5 Stages of Weight Loss Grief

Happy 2010 Everyone! It is so exciting to start a new year and be looking forward to another year of becoming healthier, both emotionally and physically. For myself, my focus for the first half of this year will be on nutrition until I have my baby, then it will be all about shedding post-pregnancy weight (what a trip all that is going to be). What will be the things you focus on in this new year for yourself? How many of you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and are now going through what I like to call “The 5 Stages of Weight Loss Grief”?

Starting a new diet can cause similar emotions to those of the 5 Stages of Grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Starting a new diet can cause similar emotions to those of the 5 Stages of Grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Like many of you, my husband made his New Year’s resolution to lose weight – 30lbs in his case. His resolution includes eating a healthier diet and smaller portions, drinking less beer and getting regular exercise. I really admire him for setting these goals for himself and although I cannot diet myself right now, I will do what I can to support him.

It was by day 2 of my husband’s diet that he had obviously started to go through the 5 Stages of Weight Loss Grief. I call it this because I have found from my own experience, and from learning about those of others, that dieting can cause a similar pattern of emotions to those of the 5 Stages of Grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Working through each of these stages seems to be a very important aspect of getting through the first couple of weeks on a new diet without giving up entirely. If you have recently started a new diet then you will likely recognize, and perhaps even struggle through, some or all of these stages.

5 Stages of Weight Loss Grief

Stage 1: Denial – Denial is the first emotion you will likely encounter when coming to terms with losing weight. It is not denial about the fact that you need to lose weight – you already know that. Instead, it is denial about how difficult it is going to be. The first day or two of a new diet is exciting because you’re committed more then than any other time to stick to it. You may think “Well, dieting isn’t that hard. I should be able to lose all this weight no problem.” This is denial. No matter how easy you think it’s going to be in the first couple days of a diet, don’t let this false sense of security set you up for failure. Losing weight takes patience, perseverance and a whole lot of will-power and it helps to remind yourself of this so that you are prepared for tougher times ahead.

Stage 2: Anger – Some may call it anger, some frustration, but the bottom line is you are going to start feeling rather hard done-by when the denial stage passes and you start to realize dieting isn’t as simple as you thought. Dealing with hunger and lower energy levels while being surrounded by food temptations all day can really test your strength and many will lash out in anger. During this time, remind yourself about all of the benefits of losing weight and how good you are going to feel when you reach your goal.

Stage 3: Bargaining – The bargaining stage of weight loss grief comes right after anger. The anger stage will leave you feeling a bit miserable and eating is a major comfort for many of us. So, in the bargaining stage you start to make deals with yourself, such as “If I eat a salad for lunch today then I can grab a couple burgers on the way home instead of making dinner cause I’ve done pretty well so far and I DESERVE IT”. Bargaining is one of the most common reasons diets fail in the first couple of weeks. If you are really dedicated to reaching your weight loss goal and sticking to your diet then don’t bargain or make allowances for unhealthy eating. Take this time to start developing healthier methods to comfort yourself and lift your spirits, like exercise or a new hobby, that don’t involve food.

Stage 4: Depression – Dealing with depression when dieting is very common because of the emotional and physiological changes that are taking place. If you don’t have a good support network around you, dieting can make you feel very alone and isolated. Other emotions that have to do with not being able to use food for comfort may build up to a point where you will feel quite blue. Working through depression caused by dieting can be very difficult, but is also necessary. Many diet councilors will tell you the best way to get through this stage is to keep a weight loss journal and write down your emotions. I have done this many times and find it quite useful. I also call my friends and family to talk to them about how I’m feeling and their kind words of encouragement always make me feel better.

Stage 5: Acceptance – If you make it through to the acceptance stage of weight loss grief then you have gone further than most new dieters get – give yourself a big pat on the back. The acceptance stage involves coming to terms with what it takes to lose weight successfully and you are ready to seize the bull by the horns. At this stage you should incorporate a regular activity into your life, if you haven’t done so already. Remember that taking small steps, particularly if you are new to dieting, is much better than overwhelming yourself with big commitments and gym schedules.

As you can see, the 5 Stages of Grief and the emotions that many people experience when starting a new diet are very similar. Like I said above, many people do not make it past the first couple weeks of a new diet. Hopefully, however, if you are more aware and prepared for the Stages of Weight Loss Grief then you will have better success. Try to stay focused on your goal at all times and take it one day at a time. If you falter don’t beat yourself up over it, just get back on your diet and keep going. If you need some emotional support, talk to your family and friends or get involved in an online community, such as the Weight Loss Forum. You can do it, just stick with it!

Other Related Posts and Articles you May Find Interesting: “Big Fat Excuses”, “Improving Weight Loss Motivation”, “Weight Loss Commitment” and “Sharing Your Weight Loss Goals”.

3 comments to 5 Stages of Weight Loss Grief

  • brandi

    I really believe that you can hit all 5 of these losing weight griefs. I have to say that if you stick with it then you will be so happy that you did when you have lost all that weight that you wanted to get off of you.

  • Jennifer

    What do you call it when you lose ten pounds then gain eight in two days…over and over again. Well, besides stupid.

  • I call it yo-yo dieting and it is really common for people to experience this over and over again. Yo-yo dieting can be very frustrating and can really set back your hopes to lose weight. If you are a yo-yo dieter then chances are it is because you are not following a diet that is right for your lifestyle. Try to find a diet that will suit your food tastes, daily schedule and exercise ability then commit to it as best you can. For more information, I recommend reading the article “Dangers of Yo-Yo Dieting“.

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