Advice please on dealing with eating when coping with bereavement

I am coping to a degree with my grief and finding ways to cope. However since losing my partner I have gone back to trying to find some control in my life, this I have always done through using food. I had an eating disorder a number of years back and whenever i’m under stress or dealing with grief I restrict my food intake as the one thing I can control in my life is my weight. I am not proud of this as I promised my partner I would not do this again but cant seem to stop myself from doing it even though I know its not healthy for me. I feel extremely guilty for breaking this promise to him but feel there is no alternative. There is no one I can talk to about this but close friends are noticing the signs and I have to make out I am eating to put them off track, which also makes me feel guilty as I know I need some help and support. I try to avoid eating in company where possible and have trained myself to not feel hungry. I am a healthy weight at the moment so am able to hide it for now. I feel I am doing this as a way of punishing myself for letting him die, for not seeking the help he needed sooner even though I was told it would make no difference. I have no family to help me and no idea what to do about it. I just wondered if anyone else could relate to my situation and give me some advice on what to do.

Could you not do a calorie controlled diet. Using a healthy calorie intake. Such as 2000 calories. It’s a healthy amount and you are in control of it.

You could use the fitness app called my fitness pal. You input all your food and it tells you how much you have eaten and what you have left for the day. So it’s still a form of control that you have over your diet. It might help and you also are not breaking your promise and are being healthy

I don’t know if this will help but I do know that you have to eat. It is so important to your health (mental & physical) right now - more than ever! But I can also grasp how easy it would be to revert to old ways. I had no appetite and didn’t want to even get myself something out of the fridge, but I knew I had to look after myself and not let my health deteriorate, that was rule #1. I bought pre-made salads, cooked chickens, protein bars, some frozen meals ,that kind of thing - mainly things that I liked to eat before, and I knew were reasonably healthy. I MADE myself eat (an actual internal argument with myself, but the positive won) at a certain time once a day (between 4&7pm) even though I wasn’t hungry. I ate (and still eat) the same things repeatedly, but I try to make it healthy…for example: spinach salad with hard boiled eggs and fruit and cheese & poppyseed dressing is so easy for me to make (or buy) …I learned to buy food that would tempt me to finish it (once I put it on a plate) because it tasted good…
Now,we have to learn new routines for our lives. I think it is very natural for us to fall back on old ways. We have to be so careful, because as you know they are not always positive. Now is the time to change what you are doing! I am also alone and I am forcing myself to “socialize”, because if I don’t make myself do that I will suffer mentally and physically…not exactly the same, but perhaps you could change your routines - perhaps go out to eat in public, by yourself (I often take a book or newspaper) or with a friend or in a group . Go at your own pace - try it once, see how it feels, deal with that feeling with all your positive energy and do it again until it feels right…look for the positive in what you’re doing for yourself…
This site also offers counselling that might help bring you some clarity and comfort and just plain practical advice…Please take care of yourself - Heather

Hi LMF-So sorry for your loss. I can relate. When my Mom died of lung Cancer in 2012, I felt guilty enjoying food when she could no longer. She was always a hearty eater with a good appetite, but while dying in the hospital she was relegated to a feeding tube and ice chips. I could not even look at food during and after that, and lost so much weight, people feared I was ill. Then last year my beloved sister also died of cancer, and she too loved to cook and appreciated all types of fine foods. Much of our time together involved sharing a meal… During her year long illness she made me promise to eat properly and remain strong, and I knew I had to do it for her (as I also had eating issues throughout my life). After she died, however, I saw no reason to continue the healthy eating, and in my despair I reverted back to my old ways. I agree we do this to ourselves, as you say it is a form of “self punishment.” In addition, grief causes changes in appetite, with some people reaching for the comfort foods, and others hardly eating at all. But harming ourselves will not change any thing. Grief takes so much out of us, and we must get daily nutrition to be able to get through this. We need every bit of our strength now more than ever. I know my sister (a nurse) would be very upset with me for not taking care of myself. Your partner also wants you to stay healthy. I would suggest planning and preparing just one healthy meal a day to start, Once you get into the habit, you can increase to two. If I can help in any way, I will. I understand your struggle. Take care. Xxx Sister2

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Hello LMF,

I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your partner and that it seems to be triggering the return of your eating disorder. It sounds as though you could really do with some professional support - you don’t have to deal with this alone.

