64 Tips For Working Out and Eating Well While Grieving

Coping with Grief / Coping with Grief : Litsa Williams

When it comes to working out, I am a life-long, shameless couch potato. There are no two ways about it. I hate running, I hate going to the gym, heck—I hate wearing shoes that aren’t flip-flops. Last month, I posted about the benefits of exercise on grief and mental health. I wrote that post because it was a good kick-in-the-butt for me. Just before that time, I joined a gym and committed myself to eat better. If you don’t know me, it’s probably hard to understand just how insane that was. A good friend called me the week I joined and, when I told her I couldn’t talk because I was walking into the gym, she asked me to repeat it twice because she couldn’t process that I would be walking into the gym. Seriously, I don’t work out. Ever.

Now, it has only been about three and a half weeks that I have been going, so I certainly am in no position to be anyone’s personal trainer or inspiration. But, I have managed to go to the gym every day except one since then, which for me is unprecedented. To keep myself going, I am definitely feeling in need of another kick-in-the-butt… so I decided to use today’s post to keep my inspiration up and to (hopefully) help one or two of you who have been struggling to start being active or to keep up with working out and eating well. Because, let’s be honest, grief and exercise are usually a tough combo. Grief often sucks us into the couch, usually with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. So today, we present you with 64 Tips for Keeping Yourself Inspired to Eat Well and Get Moving!

1. Remember: The measure is how you feel, not the number on the scale.

2. Find a gym that works for you. Consider location, class offerings, cost, etc.

3. Watch Extreme Weight Loss for some inspiration. Holy crap, do they work out hard on that show!

4. Get some workout clothes you actually like.

5. Learn about grief and overeating. Throw away the junk food in your house because, as they say, out of sight out of mind.

6. Put on your gym clothes before you leave the office. It’s just embarrassing to drive home in your gym clothes and not actually stop at the gym.

7. Practice mindful eating. Learn to be thoughtful about and savor food.

8. Go for a walk, even if it’s just around the block.

9. Get a Fitbit or Apple Watch and challenge yourself to a daily step goal.

10. If your excuse is you don’t have time, get up an hour earlier to workout.

11. Splurge on expensive healthy foods that you like instead of going out to eat.

12. When you have no motivation, tell yourself you only have to move for ten minutes. Chances are once you start, you’ll want to keep going!

13. Eat small meals and/or healthy snacks regularly, so you’re less likely to binge when you do eat.

14. Take the dog for a walk.

15. Keep a workout DVD in the DVD player, so it is easy to press play and do it.

16. Write down all your excuses and a response to them, so you will be ready to respond to yourself when you are talking yourself out of working out. For example:

If you think you don’t have time…

  • 17. Remind yourself that ten minutes is better than nothing!
  • 18. Tell yourself you can get up 30 minutes earlier or stay up 30 minutes later.
  • 19. Make a list of all the times you could exercise that you may not have thought of (e.g., during your lunch break, during your kid’s practice, while watching TV)

If you think you can’t afford to join a gym…

  • 20. Think of all the free ways to exercise (e.g., take a walk, go for a hike, do a workout DVD, run up and down your stairs, take a bike ride)
  • 21. Review your debit card statement. Was there enough spent in coffee, eating out, or other purchases that could be re-allocated to a gym membership?

22. Always carry healthy snacks with you.

23. When going out to eat, check the menu online first to decide on a healthy option.

24. Check Pinterest for some great workout motivation.

25. Keep your goals in your fridge and pantry, to give you pause when you are mindlessly grabbing a snack.

26. Cut back on your alcohol. It’s better for you, and will help you feel better in the morning to get up and workout.

27. Stop paying the kid down the street to mow the lawn. Mow it yourself. It’s a great workout and it has to be done!

28. Think for a few minutes about things being limited due to poor health, then put those gym shoes on!

29. Post or Tweet about your lack of motivation to work out and seek some encouragement.

30. Find a workout buddy. It’s an old cliché, but that is because it works!

31. Make a workout mix full of motivating music. Put it on to get you pumped up on days you are struggling with motivation.

