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

NEW LESSON: FALL 2010

It is hard to let go of the magic promised by diets and thinness. Remind yourself often that if diets worked, you would no longer be struggling with weight issues.

As you think about self and size acceptance, you are likely to experience moments where you wonder if this is the best route for you. There may be times where the pressures to diet or the desire to lose weight are so strong that you become filled with self-doubt. Stay compassionate with yourself. It's hard to do something different from what the culture tells you to do. This is especially true when there's a large part of you that believes you would truly feel better if you lost weight.

Imagine, for a moment that what you're telling yourself is true. You believe that by becoming thinner you'll be more attractive, more confident, and healthier. Now what? As of now, there's no reliable way to achieve these results. Diets are the most common way to lose weight, yet all of the evidence says that they do not work in the long-term. You can be sure that if any program, plan, or pill had consistent, sustainable results, proved through careful research studies, you'd know about them. But they don't. Instead, they have side effects, including weight gain! So even if thinner were, in fact, better, how can you get yourself there in a way that is permanent and does not create further harm?

If you still feel that you absolutely must give dieting a further try, we encourage you to listen to yourself. You're in charge of your journey, and you must decide what is in your best interest. Diet survivors sometimes feel that they have one last diet in them, or that they really need to prove to themselves whether or not dieting is a viable option. If you do decide to put yourself back on some sort of restricted plan, we urge you to observe carefully what happens. If you find yourself breaking out of the diet, use the information you've learned in The Diet Survivor's Handbook to help you understand what's happening. Rather than blaming yourself, read over the first three chapters of the book and the lessons that discuss why diets don't work.

The promise of thinness is seductive. In our busy, complicated lives, the idea that losing weight will bring happiness offers hope and a sense of control. It's understandable that it may be difficult for you to let go of this fantasy. However, thinness really isn't so magical. If you become thin by using unhealthy methods, such as drinking diet sodas to disguise your hunger, you're not really healthier. You become healthy when you eat nutritious foods in accordance with your physical hunger and when you become physically fit. If you have problems in your relationships or with your self-esteem, losing weight will not make these problems disappear. Rather, dealing directly with these issues will lead to improved mental health. If you feel that you're unattractive because of your size, losing weight may help you feel better about yourself. However, for many people this improved feeling is fleeting because it generally does not lead to all of the improvements that "looking better" is supposed to bring.

In moments of internal struggle, remind yourself that if diets worked, you'd be at the weight you want to be by now. Chances are that you've made numerous attempts to become thinner, but they haven't worked. You've lost weight, but sooner or later you gained it back. Remember that the failure isn't yours. Rather, it's the fault of the diet itself. Do your best to tell yourself that while you are in the midst of this process, your weight is none of your business. Instead, stay focused on becoming an attuned eater and working through any obstacles that stand in your way. Your commitment to stay off the diet roller coaster means that you are aware of the potential to live a fuller, more satisfying life. If you do lose weight, it will be a side effect of your new, sustainable behaviors!

Activity: It's hard to jump off the diet roller coaster

It's difficult to let go of the fantasy that the magic diet for permanent weight loss is out there somewhere.

Respond to the following statements by allowing yourself to answer without censor. Use these guidelines to move deeper into your own thoughts and insights:

  • Write for five minutes

  • Do not cross out anything you have written. If you don't know what you want to say at a certain point, simply write out that thought, and any others that follow.

  • Keep your pen moving.

  • Do not stop to read what you have written.

  • You are allowed to write anything, forget about grammar, and let yourself go.

Statement: Sometimes when I think about dieting I think that...

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Later today, go back and reread what you have written. Are you surprised by what came up for you? Are the themes familiar to you, or new? What, if anything, would you like to take away from this exercise?

I've been on a constant diet for the last two decades. I've lost a total of 789 pounds. By all accounts, I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.
– Erma Bombeck