Body Acceptance and Body Grief in a Diet-Obsessed World

by | Oct 13, 2023

If you are – in one way or another – seeking freedom from the oppression of the thin ideal or considering an intuitive eating journey, but can’t wrap your head around not hustling to be the fittest version of yourself possible, this post is for you. If you have anxiety about your body, constantly stuck in comparing yourself to strangers, or worrying about what people think of your body, I see you. Healing your relationship with food is a complex and beautiful journey. Working through body grief so you can accept your body will be one huge step in the right direction. But I get it, it can feel impossible to get there, even if you want it.

One foot in, one foot out. 

Body Image and Letting Go Of The Pursuit of Thinness

Almost 100% of my clients feel this way when they first start working on intuitive eating. They want peace, but they also want weight loss. Maybe with the exception of those who have become absolutely certain before we meet that they cannot lose weight without also losing their ever-loving mind.

Our culture makes it unfathomable to accept – or dare I say love – your body unless it falls in line with a very narrow definition of beauty. 

It’s the system that causes your pain, not your body itself. 

Unfortunately, knowing that isn’t usually enough to allow one to easily let go of the desire to be closer to the ‘ideal’. Even if they are miserable. 

Want my advice? I suggest digging into how this diet culture phenomenon was created so you can take the blame off of yourself and place it where it belongs. Here are some places to dig.

Listen to podcasts with Virgie Tovar and Sabrina Strings. Read The Beauty Myth, which thoroughly explores how the patriarchy harms our body image and sense of self. Fantastic book, even if at times slightly hyperbolic. Here’s a podcast about The Beauty Myth, done really well. You can skip to 19:00 to get to the good stuff. There’s a lot to unravel. 

fearing the black body how to accept your body weight
Fearing The Black Body, by Sabrina Strings, PhD

This Is A Complex And Personal Journey

And this is your life. You can do with it and with your body whatever you damn well please. But if you have a hunch you’re climbing a hill that you don’t want to die on, consider this: You’re not a lost cause. 

Maybe you’re just not there yet.

Acceptance Is The Last Stage Of Grief 

You may hate what I just said up there, but consider it. Letting go of the death grip actually feels a lot better than you might think. You may find peace, joy, deep pleasure, and gratitude.

To get there, you may go through a process of grieving.


You are certain there is another diet that will work for you. You may consider letting go of this idea momentarily, but the thought is so fleeting because you are sure that this is your fault and you just haven’t figured out the right plan.  


My 2nd favorite part to witness. You realize you’ve been lied to. You’re furious at your mom, your 5th grade gym teacher, your grandma, whatever 90s TV show that portrayed just slightly bigger women as ‘struggling”, the fact there is no young-happy-fat representation on TV, in regular clothing stores, in children’s books. You’re pissed. 

And you should be. 


You think maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if you dieted your whole life… maybe it would be worth it to be stressed and anxious and denying your humanity all day every day… but then no, no that sounds horrible. 


You’re not angry anymore, but you are sad. You’re sad that you spent so much time and energy hating your body and trying to change it, only to end up worse off than you started. You may have to come to terms with the fact that dieting increased your set-point weight and maybe kept you from doing things you wanted to in life. You look back at your teenage self and wish she had just loved her body as it was. This is hard. But it also feels like motion. Motion is good. 

Body Acceptance

You find acceptance that you might not ever ‘love your body’. You find realize you love your life and yourself too much to spend more time obsessing over what’s wrong with your body than loving it. It doesn’t feel perfect, it isn’t even always positive. But it feels honest and so much better than obsessing over your imperfections.

Bri Campos, LPC, an incredibly smart body image therapist and coach, writes and talks excellently about body grief if this interests you. Here’s her podcast.

Sydney’s Body Grief Journey

I want to share the story of someone I admire. Someone with a bold, beautiful, lesbian life and who no longer believes there is a thinner, better version of herself waiting to be set free.

Her better self is the self who is no longer trying to be something she is not. Smaller. I asked her if I could write some of her stories.

Sydney Scott how to accept your body weight

She says “I held onto this image of my future self as smaller for so long. I dieted since I was 10 years old. There was a 2 year span where I only wore black clothes,” she says as she bursts out laughing in a ‘I’m so glad I don’t do that anymore’ kinda way. 

“My whole mindset was ‘If I can just move a little closer to that thinner me, I’ll be less anxious about my body’. But it just made it worse. 

For years, I thought I was going to magically lose weight, take up less space, be thin. I had to realize that was just not going to happen. I was older and not thinner, despite a ton of effort.

At one point I just realized it was less difficult and less mental work to just disassemble that vision and find a new one because I really did not want to hate my body.”

We hold this idea that being in a larger body is so much worse that it actually is. I thought, yeah because you claimed your body as your own. 

I Asked “What Helped?” She Said, “Shopping.”

