When I think of the word “mourning”, I imagine a weeping widow wearing all black or someone bursting into tears upon hearing a song a loved one once adored. Of course, mourning can be defined as deep sorrow after someone has died, but it also has a more general meaning of sadness after a loss or disappearance of something. I never thought it would be part of my intuitive eating journey, but, as time went on, I found myself in mourning with respect to my body and to food.1
When I started dieting, the thought of buying a new wardrobe was exhilarating! I couldn’t wait until the day when I could walk into a store and buy a pair of jeans a size smaller. The day finally came when my jeans became too loose and wearing a belt just wasn’t cutting it anymore. With a spring in my step, I hopped in the car and drove to the mall. I entered the Gap and browsed their selection of jeans before settling on boot cut as my style of choice. I grabbed a pair in a smaller size, but I also grabbed a pair in my typical size because I’m cynical and didn’t really believe I had lost enough weight to drop a whole size.2
After entering the dressing room, I put on the pair of jeans in my typical size and, with a sigh of relief, took them off because they were way too loose. On to the smaller size! Woo-hoo! I couldn’t wait to see how those fit. After they were buttoned and zipped, I stood there in shock for a moment. Those didn’t fit either. I needed to go down to the next smaller size! The kind saleswoman got me the jeans and I paused before I tried them on. Did I really lose enough weight to go down two sizes?! As I drew the jeans up my legs, I could feel the denim slightly hug my thighs and sit comfortably around my hips and lower belly. Oh my goodness, they fit! Pride and delight washed over me as I stood staring at myself in front of the mirror. I thanked dieting for giving me this amazing moment.
Years later, when my mind finally agreed with my body that that dieting was harmful, I looked back at that moment in the Gap dressing room and realized that I would not experience that moment of euphoria again. Although I knew I would be healthier carrying around a few more pounds, I nevertheless mourned the fact that I would never have that feeling of success after weight loss again.
IE brought about other instances of mourning that I wasn’t anticipating. The whole purpose of me dieting was to achieve a certain body shape. Yes, I wanted to be thinner in general, but I loathed my stomach rolls. When my parents were young, their bodies were in proportion, but, as they aged and put on weight, their bodies became apple-shaped. This was my genetic destiny. There are many different body shapes, but I have always disliked this one in particular. The dieting industry tells me that this shape is ugly and unattractive. Women are supposed to have voluptuous, hourglass figures. I began to see apple-shaped women as pregnant-looking and out of proportion and I began despise my stomach. As I lost weight, my stomach became smaller and I finally achieved a flat, toned stomach.3 But it cost me my health.
I had always wanted a flat stomach, so I resisted putting on weight because I knew that I would lose my ideal body when I began to eat more regularly.4 I lamented the fact that my stomach wouldn’t be as small as it used to be; I couldn’t help it. But I realized I could never look that way again and be healthy at the same time. After many up and downs with IE, I slowly began to feel comfortable with my newer, softer body.
I not only had to mourn the body that I wanted and strived to get with dieting but also some foods that lost their appeal for me. When I started restricting, I had to trick myself into thinking certain foods were yummy because that made dieting easier. When I started with IE, I made a conscious effort to be more mindful and think about if I truly liked a food. Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t. I find that there are certainly foods I enjoy still, but none have the same alluring quality as they once did. What I’d scarf down before because I thought it was so delicious became mediocre.5
I had always associated the concept of mourning with death, so it had not occurred to me that I would go through a period of mourning when giving up dieting. I grieved never again being thrilled about fitting into smaller pants, having a flat stomach, and being over-the-top excited about food. With that, I am learning to accept that I will look different when I’m healthier. I don’t see my ribs or hip bones as much anymore because I have a fuller midsection…and this is a good thing! I am more accepting of my body and at peace with food in general, so the trade off is worth it.
Did you go through a mourning period once you got into intuitive eating? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
1Yes, it is mentioned in the book. I think in my haste to become an intuitive eater, I glossed over that small section.
3Never mind that you could see quite a few of my bones too.
5This is due to something called “habituation”. More to come on that topic!!
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