The Four Stages of Diet Recovery ~ Part Two ~ Leave the Past Behind


Transforming from a chronic dieter with your self-esteem totally entangled in your body image to a person at peace with your mind, body and spirit is a complex and confusing journey. This is Part Two of a Four Part Series that goes beyond the 4 guidelines of intuitive eating to give you some insight into the actual transformational process. You can read Part One ~ Diets Don’t Work here.

Phase Two ~ Leave the Past Behind


You have stepped off the diet road to nowhere and are now sitting on the kerb. You might find you have a desire to cut yourself off completely from your old life. You are no longer a part of that world and you are certain you won’t ever go back there.

It’s All About the Food

When you enter the second phase of recovering from dieting, it is all about the food. You finally drop all the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ labels associated with food and eat what you really want. You now realise how irrational some of your rules have been and find pleasure in allowing yourself things like fruit, grainy bread and the occasional glass of wine.

You surrender your sense of control with food and start listening to your sensations of hunger and satiety. Surprisingly, by taking away the rules, you discover a sense of peace around food. You might even be able to incorporate those ‘trigger’ foods back into your diet without any ill effects. Somehow, the magic spell has been broken.

Those Voices in Your Head

The Mad Monkey, the Ego Brain starts screaming. The negative thoughts come thick and fast. “This is madness, it will never work, you are going to end up a big fat cow, this makes no sense, you are a quitter”. In this phase, all you need to do is become separate from those voices, become the observer and simply notice what is happening. You don’t need to stop them or fix them (because you can’t), you just say, “Hello Mad Monkey, thank you for your input. I’ll get back to you soon but I’m a bit busy right now.”

What Else Can I Let Go Of?

Now you are no longer on a diet, you can ask yourself if there is anything else you can let go of. Can you stop weighing yourself? Can you stop reading “fitness” magazines and websites? Can you stop following all those weight loss and figure competitors blogs and forums? You don’t have to stop for good, you just need to put them down for awhile. They will always be there if you need them again in the future.

Your Homework

In this Phase, you can begin the work of developing self love. You are able to identify the gift your previous unacceptable behaviour has been trying to give you. Did you binge because your body wanted you to have nourishment, relief from the pressure and some way to stop the physical pain and constant deprivation? Acknowledge that your body was trying to help you and not betray you.

Ask your body to forgive you for the abuse and make a commitment to work together in the future. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made, the self inflicted misery you have created and the damage you have done to yourself and those who love you.

What Does it Feel Like?

You let go of the attachment to being perfect and discover that the world doesn’t end after all. You become more mindful and aware of everything that goes on in your head.

You might be confronted with losing your sense of identity ~ if I am not a compulsive dieter/exerciser then who am I? It is not necessary to have the answer at this point, simply rest in the knowledge that your new identity has already started to evolve.

There is also a sense of emptiness and boredom. If your head isn’t filled with counting and calculating, your are left with a void. Use that extra head space for things that make you feel good ~ play with your kids, go to the movies, read books, or revive an old hobby.

You might also feel angry at the whole dieting industry, and at yourself for being so gullible. Remember that you made the best choice you could with the tools, experience and information that you had so there is nothing to be angry about. Your past was not failure, it was the catalyst for your present transformation. Be grateful for your weight struggle because without it you wouldn’t be open to this new world.


“You might binge more often than you did when you were dieting, especially if eating is your way of coping with pain. It might get worse before it gets better.”

You might binge more often than you did when you were dieting, especially if eating is your way of coping with pain. It might get worse before it gets better. Once you start to notice the thoughts in your head, your beliefs and your sense of identity it feels like the whole structure of your life is crumbling. Bingeing is not an indication that this isn’t working. It is an important part of the healing process.

The Surprises

  • Psuedo-dieting ~ you might not be logging your food but you are still only eating ‘clean’. You won’t move on until you have eaten all your forbidden foods mindfully and guiltlessly and discovered that (a) you don’t actually like them or (b) if you can have them any time you want, then you can eat them in moderation.
  • Punishing Exercise ~ you might keep up or increase your work in the gym in an effort to compensate for the extra calories you are eating. You won’t move on until you sever the connection between exercise and weight loss/maintenance. You need to get to a place where you exercise because of how it makes you feel during and after.
  • No Exercise ~ you might find it impossible to go to the gym at all because it is part of the world you want to leave behind. Do something different instead ~ walk, practice yoga, swim, rock climb ~ it’s OK (and preferred) to continue to exercise in new (and perhaps less strenuous) ways. It is also OK to give yourself a rest if you feel you need it.
  • The Search for Proof ~ you might find you are consumed by a need to prove that intuitive eating works. Trust me when I tell you it is difficult to find documented weight loss success stories as a result of intuitive eating. Focus instead on people you know who are naturally slender (they’re easy to find) and reassure yourself that if they can do it without even thinking about it, so can you.
  • Perfection ~ you might turn this into another program you want to do perfectly. When things don’t go to plan you feel the familiar sense of frustration and failure. You are doing this brilliantly if it is a complete mess!!
  • Isolation ~ even though all you want to do is be separate and independent, now is a good time to find someone to talk to. A guide, mentor, coach or friend will make this transition a bazillion times easier.

When are You Ready to Move on to Phase Three?

Phase Two is complete when you are mindful and conscious of your thoughts and actions. In this phase you will have let go of your attachment to the perfect body ~ you might still want it, but you will not make yourself miserable now in order to achieve your goals in the future. You are beginning to trust your body and the internal conflict is over. Your have more good days than bad ones and your darkest days aren’t as bad as they once were. Once you have truly left the past behind, you are ready to move on to Phase Three ~ Limbo.

Did you know …

  • The transformation process is portrayed perfectly by one well-known example: the Death card in Tarot. Despite its frightening appearance, the Death card rarely portends actual physical death. Rather, it is a symbol for the cycle of death and rebirth that governs all of life. Before new beginnings can take place, the death of the old must first be endured. The most powerful message of the Death card is that these changes are always for our highest good, no matter how painful they may be as we move through them.
  • As unsettling as this process may sound, the most important aspect of it is not the endings themselves but rather how you handle them. If you can see these endings as a necessary purging of situations and conditions that are limiting your ability to grow and reach your fullest potential, you will more easily be able to let them go.

Coming soon ~ The Four Stages of Diet Recovery

Phase Three ~ Limbo
Phase Four ~ Transformation

photo : suvodeb

About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing