Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stages of Dieting

Denial - At my heaviest, I remember that I could look at myself in the mirror and, at certain angles and with the proper lighting, convince myself that I looked pretty much all right. Sure I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I didn’t look half-bad, even though I felt like day-old crap most mornings. I felt like I was okay… and then I’d see a snapshot taken of me at a picnic or party and my self-image would deflate like a soufflĂ© during an earthquake.

Anger - I can’t tell you how many of my diets were initially fueled by feverish anger… getting mad at myself, at my weakness, at my inability to get my act together. But here’s the thing about anger: it burns white-hot for a short period, but it’s simply not sustainable, not something that can carry you over the long haul. Anger is an all-out sprint from the starting gate of a marathon.

Bargaining – I’ll just have one more reckless weekend, one more bust-a-gut free-for-all before I really, really and I mean really get serious about it. That's what I told myself over and over and over. Funny how those “last meal” gorge-fests don’t really get the job done as a diet booster… well, not all the funny when you stop and think about it.

Depression - Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and crushing levels of frustration, bitterness and self pity. That’s what a lifetime of not being able to get the deal done generally brings about. You feel like there’s nothing you can do to engineer a U-turn on the healthy living highway. You feel down and out, lower than low. This is the darkness before the dawn.

Acceptance - I doubt that there’s a single one of us that doesn’t know exactly what we need to do to lose weight and get more fit. We know it. We know it like we know our own names, yet we stumble and struggle to eat the right things, do the right things. Then one day (if we’re very lucky) it clicks, in our heads and in our hearts, and we realize how all the parts and pieces fit together, how energy, effort and enthusiasm can come together to create extraordinary circumstances. That is when the magic happens...

I don’t really know how appropriate it is to appropriate the “stages of grief” idea for a discussion about losing weight and getting more healthy, but I will use anything I can get my hands on–rants, rhymes, riddles or rabid rambling–to help drive these points home. I’ll use anything and everything at my disposal to keep pushing myself (and you, I hope) to a better place.

Wherever you are on this journey, I hope you’re finding yourself making progress. I hope you've left behind your anger and self-doubt. I pray you’re done with the bad bargains and the pity parties.

I hope you’re in a good place, ready to face your challenges, your opportunities and your future head-on, with courage and conviction.

You can do this.

Accept that fact and let’s go.


  1. Oh Jack. The five stages of grief are stages that I am, sadly, so very clear on and familiar with. Too much experience there.

    But I had never realised how the process matches lard-arse-ness/dieting and all its phases. You are clever.

    Thank you, again, for your insights.

  2. I think it has ALOT to do with the stages of grief. I feel like I have FINALLY entered the acceptance...True acceptance..stage...
    Not the denial, anger, or bargaining type acceptance but real acceptance....

    All of those first stages can actually keep you stuck in the Catch 22. AWESOME post, as usual!

  3. As someone who has recently gone through the stages of grief, I'd say this is right on. It's a very similar process and I'm happy to say I've reached acceptance in my weight loss and in my grief.

  4. This was very good Jack, and I think very appropriate. Also true - especially about the white hot burn of anger (and self-hate) that thankfully can only fuel us for so long before it dies down and smolders, taking our efforts into a smoldering as well.

    You have a book in you - I really believe it.

  5. It's a little ironic, I think, that my biggest experience with the stages of grief were what actually got me started with the stages of dieting. That day that I sat on the living room floor surrounded by pizza, wings, and sharing it all with my good friends Ben & Jerry and for the first time really REALLY read my mom's death certificate (6 months after her passing). Cause of Death: Morbid Obesity. I think I'm mostly in acceptance now over both ... but I do tend to slip ... over both.

  6. Hmmmm, I'm not sure I like this. I'm not sure I want to think about it. I'm not sure at all. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. It's the super glue of weight loss. Free yourself and (eventually) your ass will follow.