32. Just go! Stop letting being tired be an excuse. Just get yourself to the gym and chances are, once you’re there, you’ll feel better.

33. Stop drinking soda, juice, sweet tea, etc. Stick with water!

34. If you don’t love water, get a soda stream so you can have seltzer whenever you want.

35. If you don’t love water or seltzer, add lemon, lime, fruit slices, mint, cucumber, or basil to your water to add some flavor.

36. Remember why you started working out in the first place, and how much better you feel now than you did before.

37. Put your workout clothes right next to the bed. Put them on as soon as you wake up if your plan is to work out in the morning.

38. Do something light, like an easy/beginner yoga class or video.

39. Call a friend to get some encouragement and motivation to get moving.

40. Join a walking/running/biking group or club. That group accountability works!

41. Schedule some sessions with a personal trainer. Though it may be costly, they can help you get the most out of your work out and help with accountability.

42. Check out this list of the most motivating workout songs.

43. Take it one day at a time. Don’t worry about working out every day. Just worry about getting a workout in today!

44. Take it one meal at a time. Don’t worry about eating perfectly for every meal, just worry about eating well for THIS meal.

45. Don’t let one slip up ruin your efforts. If you slip up and eat poorly, just get back on track for your next meal. Don’t fall into the “I’ll start again tomorrow” trap.

46. Reward yourself. Set goals with rewards if you hit them. Get a massage, a manicure, buy some new workout clothes, or whatever other rewards work for you.

47. Find a friend to keep you accountable. Even if they aren’t working out with you, find a friend who will check in with you every few days for a report on how you have been doing.

48. Don’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry… You will inevitably buy junk food that you don’t need.

49. Use an online food and exercise tracking tool. It can be an eye-opener as to how many calories you are eating.

50. If you don’t have time to cook healthy meals, look into pre-made healthy meal options.

51. Think about those who don’t have the opportunity to workout, due to health or other limitations, and appreciate that you can by getting moving!

52. Don’t let yourself go to bed without doing something, even if it just walking up and down the stairs ten times.

53. If you have a Fitbit or Apple Watch, don’t let yourself go to bed until you’ve hit your step goal… even if you have to walk around the block a few times until you hit it.

54. Workout during all your favorite TV shows. Either watch them at the gym, or get a rebounder, stair stepper, or treadmill that you can use when your favorite shows are on.

55. Keep variety in your healthy meals. If you stick to the same options, they get boring and you may be more likely to splurge on something unhealthy.

56. Everything in moderation! Don’t deprive yourself of all your favorite foods, or you will be more likely to binge. Allow yourself the foods you love in moderation, every now and then.

57. Expect setbacks. No one is perfect. You will miss days at the gym, you will splurge now and again.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.

58. Put on music and dance!

59. Keep some motivational quotes on your phone, fridge, desk, mirror, or anywhere else that may inspire you!

60. Check out your local farmers’ market and explore new fruits, vegetables, and healthy foods that you may not have tried before.

61. Stick to the outside of the grocery store, not the middle aisles. This is where you will find whole foods, rather than those with chemicals, preservatives, sugar, and other such junk!

62. Remember that you can’t take care of other people if you don’t take care of yourself.

63. Park in the very back of every parking lot.

64. Enjoy the last days of summer with some water sports. Go swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc.

How do you motivate yourself to be active, eat well, and keep moving in grief? Leave a comment to let us know. 

Let’s be grief friends.

