recovery from my loss and the subsequent binging. I have a long road ahead of me. However, now I can do so without feeling hopeless and helpless. Now shame doesn’t consume me and I’m no longer stuck in a vicious cycle. If you’re experiencing weight gain during your grief journey, know that you are not alone and that there is hope.