Hi Hayley,
I recently went through a very stressful life event. One of my family friends was diagnosed with terminal cancer at 37, and passed away shortly after. It is one of the most difficult things I have ever faced, and it has affected every single aspect of my life.  

After his passing, I tried to get back into my regular routines but the scale is just not moving at all. I've never had a problem losing weight before, and to be honest, I only gained about 5 lbs during this period, which isn't crazy. But it has been a while now and nothing is working. I saw my family doctor, who sent me for blood work, and everything was normal, so she suspects that my body is in still in fight or flight mode. She told me to be patient and that it may take 3-6 months for everything to return to normal.

I understand this, but it's very frustrating. I am eating very healthy but don't quite have the energy I need yet for my normal workouts. But I'm still trying: I'm doing some cardio and yoga and walking a ton. So I guess my question is this: how can I be gentler with myself and accept that the physiological effects of this stress are outside of my control? It's very hard for me.

Thanks so much!


Wow. You just transported me back to 4 years ago when I went to sleep one night and had a dad and woke up without one, after he passed away suddenly in his sleep.  It sucks and there is no way around what you are going through. You just have to get to the other side, and this is part of the struggle. Where I had it easier was it just happened, and I didn’t have to deal with months leading up to his passing with him being sick. You, unfortunately, had to be your friend’s support leading up to the passing and then you were left alone to grieve. Either way, it’s terrible and I’m going to share with you some personal experiences I had on my journey to accepting the new normal.

What I want you to look at first is the gift your friend gave you. The gift of showing you how precious life is. We spend so much of our days worrying about things that in the long run don’t really matter, especially our weight. Now I am not saying that you should just give up and stop caring about your own personal health (as personal care is one of the first steps to getting through this grief) but you may want to consider taking the pressure down a little bit. I try and teach people to strive to be their best selves, and that is different to everyone on every day.  You still want to strive to be your best because a lot of satisfaction comes from pushing yourself and reaching goals, but you must ensure that it does not define who you are and understand that your best changes daily. Make sense?
Now let’s talk about exercise and how it can help you feel better and move forward from what happened. The thing with exercise is it brings you into the present moment, which can be a gift when you are constantly in fight or flight. Being in the now, rather than in the past where all the sadness lies, will help you. It doesn’t matter what exercise you choose as it will all be helpful, however you will want to look at it differently for a while.  Maybe you just go for walks when you start to feel panicky. Or maybe you go to a Yin Yoga class to help your body work through the emotions you are experiencing. Whatever it is, understand the purpose for your workouts, right now, is survival. It is to help get you to the next day. Remove the expectations and listen to your body. Use it as a tool to help calm your mind.

When my dad died I probably didn’t exercise for a month, aside from walking at night when I felt the panic setting in. But I remember the day when I went back to my spin class, which was thankfully taught by one of my best friends. I told him from the start I was just there to move my legs and be around people. And that’s all I did as I was so grateful to have felt the desire to finally exercise. I spent months doing that, exercising with zero expectations. I didn’t push myself for a long time but when I finally did, it felt so good. Trust me, you’ll get there, but it will take time. A friend of mine who lost his wife suddenly went to his spin classes religiously for months after but sat there with headphones on listening to a podcast.  Didn’t participate in the class at all. He was just there to move.
So during this time just be kind to yourself.  You are going through so many things that you can’t explain, and your body and mind probably can’t handle any more added stress. Look at your food as a way to fuel yourself. Don’t count calories and keep eating those comfort foods that feel good. I always say make the wrong choices at the right times and this is definitely the right time. As for your workouts, just do things that make you feel good. When you are ready to push harder you will but for now, just be kind to yourself. Your friend would want that for you.
Sending lots of love and strength.