The Comfort of Food

Friday was a bad day. I woke up with a headache and knew it would just get worse as the day proceeded. I had two funerals to go to on Friday. The first was at 11am for Flo, the coworker that died of cancer last week. The second was in the afternoon for another coworker’s daughter, Kayla, who passed away after being hit by a car.

All week I noticed that there was a lot of comfort food in the office. Thoughtful people brought in bagels, lots and lots of donuts and other treats. It seems that in times of sorrow and grief food is always the answer. I remember when my grandfather passed away–there were tons of casseroles and potluck food at my grandma’s house. I suppose in times of grief people don’t want to cook. They don’t want to make the decision of “what should we eat?” and then proceed to make it. They probably don’t want to go grocery shopping. In these times of grief, pre-made food can be a comfort. And you know that the kind people dropping off the dishes are only bringing the best of their best recipes.

Flo’s funeral was grand and beautiful. I wasn’t going to view the body but when I got there and saw the shiny silver and black coffin I decided to look. I’m really glad I did because her daughters transformed her back into the “Old Flo”–not the Flo I saw two months ago that was 100 pounds lighter because of cancer. Nope, she looked beautiful. Her purple eyeshadow looked exactly the way she would have done it. The wig on her head looked exactly the way her real hair used to look–short and black sculpted hair with a purple streak through it. Her nails were done perfectly–long and decorated. I sat by a dear friend during the emotional service. I am grateful that he was there to hug me, that we could comfort each other. I’d forgotten that Flo was his cousin.

Beautiful Flo

I’ve never been to a Baptist service before and it was quite the thing to see. The emotional outbursts, the audience participation, the cries to the heavens was a sight. And the fashion. Holy moly–Flo would have been proud to see her lovely “Brown Sugar” ladies looking so gorgeous. The shoes alone would have made Flo envious. The service was nice and an emotional tribute to a Queen. The family section of the church was staggeringly huge and it made me happy that so many people loved Flo and came to honor her. It was literally standing room only in the church. After about an hour and forty-five minutes I had sneak out early to get to the next service.

Because Flo’s service was so long, I had no time to stop home for lunch and hurriedly drove an hour to the next service. Kayla had just turned 12 when the accident happened and I knew her service would be the hardest one. The slideshows of her life were heartbreaking. Seeing my coworker with his daughter in home videos brought me to tears. After the service everyone went out to the football field to let go of hundreds of purple and blue balloons.

They tried to make it a celebration of Kayla’s life but in the end, it was saying goodbye to a kid who shouldn’t have died and it was heartbreaking.

Saying Goodbye

In the past when grief struck me I turned to food. Always. I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t a fat kid, or a fat teen really. I was a little chubby but not fat.

Dad and Me

It wasn’t until I was 17 and my grandpa died that I turned to food to heal me. The year after he died was a fog of grief and candy. I’d buy the bags of Halloween candy and eat the whole bag. I was buying candy and chocolate and chocolate bars every day and eat them until the feelings went away. Then it became a habit. I was in the habit of eating food to feel better, the habit of eating candy every day. The habit was hard to break.


I calmed down for a few years, not having GOOD eating habits but I wasn’t gaining a lot of weight. Then a relationship ended and once again I turned to food to make me feel better. Thus continued my journey to 250+ pounds. Now? In times of grief where do I turn?


Exercise has been my go-to grief/stress/sadness healer for years now. Relationship ended? Work it out on the elliptical. Angry? Go for a run. Sad? Go swimming and leave it all in the pool. While some may think I’ve just substituted one addiction (food) for another (exercise) I don’t see it that way. I see it as a cleanser. I see it as working out the feelings in a positive way, instead of in a destructive way.

Friday was my normal swim day anyway. And I needed it more than ever. After Kayla’s service ended and I left my coworker to grieve with his family after we shared some hugs and tears, I headed straight to the pool. I.could.not.wait. The good thing about swimming when upset: if I cry no one can see me under the water. I got to the pool and swam one of the best swims of my life.

The second I hit the water I was going fast. I completed 3/4 of a mile (about 50 laps) in 22 minutes without stopping. I just kept going. The plan was to swim 1.5 miles but I ended up cutting it about 6 laps short of my goal because I had a time issue. For most of my swim my heart rate was in the high 150’s–unusual for my swimming–it’s usually in the 120’s.

Swim Stats:

Time: 55 minutes
Calories Burned: 415 
Distance:  1 3/8 of a mile

Michael and I had some plans for Friday night (which I’ll share soon) and it was a good distraction from the gut-wrenching day I’d had. Did I turned to food at all? Maybe a little bit. My friend from Flo’s funeral texted me saying “I’m definitely drinking tonight” and I responded with a big “ditto”. That was the plan. Just have a few glasses of wine and try to numb. That didn’t happen though. I really didn’t feel like drinking. On the way home from our evening, Michael wanted to stop at Krispie Kreme.

I was so tempted to just eat a bunch of donuts. What I was craving was ice cream. I gave in and got their kid’s size soft serve cone (I am shocked at the size of the “kid” size!) and happily licked my ice cream cone on the way home.

The ice cream cone did make me feel better. And that was the extent of my “turning to food” in times of grief. I think this was a testament to how far I’ve come from the Old Me and my Old Ways. Have your ways changed? Do you turn to food or exercise or something else entirely?