Beat Eating Disorders can offer lots of support - they have a helpline, support groups and webchat services.

You could also see your GP and ask to be referred to counselling or specialist support.

Did you have a support service that helped you recover from the eating disorder in the past?

There is help out there. Please do reach out to one of these services.

hi jooles45
Thank you for replying. yes that is an idea that could work. I could give it a try and see if it works. I want to keep my promise to him and know what I am doing needs to be stopped now while I can. Thank you for your care and advice and hope that you are well.

Hi Heather
Thank you for taking the time to reply. I often have that internal argument with myself and sometimes the positive wins but not always. I know I am slipping into my old ways and trying so hard to look after myself. I don’t tend to socialise much either so eating is very much a lone activity when I do. Eating before was always a couple activity which was good because it meant I had to eat. When I eat most of the time it is healthy but easy food. I am going to try and control it now before it takes over again and am determined to keep my promise to my partner. I have my good days but I need to make it more good days than bad.
I hope you are well and managing to cope with any difficult times.

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Hi sister2
Thank you for replying. My partner enjoyed his food and knew of my problem in the past. We had every meal together and he never said but I knew he was keeping any eye out for it returning. When he could no longer eat because of his illness I was still not allowed to miss a meal. I was content with my weight when I was with him because he loved me as I was. I find it can be hard to explain how an eating disorder can affect your life unless you have dealt with it first hand. He some how managed to deal with all my bad food habits and got rid of them.
I don’t mean to harm myself but just feel so lost and find that I can slip back into those ways so easily. With no one here to stop me I do not always have the willpower to fight it. It makes me feel even more guilty because i’m letting him down but as soon as I gain weight the negative feelings about my body image comes back. I lost weight when I lost him, did so well putting it back on again but now feel like I am on a slippery slide backwards. I will get myself back on track and make myself put and keep weight on to maintain my health.
My eating disorder took the form mainly of skipping meals but also took on a bulimic tendency. I managed to sort it out in the past without professional help but had the help of a friend who had been through it and recognised it for what it was. It actually started in the first place through the loss of a loved one and I was told to forget about my grief. I suppose this is how I turned to it for control.
I am sorry to hear of your losses and appreciate your offer of support, even when you are going through such a tough time yourself. Sorry for rambling on. Take care xxx

Thank you for replying. I have never had professional support for this issue and managed to control it with the help of a friend in the first instance. I turned to it because I lost a close loved one and was told grieving was not a good thing. I felt like I needed control in my life and that was all I had control over.
My partner knew about my issues and never let me slip back into my old ways. I think it is down to me now to have to deal with it because I don’t feel there is anyone out there that can help me in the professional sense. I cant talk to a doctor about it as i feel they will class it as a situation I should be able to deal with myself. I should have the strength and willpower to battle this, that’s how I see it as an inward battle. Thank you for your advice and I will consider some of these options if it gets too much

Please don’t feel that you should be dealing with this yourself, or that a doctor would think that. You did amazingly well to get it under control on your own in the past, but an eating disorder is an illness, and it is normal to need support and treatment. Especially now when you have lost the person that supported you. Grief saps such a lot of a person’s strength and energy, so please consider reaching out for support.

Hi LMF - I hope that some of this advice helps ease your path. I too think that you should look into some personal counselling. It would give you added support in your endeavour. The fact that you recognize what and why you are reverting to the old behaviours is a first step and a very major one. I understand about being reticent to see someone, but it might give you added insights that help the positive you become the winner in those inward battles. I’d say give it a try and see what happens…you don’t have to keep going…it’s all one day at a time…

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