The Summer 2011 issue of Flavor magazine features a cover story about Sam Kass, assistant chef at the White House. The story, written by former New York Times and Washington Post staff reporter Marion Burros, discusses how Kass changed the way the Obama family eats. By cooking wholesome local and seasonal foods for the Obama family during the presidential campaign and now in the White House kitchen, Kass made it a priority to demonstrate the powerful connection between good food and healthy bodies.
Think of your body as the BANK OF YOU and fresh fruits and veggies as nutritional deposits towards your balance of continued good health. Put simply, you really and truly are what you eat.
Just as cancer patients change their diets to build up their immune systems, people who are grieving need to be sensitive to eating regularly and eating well. If your spouse, partner or child recently died, it’s perfectly normal that cooking may be the last thing you want to do. Cooking for one person poses different problems than cooking for a family. Children have a tendency to continually tell you how hungry they are until you throw something together and put it on the table for them to eat.
But if you are by yourself and you’re hungry, a box of Wheat Thins can be considered a meal. Not the greatest thing but hey it’s easy and no dishes are involved. Eating alone can also be just one more thing to remind you of your loss. A good friend of mine who lost her husband six years ago says the dinner hour is still the hardest time of the day for her.
Your appetite has changed during this sad time, so it’s essential for you to take good care of yourself as you try to build back your strength. Your emotions are all over the place and you need time to adjust. Grieving is not a disease but it is stressful. You have suddenly lost someone you care about very much and you’re feeling vulnerable. You have a lot of decisions to make and you’re feeling the weight of all of it.
You may be tempted to turn to other substances for help but please don’t look to pills or other drugs for relief. This is definitely not the time to turn to alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to dull the effects of stress or pain. Alcohol and drugs will temporarily numb you, but when their effects wear off you will have a much harder time working through your grief and then you may find yourself in a vicious cycle. Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs take you backwards and downward and delay the time when you eventually will be forced to confront the pain of your loss.
You deserve better: foods full of nutrition, sleep and exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, summertime favorites like watermelon, red grapes, raspberries and figs are packed with valuable nutrients that will help keep you youthful and energized. No matter where you live in the United States, there’s always something ripe to eat when the weather turns hot.
A junk food binge is okay every now and then but watch out if junk or fast food is your regular diet. My feeling is you have to indulge sometimes and eat something sugary or fatty as a treat to yourself. But a regular diet of fast foods or frozen foods isn’t going to give you the punch of nutrients you need now to rebuild your life. Although I know some people who would argue that Stouffer’s lasagna can give you courage as well as comfort.
I totally sympathize with the convenience factor of food found in the frozen section of the grocery store. It causes me to fall off the healthy food wagon a lot. It’s an ongoing battle. I recently had a stressful day and found myself eating a half gallon of lemon sorbet. Okay, I know it’s piggy. I didn’t plan to eat the whole container of sorbet. I would say somewhere around the halfway mark of the carton I knew I had reached the point of no return. That little voice inside me said I should stop, yet I couldn’t. It was a really hot day and the sorbet was slushy and tart. The next thing I knew my spoon hit the bottom of the carton. No way! How did that happen?
Since the bust of that bad food party, I will carry on as we all must: Let’s be kind to ourselves and start fresh from where we are right now and move forward. Guilt about past junk or fast food deposits into the BANK OF YOU are not productive. Think good, fresh food and healthy bodies.