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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

All Change is Grief

A few years ago I was in a pretty bad place. Not just my health, which was failing on every level possible, but my personal life was failing as well. Without going into the details, in a period of a few short months we found ourselves completely alone in what was once a thriving community of friends and family.

Looking back on this change was really good, positive and lead to us becoming much stronger people and much happier in life. But at the time? I felt  absolutely terrible.

A good friend of mine who is a grief counselor called me one day and I was telling her about all of the change going on in my life. Personally, health wise (I had just started my plant-strong path), emotionally, all of it. I told her what I felt really conflicted about was that ALL of the change was good, I was getting healthier, feeling better, I was no longer in some really nasty relationships. So why on earth did I feel so miserable? Why did I feel angry? Why was I trying to bargain constantly (I’ll do the diet 6 days a week, I’ll add in treats every so often, I’ll just talk to people who have hurt me over e-mail)?

She said something that has remained planted in my brain ever since:

“All change is grief”

She told me that no matter what the change is (good or bad) that we grieve. Maybe it’s not for a physical loss, maybe it is grieving for the loss of routine, or pre-conceived notions or maybe it is grieving because there is an uncertainty of the future.

For me, the uncertainty regarding my health was HUGE. What if it didn’t work? What if I failed? What if I couldn’t do it? What if I didn’t WANT to give up dairy or oil 100%? What if I found out these doctors were wrong?

Even though I was sick, I was, in a way still comfortable. I was comfortable in not having any hope, I was resigned that I would die young, either by my own doing or because my body would eventually just give up.

I was on the brink of tons of change. It was all good change, but yet, I was filled with anxiety and sadness.

I’m not sure if there is anyone else has felt this. When you start out on this journey – if you know what I’m talking about, that anxiety, that uncertainty, that fear. I’ve gone through this a few times in this journey now. It seems to have coincided the more I moved to a healthier life. When I found out I was eating too many nuts, I put up a fight, when I found out that even those occasional treats were not a good idea, I put up a fight, when I found out that I should not be drinking caffeinated tea I put up a fight, when Dr. Esselstyn told me to give up my smoothies, I put up a fight (a BIG fight).

I would go searching for people who would give me the answers I WANTED to hear, not necessarily the answers that were the right ones. Dr. McDougall once said “People want to hear good news about their bad choices”. This could not have described me more. Even when I first started I’d go and find a doctor who said that cheese WAS really a great thing and that oil was heart healthy. It was this game I played that I would go back and forth. I knew what was right, I consider myself fairly intelligent but I still wanted a different answer.

All of these changes were really good for me. Despite how much I fought them. With each dietary change came even better health results. Not just my weight, my blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol (which I see as being of the highest importance).

So why do we fight change?

Maybe it is because there is a bit of grief that goes along with any change. I think it is just human. We do not like grief, even if it is for a short amount of time, even if we know that it is better for us, change can still be painful.

So how do you get past this?

Honestly, I don’t know exactly. Recently my husband and I moved to San Francisco, it is a good change in many ways, but I felt that grief once again. The same thing happened when I recently had a pretty major knee injury, my entire routine is thrown off, I can’t workout, I have to wobble around. I know the truth is I will find a way to work with the injury, but right now I’m grieving for things I took for granted (like walking or going to the gym).

I think that sometimes it is just okay to be sad about the change, to sit in it for a few days, to be angry, to complain.

But then, I think there is a point that you say “ok self, time to dive into this change.

Start finding the things that you DO enjoy about the changes, start making it fun. One of the reasons we are doing the weekend challenges is to make things fun!

Start planning. This has been the biggest key for me (personally). I needed to have a plan of action. I needed to plan out how this was going to work for me. Even when I was fighting the changes, just having a plan helped a lot. I couldn’t exactly have those cheats if I had planned accordingly. Doug Lisle once told me that if I plan to fail, I’ll more than likely fail. In my case he was talking about the occasional cheats – why was I planning to cheat? If I planned to go off the plan, I was going to go off the plan.  Simple, but true.

At some point, it’s ok to stop fighting. This might take a while, it might even be really hard. There have been points of this journey that I go to the point that I knew if I just stopped fighting it would stop being so exhausting. Sometimes I felt like a kid having a tantrum, you know how they kick and scream and cry? That was me. And you know how generally they get so worn out they just realize it’s not worth all of the effort? Also me. It was a lot easier to just tell myself “sure this is hard right now, but fighting and wearing myself down is a lot harder”.

