The five stages of diet grief

September 17, 2020

Dieting is like suffering any other kind of loss. It’s just to a much different degree. But make no mistake; there is grieving. And just like all grief, there are stages. The difference, though, in diet grief, is that all five stages occur daily, in random order. And in those darkest moments, as in trying to whistle past the refrigerator, all five may hit you simultaneously. I think if Kubler or Ross had ever gone on a diet, they’d revise their theory pronto.

“The difference, though, in diet grief, is that all five stages occur daily, in random order. And in those darkest moments, as in trying to whistle past the refrigerator, all five may hit you simultaneously.”

1. DENIAL “The scale can’t be right.” You look down at those three accusing digits glaring back up at you, and you know it  has to be wrong. You’ve taken meaningful actions to cut down, like halving the loaf of garlic bread, and leaving pieces of penne still swimming in sauce on your plate. It’s all the humidity in the bathroom after a shower that’s screwed up the scale mechanism.

2. ANGER “Why isn’t losing weight as easy as putting it on?” The whole unfairness of the universe comes down hard, when after a couple of days of dieting, you’ve actually gained weight. The body thinks you’re starving, so it conserves fat, rather than burn it. Well then, damnit, why doesn’t your stupid body realize that second cheeseburger means you are indeed not starving, and therefore burn off all that extra fat? It should cut both ways!

3. BARGAINING “What if I have that spaghetti today, and the meatballs tomorrow?” The bargaining stage offers trade-offs you’ve never considered before. Of course, you acknowledge, if you take the skin and coating off the fried chicken, there’s less calories. And wouldn’t the same hold true if you just ate the skin and coating and left the meat? And, come to think of it, why shouldn’t eating only half the basket of fries equate to the same as doubling the side of green beans instead, given that the torture for doing either would be the same?

4. DEPRESSION “I’m not going to die soon enough.” You start thinking of all the years you’re going to be adding to your life, and realize that all those years are going to be filled with cabbage soup, nonfat yogurt and water. Even medieval prisons gave you bread with that water.

5. ACCEPTANCE “Those Big and Tall shops are entitled to financial success, too, you know.” After all, isn’t weight just a number – like age? If you’re only as old as you feel, well then…? Stop looking sideways in a mirror and wear a lot of black.

In the end, what’s so unfair about diet grief is that it never just fades. In fact it’s built right in to the diet itself. In other forms of grief, it comes and goes. But no sooner do you drive past a Popeyes, no matter how long you’ve been dieting, all five stages of diet grief crash down on you at once, as if your diet has just started. Dieting is like Groundhog Day. But when Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, he closes his eyes, stomps his foot, purses his lips, shakes his head and then sighs: “That can’t be me; I haven’t eaten all winter,” and slides back in his burrow for a nice breakfast burrito.

 

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