How Anger and Resentment Impact Weight Loss on Keto and Banting

By Victoria Webster (Clinical Psychologist)

I am angry. I am angry that all my life I have received messages that my body is not acceptable the way it is. I am angry that I have been conditioned to believe that I will only be happy if I am a certain size and look a certain way. Worse than that, I was taught that it is only when I reach this certain size that I will finally be good enough and worthy of love. 

Since when does what I look like equate my self-worth?

Here is another thing that makes me angry: I have tried over and over again to strive for these unrealistic “standards of beauty” and, of course, I have failed because even if I did have weight to lose, I was given the wrong information about how to lose it in a sustainable way. Even more importantly than weight loss, I was given the wrong information about how to actually be healthy. Keto has allowed me to get my health back on track, but I had to get angry first. Let me explain. 

Anger is a necessary emotion and can be healthy (it has an unfortunate reputation of always being “bad”). It can teach us that some part of us is being threatened or there is something that we need to change in our lives. Anger motivates us to take action if we allow ourselves to acknowledge it and express it appropriately. 

Anger is also a necessary part of grieving. You may have heard of the common stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Anger is part of this process because it allows us to have an emotional outlet and also helps us to acknowledge that something has seriously changed and that things are currently not ok. If we acknowledge anger, it provides the motivation to make changes and look after ourselves better. 

Taking on a new lifestyle and implementing changes (like giving up the bread and croissants) requires us to go through the stages of grief, until we are ready to accept that it is time to move on and to let go of the old ways of doing things. Interestingly, my experience with people who have lost a lot of weight is that suddenly their anger switch gets turned on. Suddenly, they start to experience this emotion that they were eating and numbing  for many years, and this can be empowering and motivating for them. 

So, I am giving you permission: be angry, own it and express it. However, when anger is not dealt with properly, it can turn to resentment. Resentment is like anger’s evil step-sister who has no good intentions and only wants to cause misery and destruction. Here is a well-known expression that captures what resentment is:

Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.

Resentment happens when we hold onto feelings, like frustration, disgust, bitterness and revenge and when we feel we have been treated unfairly. We can hold onto resentment towards things, people and even ourselves and if we hold onto it for long enough it can fester inside of us with nowhere to go. Our lives can start to revolve around resentment because we think that by holding onto it, we will have some power or maybe the person or circumstances that hurt us will change. 

Sadly, the only person that gets impacted by resentment is you. It often leaks out in self-destructive behaviours that keep you stuck and disconnected from others – like drinking too much (poison) and eating too much sugar-laden food (poison). Staying stuck in resentment overrides any ability to find peace and often perpetuates the cycle of binge-eating. 

We can even resent our own bodies. We pile on self-abuse and punishment in the hopes that our bodies will magically change, maybe the people around us will change or maybe the most delicious indulgence will not cause us to get more and more unhealthy.

Unfortunately, the external changes may never happen (especially if big food companies have anything to do with it) and so it is all up to the internal changes – letting go of resentments and starting to look after yourself. 

Remember, it’s ok to be angry, but you will know it is resentment when you use anger to justify dysfunctional and self-destructive behaviour.

For example, justifying tucking into everything in the pantry because of how upset your boss made you, and being unable to let it go. Holding onto resentment in this case is eating poison and hoping the other person will die. You can see how this is just not a good strategy.

Staying stuck in resentment is like being a magician who is trapped in a giant glass box that is filling up with water; his hands are handcuffed and he has to struggle and thrash around to free himself from the handcuffs and get out of the box before the water covers his head and he drowns. Carrying resentment is like being in that box, but every time you give into your resentment, water flows faster into the box. Eventually it becomes impossible to stand and difficult to breathe. Apologies to those of you who believe in magic, but the magician happens to have the key to unlock the handcuffs all along. You also have that key and you can let yourself out of that glass box if you know how. The power to do this is in your hands.

Resentment is toxic, and truly poisonous, especially when it involves eating all the low-fat high sugar foods that surround us on a daily basis. When you put that poison in your mouth, when you hold onto resentment, the only one who is getting hurt and unhealthy is you. Be angry about that!

Letting go of resentment starts with forgiveness, and mostly towards yourself. It also requires self-compassion, empathy and gratitude.  

Get people on your side to help you with this process.  Surround yourself with people on the same journey as you, who can help you develop these qualities. For this, you should join the Hero Group Support Program to help you use that key to unlock the handcuffs and push open the box.