Grief and Nutrition: Tips From A Wellness Guru

Coping with Grief / Coping with Grief : Litsa Williams

For further articles on these topics:

It is officially 2016. Hard to believe, right?  Congrats on making it to a new year, since I am sure there were moments you struggled to imagine getting here. Now that new year is here, many of us inevitably start thinking about how we can survive just a little bit better. We vow to eat better, exercise more, lose a few pounds, do some yoga, meditate, and do all sorts of other healthy things we have been neglecting. But if you're like me, by the time March rolls around, you can barely remember what your resolutions were. Whoops.

With that in mind, Eleanor and I sat down and started writing an article on eating better in the new year, knowing that there is an important link between our physical and emotional health. Then we got sidetracked talking about how delicious Friendly's grilled cheese sandwiches and Cone Head Sundaes are. It was at that moment we realized that, though we write almost all the articles on WYG, we may not be the best people to write this article. We are grief experts, but we are tragically far from being nutrition experts.

We decided to use our phone-a-friend lifeline and called someone who knows quite a bit more about health and nutrition than we do. We are excited today to introduce our friend and Integrative Health and Nutrition Coach, Cori Bernardo. Knowing we are woefully ill-equipped to inform or inspire when it comes to nutrition, Cori agreed to be interviewed to help all of us think a little more critically about the relationship between our physical health and our emotional health. I wish we could somehow also share with you one of her unbelievably delicious, healthy meals, but we will have to settle for her words of wisdom!  Without further ado...

First, tell us a little about you. How did you get into nutrition and wellness?

I am a Certified Health & Nutrition Coach. I worked in the art world for many years managing art galleries. When I hit the age of 30, I started to have a lot of nagging health issues like skin rashes, allergies and some bad digestive problems. Doctors would prescribe me medications, which made me feel tired and depressed and didn’t address the root cause of my illness. I started to do my own research, became very interested in healing my body with food, and eventually healed all of my ailments through nutrition. That inspired me to learn more so that I could help other people.

We are a grief website, so I have a feeling some of our questions may be different than the typical health and nutrition questions you hear. Out of curiosity, what are the most common questions you usually hear from people?

The most common question is probably “What is the first step?” I think most people know at least a little about how to eat and live healthier, but they are stuck in their habits and don’t know where to start. Another common request I get is how to lose “that extra 10 pounds.” No matter what reason people come to me for, they usually tack on wanting to lose a few extra pounds as a goal. Finally, in general, I think there is so much conflicting information out there that people are just generally confused on what to eat and how to prepare healthy food.

It isn't uncommon when grieving to eat whatever is nearby, easy, and comforting (sometimes in portions way beyond what we need). Can you share any thoughts on how what we eat may impact our emotional health?

I believe that what you eat has a huge impact on how you feel emotionally. A healthy body creates a healthy mind. In our bodies, there is literally a direct link between our digestive system and our brain. When we are not feeling well, we often crave foods that comforted us as children: mac n’ cheese, pizza, ice cream, etc.. Unfortunately, those are usually the foods that are very heavy on our bodies and difficult to digest. They can make us sluggish and depressed, which starts the cycle all over again. Additionally, many comfort foods are loaded with sugar. When our blood sugar crashes, we again become lethargic and feel down.

When you are grieving, the effort to prepare healthy meals can feel overwhelming. What do you say to people who feel like they just don't have the energy to shop for and prepare healthy foods?

If eating healthy is a priority, and you just don’t have the energy to shop for and prepare healthy meals, there are some great meal delivery services you can use. Two I would recommend are Purple Carrot and Blue Apron. Depending on where you live in the US, you can also arrange to have your groceries delivered with services such as Instacart and Amazon Fresh. It may be a little costly, but it’s worth it to eat nourishing food.

Many WYG readers have lost a partner or spouse and are left cooking for one, making single-sized microwave meals pretty appealing. Are there any pre-made single-serving meal options you would recommend, for those days when you just don't have it in you to make something? If not, what is your advice for people who are cooking for one?

I coach people to learn to make their own food from whole ingredients, so there aren’t any pre-made options I can think of. What I would recommend is spending an hour or 2 a week on meal prepping (making things in bulk and saving in single portions to eat throughout the week). It can look something like this: For breakfast, make a big batch of oatmeal to eat throughout the week. Lunch could be a salad you’ve prepped or maybe a soup or stew you made a large batch of and packaged into single portions. For dinners, have batches of things like rice, beans and roasted vegetables already made in your fridge that can easily be assembled into a healthy meal. I offer a private cooking class devoted to meal planning and prepping, so get in touch with me if you’re interested and in the Denver, CO area.