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16 Comments on "64 Tips For Working Out and Eating Well While Grieving"

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  1. Instructor  September 23, 2020 at 3:32 pm Reply

    This is the poignant story of one man who faced death. He tells the raw story of losing a parent at a young age and how that affected his life right up to the point of staring directly at his own mortality. His story is alive through his vulnerability and wonderful references to the music and movement that supported his healing journey. It took me longer that I expected to finish this book as I found myself taking breaks to look up the musical references, which in turn moved me to dance and heal some too. I think you’ll find this an inspiring story to read as well as a supportive self-help guide to move you into healing from the inevitable losses that occur in life. Bob’s personal story of using his mind body method is a truly soulful and helpful way to work through grief. I plan to remember this book the next time loss comes up for me as well as recommend it to my clients dealing with grief in the future. ~ Candice Richardson-Solomon MFT, LPC

  2. Sharon Anable  May 16, 2018 at 3:49 pm Reply

    Lost my oldest daughter to homicide a year ago. I have been a member of an amateur belly dance troupe for 10 years. Took a month off right afterwards then started back up. But because my teacher does not handle grief well and makes insensitive comments I have recently taken a hiatus while we go through the upcoming court process. I am back up to my heaviest weight because some days a pint of ice cream was my best friend. Thank you for this list. I am printing it out and making copies to put up and keep handy. I “won” a free month at a local gym and will was planning to check it out and start with some yoga classes next month but after reading this post I will go tomorrow morning (I’m off work) and see what they have available. I have also taken up blacksmithing. Nothing like pounding on red hot metal to work out the anger. Thank you, Heather’s Mom

  3. Sharon Anable  May 16, 2018 at 3:49 pm Reply

    Lost my oldest daughter to homicide a year ago. I have been a member of an amateur belly dance troupe for 10 years. Took a month off right afterwards then started back up. But because my teacher does not handle grief well and makes insensitive comments I have recently taken a hiatus while we go through the upcoming court process. I am back up to my heaviest weight because some days a pint of ice cream was my best friend. Thank you for this list. I am printing it out and making copies to put up and keep handy. I “won” a free month at a local gym and will was planning to check it out and start with some yoga classes next month but after reading this post I will go tomorrow morning (I’m off work) and see what they have available. I have also taken up blacksmithing. Nothing like pounding on red hot metal to work out the anger. Thank you, Heather’s Mom

  4. o  February 15, 2017 at 8:33 am Reply

    I lost my mother last year to Meningitis and i didn’t know how to deal with my lose. I fell under depression and started unhealthy habits like eating a lot of junk and spending unhealthy amounts of time indoors. The result? you can guess. i gained over 35 pound just within 10 months. This year, I want to spring back to my real self. I want back me, and this article will go along way in helping me achieve that.

  5. MC  July 27, 2016 at 10:23 am Reply

    I just lost my mother a few weeks ago after a battle with cancer.

    All I can say is that dealing with this is better in EVERY possible way when I’m moving around outside. Hiking, biking, paddling… She would have so thoroughly approved, noting every bird and plant and the sky and the mountains and the water.

    Maybe there’s something wrong with me but talking about her with others, while nice in doses, seems terrible weaksauce compared to moving through this beautiful wild world and attempting to grasp the concepts of legacy, mortality, heaven, and the continual flow of time and humanity against a backdrop of ancient untamed mountains.

  6. Claudia  June 18, 2016 at 6:56 pm Reply

    My mom died just over a year ago and I feel that I am doing well. But then my job got cut as well so another loss brought it back. Anytime I even think about exercising, and I used to do it regularly, I get this sharp “no” feeling in my heart and want to cry. I don’t know why one is related to the other but I feel the weight coming on and my body falling apart and yes energy. I want to be rid of this block but unsure as to how.

    • Litsa  June 19, 2016 at 1:26 am Reply

      Claudia, I am so sorry that you have the loss of your job stacking up on top of the death of your mother. Have you tried starting small? For example, when that “no” feeling comes up have you considered saying, okay no to they gym (for know) but I will go on a 10 minute walk or do some stretching, etc. Anything to get the movement happening but without it being overwhelming? It may be a place to start. An accountability partner can also be a big help too – it can be someone to go with you, or also just someone to call to make sure you actually did something active, however small.