QUESTION: How do you deal with grief/anger/sadness/stress? Do you turn to food or something else?

18 Responses

  1. Lisa, I’m sorry you had such an emotional day-2 funerals is a lot to take.

    I’m the opposite of a stress eater (stress anorexic?) If I am stressed I don’t eat at all. Like, it’ll be 4 pm and I’ll realize I have had coffee and seltzer water and nothing else all day. I had a crazy work week a few weeks ago and literally didn’t eat anything until I got home at 5 every day. The good thing is that when I’m stressed it all manifests itself in not wanting to eat (and a desire to puke, fun!) and I don’t realize I’m stressed until it’s happened for a few days.

  2. I can’t even imagine the emotional day you had, reading those post brought me to tears and I didn’t know these women. I am so sorry you had to go through that. One funeral is bad enough. Two, and I’d probably just shut down, and yes, turn to food. I don’t do it as much anymore as I used to… I would eat an entire pan of brownies by myself in a day if I was going through rough times. But I still use food as a reward and a comfort, but I do it in a balance. WW has the bonus points, and I use them all on one day, and I behave and adjust my points throughout the week depending on what I’m craving. Good for you for just grabbing the ice cream 🙂

    1. Thank you Rachel. It was a sad day but I’m glad I went to both. In the past I’ve always turned to food. Your comment about the brownies sounds very familiar to me. I’ve been there many times.

  3. {{hugs}} to you Lisa.

    You know, I think it is okay to turn to food sometimes, as long as you turn away again. I know that goes against what a lot of people say, but it can be comforting.

  4. Wow, what a tough day for you. 🙁

    One of my co-workers passed away this week after a long battle with cancer. She was young-44-and had 2 little kids (5 & 8). As someone who lost my mother at a young age, I just can’t get those little kids off my mind. Like you, I was a chubby kid, but not “fat”. It wasn’t until after my mom died when I was in high school that I really began putting on weight. I was worried that I too would turn to food this week-luckily I didn’t, and didn’t really have any urge. I credit my now healthy lifestyle to that!

  5. Lisa,
    Oh wow, I never knew Flo but I feel like I do know her a little bit after reading your blog. I am sorry for your loss. The death of the 12 year old girl is beyond my ability to comment. My prayers for her family and friends. I am also praying that those who are friends and co-workers for the family will find healthy ways to support the family going forward.

    When my father died in 2005 I remember turning to food. It is what we always did as a family. Food made things bearable, or so we thought. Eventually I had to learn to feel the loss without the crutch of food. Since then, I have been shown how to engage in healthier outlets when faced with a loss. I can only hope I will turn in that direction when life hits below the belt.

    Exercise is great loss/stress release. I am glad you have physical activity so strong in your recovery.


    1. I like the phrase “Eventually I had to learn to feel the loss without the crutch of food.” That really spoke to me. It’s so true. You can use it for a little while for some short term comfort but in the end we have to deal with the feelings or they will eat us alive…

  6. I am very sorry that you had such an emotional day.

    I have to go with Lori. I think it is quite okay to turn to food sometimes, as long as you keep it in moderation and turn away again. You know how to listen to your mind and body. When your mind screams for something once in a while, I think you can listen and follow.

    1. Yes, sometimes food does help. Even if just for a little bit. In the past I would have used food for comfort and I wouldn’t have stopped. This time I didn’t go down that road.

  7. I am so sorry for the emotional day you had today. So hard. 1 funeral is hard enough- but 2? And for a young child… I just can’t imagine.
    You have reminded me about how people as a society use food to make themselves or the people around them feel better. I remember going to the doctor and needing to get shots and my mom would always try and calm me down by reminding me about the milkshake we were going to get at McDonalds after the shots. Or the times a boyfriend broke up with me and a friend would take me out for ice cream while we talked about it. I think from children we are taught that food makes hurts feel better. Our parents had only good intentions. They did not like to see their children afraid or hurting and wanted to use the “art of distraction” to make us feel better. I think that is why I have it stuck in my brain that ice cream can make anything better! How do we break this cycle? I have tied really hard with my daughter not to fall into this “trap”?

    1. You are so right–I had the same experiences growing up. I’d get a milkshake from McDonald’s after the dentist. When I got my braces tightened as a teen I’d get ice cream and pudding. Food was always the “reward” or the “answer.”

  8. That sounds like an extremely rough day. I agree with you that letting go with exercising is not the same as doing it with food! Exercising actually makes you feel something.. where as food usually just makes you feel worse. (in the end.)

    1. I really like that– “exercise makes you feel something” — so true! I feel every emotion when I run or workout really hard and then I feel better once I’m done.

  9. What a rough day! Seems like you handled it well, though. When I found out our family dog had to be put to sleep, I immediately ordered a pizza and followed that up (not the whole thing! But a few slices.) with ice cream. Whenever I’m worried or stressed, I still turn to food. I try to exercise or talk to people, but sometimes it just doesn’t help. I hope it’s something I can work on.

    1. I can relate to your pizza and ice cream story, Jennifer. That was how I used to make myself feel better too. I’d order a pizza from Pizza Hut, eat most of it, then eat ice cream!

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