  7. Jack, I truly love your posts - What you describe is what I feel - The only thing I truly need to do is get off my dead ass and get to work - I'm eating clean - just not exercizing - this is a crucial step especially when you sit all day at a computer for your job - Thanks for all of your insight, wisdom and awesome humor -

  8. This is really very, very true Jack. My problem is that I got stuck in the "depression" stage for years. I beat myself up, I hated myself, I told myself all these self-defeating things in my head, and I brought myself down down down. "I'll always be fat." "I am such a loser, I can never learn to do this." "My whole life is a disaster and it's all because I'm fat, etc." It is so hard, SO HARD to move from the "depression" into the "acceptance" stage. I don't think there's any tips you can offer to get someone to that point. Like you said, one day it just "clicks," and you can't speed that process up until you're ready.

    Great post.

  9. This is a great post, and I can definitely relate to both, and feel that they can be similar in our minds!

  10. i think i go through these stages over and over again at some points

  11. another hall of famer post Jack. I can tell you right now, I have forwarded this to a friend who's struggling with her journey.

    This was profound Jack, I am such a very lucky blogger to have come across you!

  12. Very good Jack. I see all of the first four stages in myself this past year or three. I'm just working on stage four... I'm getting there - it's like changing years of wrong thinking. Thanks for sharing!

  13. You know, I keep riding the waves of ALL of these stages. I think as long as I have a battle with food and weight, these stages will probably keep cropping up at various times. Such is life. However, my plan is to stay much longer in the acceptance phase than the others.

  14. I thought the "magic" happened and it all clicked, but then I find myself still bouncing around between acceptence and bargaining. Some days I'm spot on and others I'm half assed and others it's a gorge-fest. Part of the magic for me is just continuing no matter what. Thanks for this insight Jack!

  15. Great post- I've been through all of those stages and now I am dealing with ACCEPTANCE PART 2- accepting myself & liking who I see in the mirror :)

  16. I thought I was reading a personal story about me. I've never lost anyone extremely close, had never known about the stages of grief, and certainly wouldn't have applied them to dieting. It's so true it's scary.

  17. I think a lot of these stages fit "stages of maintenance" too. Need to add fear in there though for me. Very good post Jack as always.

  18. want to hear something truly sad?
    You can get to a stage of acceptance that you are just fat. Doomed to be fat, and then try to live your whole life around that idea, or concept. Screw appropriate, I always say "Do what works".
    This works.

  19. I think I cycle these stages a little bit. Well written though and I think it's very similar to the stages of grief. We have to let go of the person we once were.

  20. Most of us have felt one or all of these at one point, sometimes all in one day. I think one that I'd add on there for me would be "ignorance". You could pair it up with "denial" but I feel like I just straight up ignored a lot of things as apposed to denying them.

    Great post, bud!

  21. This is a great insight! I've never thought about it, but once you started detailing each step it makes perfect sense! Especially the anger stage--it's funny how that's how a lot of people start, but they don't last...very thought-provoking stuff!

  22. Until the last year, the kind of 'acceptance' I reached was simply the acceptance that I'd always be fat. I don't know exactly why that changed, or maybe I do. But I spent way too long living with that kind of acceptance.

    Did a gentle run on the treadmill today, Jack. 4 3-minute intervals, just to see how much I lost the 2 weeks I was down. I may have lost some ground, but I'm still gunning for you. Still gonna run a 5K this summer, even with the setback.

  23. Insightful and honest. I could totally relate to all the stages!

  24. oh i could sooo relate to these stages, both on a grief level and dieting level. I've hit the depression one re: dieting all too many times.

    The other day I read a blog that really angered me.. about "well, I missed my re-start day, oh well.. it's going to be Monday instead".

    um.. what's wrong with TODAY! right now, this minute.. spit out what's in your mouth??

    then I realized, how many times I'd said the exact same thing.. and didnt' say anything at all like my mother taught me.

    THEN.. I realized.. it was something I should have said, and wished someone would have said to me all those times.. sometimes, we're just far too "nice" too eachother.

