This Is What Happens When You Stop Dieting and Start Eating Real Food

05/12/2015 02:20 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2016

Maybe you're on a diet, and you're tired of restricting yourself and going hungry. You'd love to stop dieting and start eating real food because you know it will help you get healthy and keep the weight off.

But you may also wonder what really happens once you're no longer depriving yourself, counting calories and eating low-fat, processed diet foods. You may ask yourself if the weight will keep coming back or if you'll finally manage to feel better and be happy with what you see in the mirror.

Here is what happens once you stop dieting and start enjoying real, nourishing foods.

1. You find freedom in your eating

When you're no longer dieting but simply enjoying real, whole foods in their natural state, you let go of this identity of a dieter, someone who eats to lose weight. You let go of the diet mentality and you can focus on feeding yourself instead of starving yourself.

You can shake the feeling that you were depriving yourself and start focusing on what you can eat rather than what you shouldn't. You no longer need to be cheating on your diets or feeling you're a bad person whenever you have a treat.

And this sets you free because it opens the door to a new identity. Now you can start considering all the foods that are actually healthy for you and you can give yourself choices. You are no longer the dieter, the one who wants to lose weight, and you can now focus on your life instead of obsessing about food.

2. You enjoy foods made with real ingredients, including fat

You are no longer relying on fake foods to keep you full. Meal-replacement bars, shakes and prepackaged diet meals all have one thing in common: They're not real food. The body doesn't recognize, want or need them. They aren't satisfying, they are often difficult to digest, and they leave you craving more real food anyway.

Now you discover and enjoy the real taste of natural, whole foods. You can have full-fat yogurt and feel more satisfied with a smaller portion than you ever felt on the fat-free one.

You allow yourself to have dessert once in a while. Not diet Jell-O, but a piece of cheesecake. Not the one made with non-fat imitation cream cheese and zero-calorie artificial sweeteners, but the real one made with quality ingredients.

You enjoy your foods more, you are more present for the eating experience and you can focus on the taste, texture, colors, and flavors of your food. And as you take your time and enjoy each bite, chances are you also end up eating less without even noticing.

3. You realize you're no longer addicted to sugar

Sugar and sweeteners are a common ingredient in most processed foods as well as low-fat, diet foods. Even when you consume low-calorie and low-sugar foods, as long as they are not real food, they are keeping you unsatisfied and wanting for more.

As you start eating real, natural foods, you often drastically reduce sugar in your diet. And you do so naturally, without feeling deprived.

Then one day you realize your so-called sugar addiction is gone. Your sweet tooth may now simply be craving fresh fruit instead of chocolate and carbs, just because your body is nourished instead of starved.

4. You feel at peace with your body

Dieting is like a war with your body. You want to battle your weight, fight fat, and conquer your sweet tooth. But food is not your enemy, it is your friend.

And once you start making friend with your food, you love and accept yourself a lot more. And your body also stops being at war with you. It is no longer battling to function on a low amount of calories and fighting off cravings for food. You're in turn no longer hungry all the time or feeling irritable and aggressive.

You are eating healthier because you realize you have more energy and better digestion when you do, and your relationship with food and your body is more peaceful.

5. You lose weight (and keep it off)

Most of the time, it is not until you point love at yourself and stop eating fake foods that you find yourself dropping weight. The weight loss is a side effect of eating real, healthy foods, feeling at peace with your body and accepting yourself.

This is what many people call "losing weight without trying." Once you let it go, you eat real foods, you no longer focus on calories and on eating less, the physical weight starts to go away, and so does the emotional weight of all your past self-imposed restrictions. You fit into your jeans again and you have more energy.

And this makes you feel in control and really alive.

Sure, the change might be slow, and it might be difficult to adjust your thinking if you've been dieting and depriving yourself for a long time. It does take consistency, but chances are you'll enjoy it a lot more as well as feel happier and proud of yourself.

Anne Ricci is dedicated to helping women eat more real food, boost their energy and feel good in their body. You can join her tribe at AnnesHealthyKitchen's Community.