When we decide to take control of our health, we enter a transitional period that is not terribly different from those that occur in our work lives, relationships, living situations, and other areas of life. The decision to end our old relationship to food, eating patterns and lifestyle choices can be a major and challenging one that can often times leave us questioning whether things were easier the way they were before we decided to make a change. However, transitions are and will always be an important part of life in which endings must occur in order to make room for new beginnings.
Transitions can be predictable or unpredictable. Sometimes we come to the realization that a transition must occur on our own, but other times it’s because we’ve learned or experienced something that has forced change upon us. Regardless of how we arrived there or how difficult a transition may seem, more often than not, the experience is a wonderful gift that we don’t often realize the merits of until much later. Transitional experiences propel us into new phases within our lives that we eventually find more fitting to who we are and the life that we want.
Understanding these moments of life and the process one goes through can be helpful in making it through them more easily. In the case of health and lifestyle changes, this can be tremendously beneficial by helping us recognize that change doesn’t happen overnight and that if such a belief becomes the goal, transitioning successfully and arriving at a new beginning free of old patterns becomes more difficult.
According to William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, there are three distinct stages in a transition. The first stage is endings, followed by a neutral period and then a new beginning. As Bridges points out, most of us think that the ending is the final stage rather than the first stage, so realizing first and foremost that letting go is what carves the way for something new to develop, the overall process becomes a bit easier to move through.
For dietary transitions, the old way of eating and relating to food must first come to an end. Many times we don’t realize how much we identify with our tastes, eating habits or use of food. We may be accustomed to sharing certain foods, outings, or food rituals with friends or loved ones. The entire process of “ending” can leave us disoriented and empty as we let go of what no longer works for us in our lives.
However, endings are also an important time to really look internally and realize that a lot of our reality exists inside our own minds as opposed to being the “truth” about us or our relationship to the world. Dismantling your internal beliefs about food and food’s role in your life can be challenging and painful, but also extremely valuable to your own inner growth.
The second stage, the neutral zone, is often a time of confusion or feeling lost. Potentially, this is a period when you’ve completed your attachment to the old food model, but are still unsure how and what to eat, what works for you and what doesn’t, how your health is impacted by your food choices, whether life without certain foods well disrupt your enjoyment of life, etc. You probably feel unclear as to why you began this process in the first place and wonder if you’ll ever get it worked out. As you go through this stage, it’s a good moment to simply observe what’s coming up, but not necessarily expect to receive all of the answers. Think about what you really want out of your life and reflect on what’s important to you. As you emerge from the neutral zone, which can feel like it goes on for ages, you’ll be ready to step into something new with 100% of yourself.
The last stage, new beginnings, will happen naturally at the right moment. Perhaps you will wake up one morning and feel confident in your new approach to your health and clear about how to achieve and maintain the body and life you want. This usually happens as an internal shift, rather than something externally taking place. In other words, the motivation to work inside a new paradigm around your health, regardless of outside circumstances and obstacles, arises from within. It is in this moment that how to live healthy becomes clear and easy.
Transitions aren’t easy for anyone and are certainly not limited to a specific area. Each of us faces our own unique challenges and struggles during numerous moments of change throughout life that are inevitable and necessary to each of our life paths. For me, whenever I’ve made major dietary shifts, it has ignited transition in many other areas of my life as well. Understanding that transition is a process and that the hardships associated with them will eventually pass, has been helpful and appreciated.
Published On: April 16, 2010