“I love finding clothes that make me feel good. Giving up the idea of weight loss made this so much easier. Don’t get me wrong, I did experience the shame of having to size up. But I also got to buy clothes I loved, instead of just wearing things that made me look smaller.”  

She also admits she had access to knowledge about where to get these clothes. Sydney is a plus-size fashion influencer. Uggh, I hate using that word, but I guess it’s the right one to use. So, she knows stuff. And… plug!! Definitely follow this darling, Louisiana woman. @ohhhhhhhhhoney. That’s 9 h’s.

“I remember seeing my mom hold onto her size 6 jeans for many, many sizes past that. She could still buy jeans off the rack! She was being ridiculous. One day, I told her she needed to buy new clothes that fit her. And she freaking did it and it changed her life.” 

How To Accept Your Body Weight

First things first, you gotta recognize this might be the path that you’re on and that you at least sorta want to be on it. I like to suggest doing a pros and cons list for body image improvement. What will you gain if you learn how to accept your body weight as it is? What will you lose?

Accepting your body doesn’t have to feel easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. It also doesn’t mean you’re giving up, not taking care of yourself, or are going to die alone. It means you’re finding a new version of healthy. Some ideas:

Buy clothes that fit you

Sell or give away anything that’s several sizes too small. If you have things that are just a little too small, or that you really love, put them in a box in your closet or under your bed (for now, if you must) or give them to your sister. 

Don’t try on clothes that you know are too small for you

Stop punishing yourself. It is a myth that shame leads to motivation, as I cover frequently. You are moving through something. If you have a hunch they’re too small, just don’t do it. This choice will reverberate through your subconscious. 

Remember this is not all bad.

Accepting your body is hard, but it comes with acknowledging all of the amazing, bold, beautiful things about you. You get to accept that you are so so so SO much more interesting than the size and shape of your body, something you have no control over. Your body was inherited. 

Your brain, your interests, your work and your love and your resistance in this world – those are things you have chosen. You shaped them. You broke down norms and told other peoples expectation of you to fuck off. You are incredible.

Sydney has a couple tips too for accepting your body weight too:

Don’t distance yourself from fat people

My input here: This is especially important if you’re thin, or have thin privilege. Distancing yourself from fat people is keeping your internalized fat\phobia fed with the juice it wants – fear that gaining weight will ruin your life.

Live your life as if the size of your body is not the main focal point of your life

My two cents: Make a list of things you want to do but are not doing because you think you need to ‘look better’ to do them. Each month pick one and go do it. New Years resolution done. You’re welcome.  

Acceptance of your body means acceptance of your power. 

If you enjoyed this, share it with a friend. The more people finding liberation with food and their bodies, the more permission we’ll all have to just be.  

tldr: Body image work is hard work, but ultimately allows you more freedom, power, and self-love. Follow Sydney, @ohhhhhhhhhoney, on instagram.

If you’re ready to heal your relationship with food, book a discovery call with me and we can talk about how you can get there. I offer 1-1 nutrition counseling and a 6-month small group coaching program, The Love Food Again Program. Food and body freedom are waiting for you.

About Emily

Emily Van Eck, MS, RDN specializes in Intuitive Eating, eating disorders, body image, women’s reproductive health, and healing from years of weight-bias and disordered eating. She helps people find balance, consistency, and peace with their eating habits so they can feel confident to get outta their heads and into their bodies. Emily is a registered dietitian and certified Intuitive Eating counselor with a master’s degree in nutrition science. Read more about her practice, values, and experience here.

Emily Van Eck on couch with cereal bowl

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  1. Melissa Young

    I’m so glad I found this article. I am at the beginning of my journey into intuitive eating. one of my greatest fears was accepting that I may not lose weight. but I am done dieting and done hating my body. I realized today that I appreciate my car more than my body. and it does feel like grieving, giving up the dream of a smaller body and cuter clothes. I’m going to buy new tires for my car, but before I do that I’m going to buy myself some cute clothes in the size I am now. much love to all on this path and the ones guiding us.

    • Emily Van Eck, MS, RDN

      Hi Melissa. Thanks for your comment. I fully support you buying new clothes that fit you and you feel good in! “Done dieting and done hating my body” sounds like a bold statement rooted in true feelings and values. I find feelings like this are essential, kind of like a statement to root you and a reminder of why you’re on this path. And you’re right, it’s really scary to stop actively trying to lose weight even if you know it’s the best thing for you. There’s just so, so, so much noise out there that can make you feel like this is the wrong choice.


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Emily Van Eck sitting on the couch smiling

Hey there, I´m Emily

A non-diet and weight-inclusive dietitian, intuitive eating coach, and body image healer. Here on the blog, I focuses on exploring intuitive eating, gentle nutrition, the complex arena of body image and feminism, anti-oppression, and all the ways these things intersect. I want us all to be free to own our appetites, and our desires, and eat really, really well. 


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