New Year's is a popular time to make resolutions to change our eating habits, be it for weight loss or for general health. What advice do you have for a griever (or anyone!) who might be looking to make some changes to how they eat?

Start with the basics: Drink plenty of water, eat as many fruits and vegetables as you possibly can, get 7-8 hours of sleep, and move your body every day even if it’s just a quick walk. Keep it simple and consistent. Hire a health coach to help guide you and provide accountability. If you really want to kickstart your health for the new year, consider doing a cleanse. It can be as simple as just eating clean, whole foods for a few days. Or, you could replace one or two meals with a fresh juice or smoothie.

You are a health and nutrition coach. Can you explain how that works?

My health coaching program is for 6 months. We meet twice a month for one hour to discuss generally how things are going, and we collaborate on 2 or 3 goals for the client to work on for the next appointment. Over time, those little goals have a huge impact by the end of the 6 months. It is really amazing how well this step-by-step program works.

Each program is customized for their client and their health issues and goals. For example, I have worked with people who want to lose weight, manage chronic issues like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, and just generally improve their nutrition and have a healthier lifestyle.  I also work with clients with special dietary needs like gluten-free, oil-free, and plant-based. I just finished a certification in plant-based cooking so I am able to create recipes and meal plans for clients.

In addition to nutrition, we work on the big picture of health. So we’ll also work on sleep, exercise, and stress. You can learn more about my approach here. Also, I work with clients all over the country over the phone or via Skype, as well as in-person in the Denver area. If you’re interested in learning more, I offer a free 30 minute consultation.

In addition to not making the healthiest food choices while grieving, it isn't uncommon that people grieving fall into patterns of over-eating or under-eating. Does nutrition coaching address things like that too?

Absolutely! This is something that a nutrition coach does that a doctor or a dietician may not provide. Health and nutrition coaches are trained to dig deeper and explore the root causes of unhealthy eating patterns and emotional eating.

Sometimes even when we know how we should eat and that it would probably make us feel better, physically and mentally, we still eat a bunch of crap and wash it down with a martini! Any thoughts on what that disconnect is all about?

I think people get pretty stuck in their habits. We are all so busy and stressed out that it can be challenging to put the time and effort into eating whole, nourishing food. And, there are temptations everywhere that are easier and cheaper than making the healthy choice. Unfortunately, it usually takes having some kind of health problem or illness to get people to get motivated. Once people are able to make the change to leading a healthier lifestyle, they feel so great that eating crap is no longer appealing. I still think a martini now and then is totally ok though in moderation 🙂

If people want to get in touch with you about coaching or connect with you online, how can they find you?

They can email me at or contact me through my website

I can also be found here on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Questions about grief and nutrition? Comments from your own experience?  Let us know in the comments! 

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After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

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17 Comments on "Grief and Nutrition: Tips From A Wellness Guru"

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  1. Michelle Stone  December 6, 2020 at 12:40 am Reply

    I haven’t eaten a full meal in 3 years since my mom passed away. I only eat once a day and its very little. I throw up if I eat more. What is wrong with me?

    • IsabelleS  December 7, 2020 at 10:28 am Reply

      Michelle, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re going through this. Nothing is wrong with you… You’re grieving, and grief knows no timeline! Have you tried reaching out to a therapist trained in grief? If not, you can find one here: All the best to you.

  2. Neeki  November 4, 2016 at 6:30 pm Reply

    I would have liked if this article had directed people to eat more plant based carb heavy meals such as split pea soup, spaghetti squash spaghetti, lentils, broccoli soup, sweet potatoes, etc. if you have these meals at your disposal and you are an over eater, like myself, it’s much better to eat a whole pot of split pea soup then ice cream! It’s not that hard or expensive to make these types of meals and they make a lot in one cooking session. That’s not to say I didn’t overdo it on the slice of bread that accompanied the meal, but it was better than eating crap. I finally had a soul-searching meeting with myself and realized that if I wouldface my emotions and walk THROUGH theprocess instead of disassociating I wouldn’t feel driven to over eat. Two days later I’m doing great with not over eating and I’m finally processing the grief.

