Dr. Kim: Coping with Food Grief
For some, food has been a good friend, support, strength, comfort, and love. Initially, after changing your eating habits and developing a new healthier lifestyle, your relationship will food will change. Unfortunately, this change often triggers food grief.
Grieving over the loss of the role food once played in your life is a normal process and most people go through it. It is a natural step in the re-birth process after dieting. It is time to say goodbye to those foods that made you overweight and unhealthy. They are not part of your life anymore, and isn’t that a blessing? You may be wondering how long food grief will last. Unfortunately, food grief doesn’t have a time limit. The best answer seems to be “as long as it takes.”
Also, try to remember that losing these foods is not deprivation. It’s freedom from the damage, pain and suffering they were causing you and your body. It’s time to celebrate your hard work and new healthy lifestyle and choose to keep your focus on what you have since gained… increased confidence, energy, health, and possibly a new wardrobe!!
Worden’s (1991) model of grief argues that we have ‘tasks’ when we grieve. These include:
1 Accepting the reality of the loss
2 Experiencing the pain of the loss
3 Adjusting to a new life without the lost person (in this case food…)
4 Reinvestment in the new reality.
The TEAR Model of Grief illustrates these four tasks of mourning:
T: To Accept The Loss
Accepting the loss of the role food once played in your life can be challenging. While some people accept the loss immediately, others take time to say their final goodbye. However, accepting the loss is the first step to dealing with food grief. According to the TEAR model of grief, it is important to tell your story. Find a safe, positive and non-judgmental environment where you can think, process and talk freely with a trusted love one or with a Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist. This step is vital to your food grief process.
E: Experience The Pain Of Loss
The second step of the TEAR model is the core of the process. Allowing yourself to feel pain can be incredibly difficult and overwhelming, as it can seem long and never ending. If you are unsure of how you should mourn, you can follow this simple model that shows you how to let yourself open and experience your pain in 5 (also “TEAR”) steps.
1. Talking: You may feel the need to isolate yourself from the world when experiencing deep grief but the opposite actually helps you along. Instead of isolating, try to express your feelings and talk it out with a trusted friend, relative or even a Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist. Sharing your experience can lighten it and make it more tolerable.
2. Exercise: Painful emotions can be released with physical activity and help you reduce feelings of anxiety, anger, and tension. It can also aid in relieving you of symptoms of depression and intense grief.
3. Art therapy: Try creative expression through art and tap into your creative outlets to process your emotions on a subconscious level. Some examples of art therapy include painting, drawing, and scrapbooking.
4. Recording emotions: Record your experiences and emotions by writing into a personal journal or diary. This simple and surprisingly effective method allows you to release emotions and unload your worries into a book. When you write down things, you witness, feel and hear yourself in a private and safe environment.
5. Sobbing: Tears are not the signs of weakness. In fact, tears are the purest expression of heartfelt love and profound sadness. Don’t stop yourself from crying when you have to. Tears can be a catalyst for catharsis and will most likely help you feel better.
A: Adjust To New Environments
It is important to adopt every step in the model to fully understand your grieving process. This method will help you adjust to your food grief. Naturally, mourning the loss of food takes time and effort and requires continual work on your grief related emotions.
R: Reinvest In A New Relationship
After you have acknowledged the loss and started adjusting to life without your old relationship to food, you may feel a rejuvenated sense of relationships. You may want to forge new friendships, find a new romantic partner or simply find more positive people in your life. After all, food is not a friend, lover, or loved one. It is simply fuel to keep your body functioning. Now that your unhealthy relationship with food is over, it is time to create healthy relationships.
Give yourself time and all the love you can to nurture yourself through the work of food grief. It’s a challenge, but when you really do the work, it will eventually become easier. Please remember, you can do this and we are here to help. Dr. Kim, our Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist is available for appointments at our Scottsdale office if you feel you need help with coping with your food grief.