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?
Questions about grief and nutrition? Comments from your own experience? Let us know in the comments!
We wrote a book!
After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief
for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible,
What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.
You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books: