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The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating Acceptance and Self-Care

NEW LESSON: FALL 2009

Celebrate your decision not to diet. You haven't failed diets, diets have failed you.

As a diet survivor, you share many common experiences with other people who have been caught in the diet/binge cycle. The first part of The Diet Survivor's Handbook focuses on behaviors and emotions that you are likely to have as the result of yo-yo dieting. It is important to remember that there is a mountain of research that proves diets don't work and explains why you repeatedly feel like a diet failure. As you embark on the journey to normalize your eating, hold on to the facts that confirm diets don't work.

The knowledge that dieting does not lead to permanent weight loss - and actually causes harm - has been available for decades. During the 1940's, researcher Ancel Keys conducted a study on 36 conscientious objectors to find out what would happen if they were placed on a semi-starvation diet for six months. They were give food that was nutritionally adequate and that consisted of the number of calories similar to most commercial weight loss plans. The changes observed in these men were dramatic. In addition to losing approximately 25% of their body weight, the men experienced noticeable personality changes. They became lethargic, irritable, depressed, and apathetic. They also became obsessed with food and talked constantly about eating, hunger, and weight loss.

Once the men began the refeeding portion of the study, restrictions were no longer placed on their eating. They binged for weeks, often consuming food to the point of feeling ill. Despite their overeating, they continued to report feeling ravenous. The weight previously lost returned rapidly as fat, and most of the men lost the muscle tone that they had prior to the experiment. Some of the men ended up weighing more than before the start of the study. The men's emotional stability and energy returned only after they had regained the weight.

This is only one of the numerous studies that have emerged over the years proving that diets are not the solution for weight loss. That's why Congressman Ron Wyden held the hearings about diet programs that found diet programs, including Weight Watchers® and Jenny Craig® are unsuccessful. Eating disorder researchers David Garner and Susan Wooley also report that while virtually all diets initially result in weight loss, there is no evidence that the majority of people can maintain any significant weight loss over a long period of time.

Remembering these facts will support you as you end diets for weight loss and learn to become an attuned eater. You are not giving up. You are taking very good care of yourself. Celebrate your decision not to diet!

Activity: Acknowledging the failure of diets

Make a list of all the diets and weight loss programs you have been on in the spaces below. Then go back to each one and write the words: Guaranteed to fail 98% of the time.

  1. __________________________________
  2. __________________________________
  3. __________________________________
  4. __________________________________
  5. __________________________________
  6. __________________________________
  7. __________________________________
  8. __________________________________
  9. __________________________________
  10. __________________________________

Now fill in the space below:

I, (name)__________________________, am a diet survivor. I have not failed diets; diets have failed me.

"I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
– Thomas Edison