The decision to break free from dieting, restrictions, and deprivation to embrace intuitive eating is indeed liberating. However, there’s another dimension to this transition which is often overlooked. The concept of grief and its relation to weight loss is an important one to acknowledge because often a significant portion of our lives has been spent fixated on weight loss.
As we start to step away from that, we’re left questioning our own identity and wondering if true happiness is even achievable without the pursuit of weight loss. So today, I want to help you recognize and navigate the five stages of grief in order to stay committed to the path of intuitive eating and allow yourself to eat in a more attuned way.
Letting Go of the “Thin Fantasy”
When we let go of dieting, this is actually a significant loss. And it is not just all of the energy, time, and the space that we devote to weight loss and obsessing about our bodies. It’s also letting go of the belief that if you’re constantly dieting or trying to lose weight in some form or another, then you can permanently change your body. What comes with this thought, whether or not we consciously acknowledge it, is the belief that if we’re thinner, then we can be happier, more successful, more loved, and more beautiful. We can get the dream partner, the dream job, and have the life that we want.
Our brains tend to think that as long as we’re sticking to that path, we can continue to hold on to that fantasy. And so it’s not just letting go of the dieting piece, it’s also letting go of this idea that our lives are going to be so much better when we achieve that thinness. You invest time, money, and your own soul in this quest to lose weight. So what does it mean when you’re no longer invested in that anymore?
And if anything is going to take us off the intuitive eating path, it is this. It is thoughts of “Well, what the heck do I do with myself now that I am not constantly obsessing about food and focusing on what I should or shouldn’t be eating?” and “How do I fill that space in my life?” But if we allow ourselves to go through this grieving process, we make it so much more likely for us to actually stay true to the path and stay true to what we really want for ourselves.
The Five Stages of Grief
In the initial stage of denial, I found myself questioning whether I truly had to abandon the hope that dieting could work for me. Despite knowing that diets fail for 95-98% of individuals in the long term, a small part of me clung to the possibility of being in that 2-5% who succeed. Denial is a critical part of the process as it prompts us to seek more information and knowledge, driving us to question and analyze our beliefs.
The anger stage hit me hard, leading to self-blame and frustration. Reflecting on 35 years of cyclical weight loss and gain, anger surfaced toward my own body and others who were thin or able to lose weight. But this stage is an essential outlet for the pent-up emotions associated with the relentless pursuit of weight loss. It’s a period of reckoning with the unfair judgments and societal pressures linked to body size.
The bargaining stage involved thoughts of giving dieting just “one more try”. The seductive allure of attempting one last round of weight loss programs or restrictive diets emerged. Recognizing these thoughts and resisting the urge to bargain is crucial in breaking the cycle and embracing intuitive eating. It’s a moment to pause and reflect on whether another attempt at dieting is genuinely in alignment with our newfound principles.
Depression sets in as we face the emptiness and sadness of living a life without the pursuit of weight loss. The journey towards intuitive eating challenges the structure that weight loss provided, leaving a void that can be overwhelming. It’s important to acknowledge this period of sadness and seek support from a community that understands the complexities of the transition.
Finally, acceptance dawns when the realization hits that there’s no going back to the constraints of diet culture. Understanding the inherent failures of diets and the toll they take on physical, emotional, and mental well-being solidifies the commitment to intuitive eating. Even when you do reach acceptance, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the other stages may resurface from time to time. Yet, the acceptance stage brings a profound sense of freedom and a steadfast commitment to a more authentic way of living.
It’s completely normal to want to resist the grieving process, but it’s a necessary discomfort if you want to experience true liberation. I encourage you to write down your dieting history, so that you have visual proof of just how significant dieting has been for you over the long term. Doing this might just help you understand why it’s important to let yourself go through this grieving process.
Write down the five stages of grief and start to pay attention to how they’re starting to show up as you let go of dieting and embrace a more intuitive way of living, relating to food and your body. But always give yourself grace and compassion and understand that this is such a normal part of the process.
Ultimately, on the other side of this process is a more beautiful place to live. You’ll find a more authentic, fulfilling life—one that isn’t defined by the number on the scale but by genuine connections, impact, and self-acceptance. So allow yourself to go through this process and understand that sometimes, you do need community to go through grief.
If you would like support through this process of grieving, please reach out to me – send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a DM on social media (@wayzahealth) and we can talk about how I can help you.