  7. Martin  October 18, 2015 at 6:13 am Reply

    I lost my wife 3 months ago to a motorcycle accident. My trainer (and very good friend) knew instinctively that this had to come out somehow, and forced me to show up at the gym 6:30 in the morning, every morning, taking me through a heave workout routine, and finishing off with a 15 minute session on the bag, with the instructions “no technique, no fancy footwork – get it out, right on this bag” His support and hard work with me, both as a trainer as well as an understanding and patient friend, have helped me though those terrible, dark early days, and continue to help me now. I’m really no lover of exercise, but frequent and hard workouts almost daily have really done wonders for me.

  8. Agustin Bernal  May 25, 2015 at 1:17 pm Reply

    My ex-wife and I married when we were too young, and after 6 years we divorced amicably and still lived another three years together, but in separate rooms, like siblings. After we moved out and lived apart from each other, we still stayed in touch on a weekly basis, which was easy because we lived in the same city. She kept my last name, also.
    In April of 2010 she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. She had chemo and surgery and everything looked great until late 2013. The cancer returned to the same breast and then to the other breast. Late last year it went to the brain and in February 2015 it spread to the lungs. She died this past Friday, May 22nd.
    I am trying to keep up with my workouts, but I haven’t been able to sleep except in fragments. I’ve always eaten healthy and I’m still doing that. I feel so empty and depressed. And scared. Scared of what life will be like now without her great friendship. She was like family to me.

    • Litsa  May 25, 2015 at 1:45 pm Reply

      Ah Agustin, I am so sorry for your loss. It feels impossible, especially in the early days after a loss, when we lose someone who is such a big part of our lives. We have a post about sleep that may be helpful for you. You can check it out here: https://www.whatsyourgrief.com/grief-and-sleep/ So sorry you have reason to need our site, but glad you found us! Hope you find so helpful info and support here.

  9. Joy  September 8, 2014 at 2:58 pm Reply

    Following my bereavement I signed up to do a half marathon to raise funds for charity in my Dad’s name. I went from a non-runner to successfully completing a half in 6 months. The training really helped me cope with my grief. It was a great life achievement that I never would have done had I not experienced my loss. However, after the marathon I stopped the running habit and a year later I’ve not managed get into an exercise routine at all or keep up the running. This article has reminded me how important it is to exercise as a way of coping with my grief. I am more on track with healthy eating and I just need to build on this with a regular exercise routine now. Thanks.

  10. Kim Heinz  September 6, 2014 at 10:06 pm Reply

    There are many good suggestions in your list for working out and eating well during grief. My son, my only child died 6 months ago at the age of 26. My heart is so heavy I can hardly get out of bed in the mornings. Yet, I do…and I lace up my running shoes and run and run and run. During my run I cry, talk to God, work through the what ifs and if onlys…and leave tiny bits of grief on the roads behind me while finding a tiny bit of peace and comfort to start my day. I don’t know where I would be if not for my workouts. I believe those of us suffering from grief need to take extra gentle care of ourselves, by trying to get enough sleep, eating healthy foods, getting as much exercise as possible and believing there is still joy in life. Thank you for the many suggestions of which we can apply some or all to our shakened lives as we rebuild.

  11. N Bryan  September 5, 2014 at 9:33 am Reply

    I lost 30 pounds last year, but since my mother passed away in April, I’ve gained a lot of it back. I used to eat very healthy: veggies, lean proteins, whole grains. Now all I want to eat is junk. When I walk into the kitchen with the aim of cooking real, whole foods, all the energy drains out of my body. Good food doesn’t even taste good now.

  12. Sherwood MacRae  September 5, 2014 at 9:11 am Reply

    Having lost my wife within the past year, it is my opinion, so many “suggestions” would only burden further. Loving counsel is the only source of REAL help.

    • Litsa  September 5, 2014 at 9:19 am Reply

      I agree this is a lot of suggestions. My hope was that a handful may help, certainly not all. If you look at the other post we did on exercise you will some comments from other grievers who used exercise in the months immediately following a loss with great success. Sadly, I was much more in the place you are- I felt only overwhelmed by all the health and wellness “tips” that can help in grief. My hope was that this post may help people who have made exercise work in their grief share what worked for them. It certainly isn’t going to be the right post for everyone! Take care.

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