  3. Vicki  July 10, 2016 at 8:30 pm Reply

    We learned this in paramedic training. About how to manage Critical Incident calls. It’s one of the ways to do it. I don’t eat meat though, I eat plant-based protein.

  4. J.  February 20, 2016 at 6:25 pm Reply

    I find I can`t even be in the kitchen since my husband passed on , as he and I spent much of our time together there.
    There are too many associations and memories that I find myself actually getting physically ill and losing my appetite when I try to cook.

    Have been existing on take-out food and junk food for over a year.

  5. Yam Kahol  February 15, 2016 at 5:47 pm Reply

    I would love a more realistic and achievable take on exercise and nutrition for those grieving. For example I think there is an answer to q3 which could be tailored to specific address the emotions of grieving and the role of food – when you are in the depths of grief it is not the sugar level that is the only thing making you sluggish and depressed. I invite Cori Hernando to contact some Griever’s to learn from their experience.

    Sent with respect.

    • Litsa  February 16, 2016 at 8:28 am Reply

      Yam, these approaches have worked for many grieving, myself included. What works for one may not work for all. We have an entirely different post on grief, food and emotional eating, which you can find here: That goes very in depth into food and mood. Obviously sugar is not the only thing! But it is one more thing stacked on the many other things grievers are already battling, which I believe was the intent of that answer!

      We also have other posts on alcohol and exercise that may be more of what you are looking for. This post was specifically intended for those grievers looking for ideas that go beyond many of the basics that have been provided elsewhere on our site, specifically because we have heard feedback of how helpful these types of changes are when one is looking for that and/or ready.

      • Yam Kahol  February 17, 2016 at 11:40 am

        Hi Litsa, thanks for your reply. I do hope it came across as helpful and I am very sorry if it was in anyway disheartening by not agreeing with the article. You guys, and your contributors, do a fantastic job and service supporting people through this website. Of course you are so right, our experiences can be and are so different, and not everyone is in the same place, or starting position. I very much enjoy your articles and wish you all the best. 🙂

      • Litsa  February 18, 2016 at 8:11 am

        Hi Yam, no apologies! We are always happy for people to share their insight and reactions to posts, and we always appreciate your comments. We wrote our most recent post (which you may may have been referring to :)) because we have noticed a theme over an extended period of time that people (ourselves included when we were in the depths of grief) often aren’t ready to hear or try certain approaches to coping, but as time passes they become more ready. That isn’t a bad thing, it is the reality of how grief work. The challenge is that our readers range from one day out from a loss to 20+ years out, so we are trying to write things that appeal to people at different places on that spectrum. We know that means some things will really resonate with some, but not with others. Or it might not resonate at all now, but will down the road, or vice versa. We want people to always share their feedback about posts, because it is helpful to others. We just also hope that people can be open to the idea that something may not be helpful to them, but may help someone else or help down the road. We wish every post could be perfect for everyone at anytime, but of course we know all to well that just isn’t how it works. We are all far too unique for that 🙂 Take care

  6. Travis  January 15, 2016 at 2:46 pm Reply

    While taking care of your nutrition is something that is important when you’re grieving, it’s not really an easy thing to accomplish when all you want to do is turn out the lights, crawl into your bed, and hide under the duvet. In fact, eating is the last thing on a grieving person’s mind, let alone eating healthy. It’s just so easy to spiral downwards when you’re grieving which is why it is important there is someone there to ensure that doesn’t happen.

  7. Alicia  January 5, 2016 at 8:34 pm Reply

    My own thinking is that a nutrition coach is a great support when you are ready and want to make improvements in your eating habits going forward. If there is any disordered eating ( or non eating) going on that has a psychological basis than a doctor is a better choice. My loss is very new and I can’t even think about food, as a result I have lost eight pounds in 10 days. I have discussed this with my doctor who his sending me to see a psychologist who works with grief.
    If grief takes you into dangerous self harm territory ( over/under eating, too much booze, inertia) then you really need to get professional medical help. The idea ( right now) of making up a week’s worth of food is enough to make me throw up although it’s helpful advice for a neighbour or friend who wants to help out the bereaved.