That might not be where you are right now, but that is ok. I will say that it is a good place to be when you can just take a deep breath and know that it will work out, it doesn’t have to be as hard, you don’t have to fight as much. For me, when I did this, things got 1000% percent better. I just didn’t have to think as much, it was like a huge sigh of relief.

All of that to say, change, no matter if it is good or bad can lead to some amount of grief. Like with any grief, I don’t think it is wise to ignore it, but instead to recognize that is what could be going on. Live in that grief for a period of time, know that it might pop back up again. Have a plan or even a timeline for yourself as to when you will say “it’s ok to stop grieving so much, and it’s ok to start planning how I am going to live with the ‘loss’. Even if that loss is chocolate.

What about you? Did you feel a sense of grief when you changed your eating habits?


About the author

Natala is the director of communications for Engine 2 Diet, she is also one of our coaches on our support site, Engine 2 Extra. A few years ago, Natala was at the end of her rope. She was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She was just over 30 years old. She decided to take her life back by becoming plant-strong. She has lost over 200 pounds, got off of all of her medications and now has great health numbers. Natala plays the violin and studied music therapy. She became passionate about plant-strong nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, a certificate in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and is currently pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences. Natala is also a featured speaker at our Engine 2 Retreats she talks about the reality of our nations obesity epidemic as well as providing practical steps to becoming a healthier person.

12 Responses to “All Change is Grief”

  1. JenO says:

    Thanks for your words…they are very very encouring!! For me personally what you just wrote about has been my experience. I have been on the E2 plan for almost 2 months now and it is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Grief yes! But like you, I have found it easier to dive into this change instead of resorting to my old ways. And I am so much happier and healthier now. I don’t want to look back… I don’t want to seek out people who will support bad choices, because I have gotten smarter and stronger with each E2 day that passes. Please keep the inspiration coming!!

  2. Deborah Rhine says:

    Wait….no smoothies? Not even green ones? I’ve followed Fuhrman’s Eat to Live and he advocates green smoothies but I’ve wondered about this. Could someone help me to understand why or why not for the smoothies? Thanks!

    • Engine 2 says:

      We have just found that chewing is an important part of digestion. It is always best to eat your food whole, you get the most benefit that way. Dr. Esselstyn also says that smoothies (even green ones) damages the endothelial lining – it bypasses the very first parts of digestion which are important. As a treat, they are just fine, but not as an everyday thing.

  3. Deborah Rhine says:

    p.s. I loved your post.

  4. Perchefkris says:

    All change is grief. Simple and true. Longing for past ways causes it, whether good or bad.
    Thanks for this. I am in it to grab positive changes in diet by the horns and enjoy it as a challenge!

  5. plantstrongS says:

    Thank you for writing this! I have experienced this many times over the years and have always gone back to unhealthy eating. Looking forward to better health, thanks to your encouragement!

  6. Elana says:

    Natala, You have so much strength to carry you through anything. People are afraid to change because it is different from what they’ve been doing. They are afraid to step outside their comfort zone. Change is hard, and giving up certain perceived emotional attachments is terrifying for a lot of people. You are just experiencing a set back temporarily, and I am sure you feel frustrated, but use your own energy to heal. Have you tried acupuncture? Whenever you catch yourself feeling down, ask yourself how that feeling is going to help change the situation- instead only think and envision the healing, because everything is connected from our thoughts to our bodies. I will send good healing vibes your way.Love ya!

  7. Jennifer Edwards says:

    I have felt this way many, many times. Most recently, this weekend. I was hanging out in my pj’s in the morning, and looked down at my legs. They looked…like someone else’s legs. Someone else’s skinny legs. I know that should have been a happy thing, but it was slightly anxiety inducing. I’m about 40 pounds down, and the plant strong diet has led to all sorts of life affirming transformations-things that have nothing directly to do with health: destructive relationships discarded, broken friendships mended, increased job performance, not to mention I’m just a happier person. All of that brings a lot of transitions, though. We grow through those transitions, but they have their challenges.

    Thank you for sharing this; I’m sure there are many of us who have felt this way without knowing there were others. Honestly, I just thought I was a little weird. ;)

  8. Jenn says:

    I hope you are speaking at the immersions.

  9. Sherisse Hartley says:

    Great post Natala! I gave up chocolate and smoothies too. It’s inspiring to hear others have overcome similar struggles, thank you!

  10. lauren west says:

    Could you please help me? I just did my lab results after 1 month of the Engine 2, and found out that all of my levels were raised, total cholesterol was raised by a whopping 19 points! I am devastated after all my hard work. Can you help me understand how this could happen? The day before I took the test, I ate some apple pie. Is this the culprit? I am so sad and discouraged. Please help. Lauren

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