Healthy & Happy  

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 normal, 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 no longer part of your life, 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, such as 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 loved one or 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 how you should mourn, you can follow this simple model that shows you how to let yourself open and experience your pain in five (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 yourself, try to express your feelings and talk it out with a trusted friend, relative, or 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 by writing in 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 signs of weakness. Tears are the purest expression of heartfelt love and profound sadness. Don’t stop yourself from crying when you have to. Tears can catalyze catharsis and will most likely help you feel better.

A: Adjust To New Environments

Adopting every step in the model to fully understand your grieving process is important. 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 with 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 it will eventually become easier when you do the work.

If you need help with coping with your food grief, call us at (800) 239-7830 to schedule a video appointment with Dr. Kim Feinstein, Psy. D., RM Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist.

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Dr. Kim Feinstein, Psy. D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Red Mountain’s Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist. She specializes in weight management, body image concerns, and eating disorders. She prides herself in her ability to educate, guide, and inspire patients to overcome obstacles and ultimately achieve their goals.