  8. Rick  January 5, 2016 at 7:05 pm Reply

    I agree with what you are talking about here. My daughter past away 22 years ago when she was 3 yrs old. I had made many bad choices after her death. Grief can and is a very destructive emotion. Not only did I loose my daughter but also my marriage, relationship with my other children, business and not to mention my health,along with many others things. Now these are not because of my daughter’s death but more about the decisions I made because I would use her death as an excuse for years not to do anything like communicate. take care of finances, or take care of myself. I’m 54 yrs old overweight, diabetic heart trobles, high cholesterol and blood pressure have had knee surgery, shoulder surgery I realize if I don’t take care of myself 1st then I will be know good to others in my life and may just find myself being with my daughter soon than later, That would be very selfish on my part to take that away from my family and not spend what is to be the best part of life being able to enjoy it to the best that I can., I only wish I understood this so many years ago. So those of you that feel that you just can’t get up and take care of yourself consider all the other alternatives, Would your loved one want you do be like me. I know my daughter would not want that for me. So I need to change I have lost 14 lbs in 6 weeks and I’m walking 12 miles a week lowered my blood sugar and have lowered my A1C to acceptable levels.

  9. Jeanne Corsis  January 5, 2016 at 2:06 pm Reply

    Thanks so much for this. I love the cone head sundae too! In the fall I was in a spiral of eatting terribly and basically using my grief as an excuse to just keep it going even though it had been 8 months. I gained a ton of weight and was sleeping too much and drinking a lot when anyone tried to talk to me about it I just kept saying things like, you don’t understand or telling them it doesn’t matter anyway or this is part of my grief and to screw off. When I finally went to a grief counselor she really helped me understand the spiral I was stuck in. Even though I didn’t have motivation every day to find healthy meals she helped me see I could find motivation once or twice a week and that is when I should shop and make meals, and then I’d have them the rest of the time. I didn’t want to except that it was a cycle because I didn’t want to take responsibility that what I was eating was making me feel worse. But she was really right. I still am far from perfect but it has gotten a lot better. And I forced myself to work on my sleep too and I think that helped. I was sleeping until 10 minutes before I had to be in my car for work, then getting some huge sugary pastery in my building at work, which just made me feel worse. I was literally skipping showers because I felt like I didn’t have the energy and it didn’t matter (I can’t believe I just admitted that in writing!) but maybe it will help someone else because my counselor really helped me see I had more control than I thought and if I really wanted to live better (which in the beginning I didn’t but eventually I did) that I had to take that control. I still fail a lot of days not not every day and it really does get easier to do once you start.

    • Litsa  January 5, 2016 at 3:24 pm Reply

      Jeanne, thanks for your comment. I am so glad to hear your counselor has been helpful in assisting with changes in your eating, sleep, etc. What you mention about the ‘cycle’ we can get stuck in I think is important and I am sure many others can relate. We feel like crap, which makes us unmotivated to do anything, which makes us feel more like crap, which makes us more unmotivated to anything. Sometimes the hardest part are the early steps to try to break the cycle. As I mentioned in the post, we have mixed feelings about new year’s resolutions, but one thing they can be great for is pushing us to take that first step even when it feels impossible. For others looking for information about sleep, we have a post about that here.

  10. Yam Kahol  January 5, 2016 at 1:17 pm Reply

    Hey Judy, I thought the same thing.

    But I liked this interview, because it came just at a time that I’m thinking about this, and coming back from a vacation I have started to feel I have more time and motivation to think about foodexercise.

    The last 11 months I totally ate whatever I wanted, and did little exercise – I decided in my head that I was going to concentrate on myself and getting my mind through each day. With time I’ve felt able to move beyond that, as my mind has managed to get through almost a year now.

    Some other things I found surprisingly useful were: taking Chinese acupuncture and occasional short YouTube exercise videos – even just walking exercise videos, slowing finding the space to keep on top of my (Western) medical advice and allowing myself to veg out and not feel guilty about it.

  11. Judy Whitney  January 5, 2016 at 12:33 pm Reply

    Good general information, but I’m sorry…….she has no clue what we in grief go through. It would be great to have the energy and motivation to do a couple of hours of prep work for a week’s worth of food………but we don’t.

    • Eleanor  January 5, 2016 at 1:13 pm Reply

      Hey Judy,

      I get where you’re coming from, but we want people to have the information if and when they do decide they want/need to get a handle on how they are eating.
      Grief and other hardship are obviously very draining and make us feel like, even if we have the desire to eat better, that we don’t have the time and energy to shop, plan meals, and cook. But physical and emotional health are very much interconnected and we really encourage people to be mindful of taking care of their physical well-being, to whatever extent that they feel they can.

      Thanks for your comment,

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