  25. Jack, great post, and I mention it on my blog which you can read here: http://losingweightafter45isabitch.blogspot.com/

    Jack, I went through the same journey until I finally owned up to myself about what I had to do.

    DENIAL. For me, this was done by just avoiding mirrors, never letting myself be photographed (there's basically no pictures of me from ages 42 through 46) and if I did let myself be photographed, I'd stand behind someone else. I also never let myself be seen in a bathing suit. I also never stepped on a scale unless forced to in a doctor's office.

    ANGER. I'd start all these crazy diets looking for a quick and easy way to drop the 40 pounds, and then got angry when they didn't work. I was also angry with myself for letting myself get so out of shape and I routinely coursed my body for not letting me eat as I had always eaten in the past.

    BARGAINING. I'd bargain constantly with myself that I could eat this or that and I'd work it off later (which of course never happened). Like Jack, I was always promising myself that I'd work out more and eat less, but for some reason couldn't do right then and there. I was always putting off the hard work.

    DEPRESSION. Yes, I was really depressed, not only about the way I looked, but the way I felt. I was always tired, couldn't do the things I had always done for the length of time I used to. If I went out in the yard to garden, I was wiped after about an hour, when I used to work the whole day in the yard (and loved it). I was depressed that I couldn't wear the clothes I liked (without looking ridiculous), and that I could grab huge wads of fat all over my body.

    ACCEPTANCE. One day you wake up and realize that you have to get real. You have to realize that there is only one way to lose weight and keep it off. You have to EAT LESS AND EXERCISE MORE. And, you can't just eat less, you have to eat better. You have to cut out the processed crap and stick to wholesome, natural foods. I think my wake up call came after I went to a plastic surgeon to discuss liposuction. After I got a price to have fat suctioned from my stomach, hips, thighs and arms, I drove home, took off my clothes and really stared at myself in the mirror. Even if I spent the $15,000 to have the fat removed from those areas, I realized, I still wouldn't have the body I had before I turned 40. The next day I started shopping for treadmills, and began researching what I really needed to do to finally drop the weight.

    Needless to say, the $2,500 I spent on the treadmill was a better investment then the $15,000 I would have spent on liposuction. It still wasn't easy to lose the weight after that, and in the first three months I had the treadmill, I actually only lost five pounds.

    But, it was a start, and the more I got into my weight loss journey, the more I learned, and the more weight came off.

    It hasn't been easy, and, in fact, it's been damn hard.

    And, its still hard. I constantly struggle with not gaining the weight back. Even with my new exercise and eating habits, pounds still want to creep back on (it's a function of hitting menopause).

    But, I've accepted the struggle, and fight on.

    Thanks for the great post Jack.

  26. I ate a LOT of *bargaining chips* in my day!
    I know about this clicking in your head stuff ... it IS magical.
    I'm unpacking my saddlebags and I'm coming with ya'll.

    great post that a lot of us can relate to whole-heartedly.

  27. Acceptance came with an attitude adjustment. Living is not overrated. Neither is loving my life. Ain't going back. Nope.

    I had a bargain night now and then, too. Don't need it any more.

  28. Wow. Very interesting post... certainly could identify to it.

  29. Yeah, those seem pretty accurate.

  30. I like this post soo much. I've had those moments looking in the mirror thinking it's not so bad and then the extreme of I hate what I'm doing to my body why can't I stop. Maybe next time I'll realize what stage I'm in and it'll help me move forward. This was great thanks for the post.

  31. Brilliant post and so spot on. I think I'm a combination of all of them but trying to force myself into acceptance. I think sometimes the denial comes from outside as well - friends, family etc. some who mean well and some who don't... but what is needed is the acceptance to shut out all the other stages and fully move on.

  32. Wow, Jack (I found you through Syl).....

    Anyway, back to the WOW! Seriously, you've hit it bang on....hope you don't mind if I borrow your words for my own blog!

    Your story is inspiring, and the support you give fellow-bloggers is awesome! Thanks for caring!



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