Now that you know how to give up dieting, it’s time to prepare for what happens after you make the decision. Here’s the honest truth from personal experience:
When you first stop dieting, things get really dark for a bit, and then they get really freaking awesome.
First, life completely falls apart — to be completely honest — but if you stay committed, you emerge like a phoenix: mostly free from food issues, compulsive eating, and body-hate. I say ‘mostly’ because there will always be days where our emotional tolerance is exhausted and we can’t be perfect –and that’s fine! We’re not aiming for perfection. We’re seeking to feel normal around food.
What Happens When You Give Up Dieting
Giving up dieting can be a terrifying process for people who are afraid of gaining weight and/or have a long history with dieting and binge eating.
Personally, I was shit scared when I decided to give it a try. I was full of both desperation and hope. What really helped me survive this transition (into awesomeness) was understanding the patterns that most people go through.
Generally, people follow 5 stages when they give up dieting. Next, I’ll discuss each stage and how to survive the process.
Please note: this is a process, and it will be messy. But if you stick with it and give 100% commitment, it will slowly release you from compulsive behaviour around food. Now, let’s dig into the stages.
Stage 1: Panic Mode
Yep, we’re off to an awesome start! Panic is almost certain in the beginning.
Most people never get started because fear can be paralyzing.
As you consider the idea of giving up dieting, your mind might race through the same mental loops:
What if it doesn’t work?
My willpower isn’t the best, so I’ll just keep counting calories otherwise I’ll eat everything in sight.
What if it doesn’t work?!
Okay, I’ll give up dieting, but if it doesn’t work then I’ll just start a juice cleanse on Monday.
What if it doesn’t work?!?!?!
Do you recognize the vicious cycle?
The process of giving up dieting helps quiet that annoying, self-doubting voice. But for now, you need to ask it to step aside while you perform an experiment…
How to survive this stage:
Surviving stage 1 is all about learning to trust yourself again. And you can start building your self-trust with this motto: Allow, allow, allow.
Previously, I discussed how giving yourself totally, complete, unrestricted permission to eat whatever you want actually works like reverse psychology: because you can have it, you no longer want it.
At this particular moment, you might have very little trust in yourself around food. At this stage, you might be afraid that if you let yourself “loose” around food, you’ll eat everything in sight.
To get through this phase, turn it into an experiment. Make yourself a deal that for the next 6 months, you’re allowed to eat whatever you want.
Allow, allow, allow.
Stay 100% committed, and focus on building your self-trust.
Stage 2: Short-Term Rebellion Binges May Occur (Stay Committed!)
After you decide to give up dieting and eat exactly what appeals to you comes the scariest part: Rebellion Binges. This might cause your mind to scream, “Ahhh!! Forget this! We don’t want binges! That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid!”
To calm yourself down, know that this phase is temporary, and it’s a rite of passage that everyone goes through. Surprisingly, allowing yourself to experience these short-term binges will help you stop binge eating long term.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid this stage because these binges are caused by years of deprivation. The only way out is through. You will get through it.
How to survive this stage:
While you cannot avoid this stage, you can minimize the damage by coming back to my intuitive eating framework. Stay committed to the eating guidelines and practice feeling your feelings and journaling about them.
If you get freaked out and retreat back to dieting and restriction, you will only strengthen the vicious cycle of deprivation and overeating. That will keep you stuck in the yo-yo dieting trap, and we don’t want that!
Trust this process. Know that binges, in the beginning, are normal and temporary. You will get through it if you stay committed to not dieting. And if you continue to panic, reach out for support from a friend, therapist, or coach.
Stage 3: Life Suddenly Gets Worse in (Seemingly) Non-Food-Related Areas
Once you get to the third stage of giving up dieting, the light at the end of the tunnel is near! But one last uncomfortable thing happens when you give up dieting:
All the yucky emotions that you used to numb with food come bubbling to the surface. It’s often the emotions that you didn’t even realize you were numbing, so it might seem unrelated.
For example, when one woman gave up dieting, she expressed a mid-life crisis about her age. She just thought it was something that every ageing woman goes through, but here’s what was really happening:
She stopped numbing with food, and now the ageing/body image issues that had always been there bubbled to the surface.
Sounds awful, right?
Well, it is. But here comes the bright side:
After a few weeks, the age-related crisis ended, and so did the binges! After allowing herself to feel these yucky feelings and to commit to body image work with me, she successfully moved through stage 3.
How to survive this stage:
You can get through this stage by practising the feeling your feelings like it’s your job. Remember last time I explained how to stop before your binge or mid binge to journal about what you are actually feeling. And also how important it is to promise yourself that you can go back to the food after you have done this..
No one wants to feel uncomfortable, but it’s an essential skill.
Not just for learning how to feel normal around food, but for life!
Stage 4: You Find Food Sanity!!! With Some Turbulence
Now the good times begin!
Once you get to stage 4, you’ve developed some self-trust and you’re comfortable having your once-forbidden foods. They no longer tempt you.
Suddenly, you can buy a bag of brownies and only eat two bites. Moderation becomes easier.
You’re still developing the skill of emotional tolerance, and when things get too uncomfortable, you may binge every now and then, but it’s nothing crazy.
You are truly making strides in feeling normal around food.
How to make the most of this stage:
Surviving stage 4 is all about staying focused on skill-building.
During this time, it’s essential to keep coming back to the eating guidelines and feeling your feelings. These two tools are the foundation to holistic health. And as these skills grow stronger, the temptation to diet gets weaker. And eventually…
Stage 5: You Become the Phoenix
A normal relationship with food emerges.
You may have days where you struggle – with wanting to go back to dieting, with identifying your feelings, with rare binges – but you’re through the toughest part.
After you have remained 100% committed to giving up dieting, you finally feel normal around food – for the most part! You recognize that it’s not about perfection.
Rather, you’re just happy that you only think about food when you’re hungry!
These days, you can go to social gatherings and have any kind of food in front of you without overeating. And not only has your eating behaviour changed, but the foods that you crave have changed too.
Instead of eating those unhealthy, once-forbidden foods, you also eat things like salads and nutritious foods.
You have also started to find acceptance for your body. When you look in the mirror, you don’t nit-pick as much. Instead, you’re learning to love yourself more and more.
The whole reason we diet in the fits place is because we are not happy with our bodies. It is so crucial to do body image work alongside this whole food freedom shabang. I specialize in body image work alongside food freedom so please reach out to me here so we can work together.
How to make this stage even better:
Once you reach stage 5, take moments to celebrate your success. Marvel at how far you’ve come. Also, don’t stop. Stay vigilant during times of distress when the temptation to diet may grow stronger.
Stay centred and keep feeling your feelings.
In time, your entire life will expand. It’s a huge promise, but this is a huge deal. Congratulations, dear. You made it!
During my 5-month Ultimate Food Freedom & Body Confidence Program, we tackle all of this and more. It’s your time beautiful!