All change comes with feelings of loss, even grief, as you stop eating some of your most familiar foods. We’re here to help you understand some reasons why you feel sad when you’re losing weight. You can come out on the other side, ready to enjoy your life.
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The Full Story
Switching to a plant-based diet comes with a lot of positives. You can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, ease chronic inflammation, maintain a healthy weight, sleep better, and simply feel good without all those sugars and processed starches clogging up your system.
But the truth is, any change comes with loss, and changing your food touches almost every other part of your life.
- Maybe going plant-based means you miss out on some beloved family traditions that center around food.
- Or maybe your go-to comfort foods (potato chips, late-night ice cream) are now off the table, as it were.
- Or maybe going out to dinner with friends complicated, because you’re the one having to ask the waiter a bunch of questions, and you don’t just dive into the mozzarella sticks like everyone else.
- Or maybe you feel like you’re the one changing. Who are you if you don’t eat French fries? Who are you if you’re not the one bringing brisket to the reunion?
All of these experiences are a kind of grief. They can come on strong, like anger when you can’t just hit the pudding when you’re down. Or they might be a subtle discomfort at the company picnic.
Either way, it can help to untangle the common strands of food grief. They’re just like the elements of grief for any loss.
- Denial — “Everything’s great; I don’t miss pizza and cupcakes at all!”
- Anger — “I don’t want to deal with this change.”
- Bargaining — “Just this one cookie, no big deal…”
- Depression — “Ugh, this sucks”
So what do you do when one of these comes up?
First step: Give the emotion words
When hard feelings come up, take a minute to look at them. Ignoring or pushing away the feeling away usually doesn’t work. In fact, they get up to sneaky mischief in your subconscious! When you bring your feelings out into the daylight, instead, and acknowledge, “Yep, that’s happening,” you have more control over how you cope with those feelings.
Next time the grief feeling comes up, try to name it:
- “I feel like I might die if I don’t eat a piece of pizza.”
- “I’m so angry I can’t go out with my friends to our favorite restaurant anymore.”
- “I’m sad I can’t celebrate my daughter’s birthday by eating a piece of her cake.”
- “I don’t want to deal with this right now.”
Naming the feeling gives you a chance to decide how you want to take care of yourself now.
Second step: Make a connection
Grief can make us feel like we are all alone, struggling with something that no one else is feeling. It’s easy to isolate ourselves, to stop going to events with food we can’t eat, or to stop hanging out with those friends who always have ice cream in the freezer.
But connecting with others is a huge help when it comes to coping with change and loss. Find friends, family members, or mentors who you can trust to listen and empathize. Ask for five minutes to say out loud how you’re feeling, and what you might need to do next.
But take care! You don’t need people who will give you advice or tell you to cheer up and look on the bright side. Find people who understand that what you’re going through is normal and even necessary. Scope your social circles for folks who can listen. Take a deep breath and ask for the kind of support you need.
Third step: Write a new bio for yourself
We write short bios all the time, for a new job, for something we wrote, if we’re giving a talk. And they change over time, as we have new experiences.
So now it’s time to write five sentences about who you are as someone who eats a plant-based diet. Here are some questions to get you started.
- When did you start eating plant-based?
- What’s your favorite plant-based meal? (Need help here? Check out some of our favorite plant-based recipes from Chef Caroline!)
- Why did you make the choice to eat plant-based?
- Why is it so easy to eat plant-based?
- What makes you happy when you sit down to a meal?
- What can you do, or what do you plan on doing, as you lose weight?
- What parts of yourself will you always carry with you, proudly, no matter what?
Fourth step: Make a plan
Some moments and some days will be harder than others. It helps to make a plan ahead of time for what you’ll do when you feel overwhelmed.
- Call for support. Arrange with a couple of friends or family members that you’ll call them when things are tough.
- Treat yourself. Make a list of non-food things that make you feel good, and pick something off the list when you feel down — a bath, a massage, a movie, a walk with a friend.
- Give yourself choices. If you’re going to a party or an event, bring something you can eat. If your family celebrates special events with a particular food that you can’t eat, tweak the tradition or introduce a new one so that you can be included.
- Share the experience. Hang out with a buddy who’s eating the same way, and share your experiences, good and bad.
Above all, remember that the grief isn’t permanent. It is part of the process of change — and your health and ease are worth it.
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- Grief is a normal part of changing your diet.
- Let yourself feel and name your emotions.
- Connect with others.
- Write a new bio.
- Make a plan for tough moments.
- Remember that it will get easier!
Don’t forget to get my exclusive download for readers of this post: The Ultimate Little Guide to Weight Loss. Check it out below to lose the weight for good!
Becky Karush is a writer, copywriter, and family woman. She came up through newspapers and magazines, including Disney FamilyFun and Martha Stewart Whole Living, with road trips to teaching and farming. She’s run BeckyK Creative Marketing since 2012. She hosts and produces READ TO ME, a literary podcast that ends the cult of the critic and surfaces the power and beauty in great writing.