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

Winter 2012 Diet Survivor's Newsletter

Diet Survivor's Handbook


Welcome to the Winter 2012 Diet Survivor's Group e-mail!

(Based on The Diet Survivor's Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care)

Winter is here, but you’d never know it from the mild weather we’re having in our hometowns of Chicago and Boston. January with no snow is unheard of! However, there’s no mistaking that it really is that time of year when New Year’s resolutions abound, and you just can’t escape all of the ads that promise: A New Year – A New You! And, of course, the #1 promise is the weight loss you can achieve with this plan or that program.

Where are you at in your journey? If your decision to quit diets and become an attuned eater is firmly in place, you probably feel great relief that you just don’t have to get caught up in this yearly ritual anymore.

But, if you’re more ambivalent about giving up the focus on dieting, then this is a very challenging time of year, indeed. As if it weren’t enough to be bombarded by ads from every diet company promising you that they have the answers, you’re probably hearing friends, family and/or coworkers talk about their latest plans to lose weight. It’s enough to make you wonder if you, too, should give it one more shot. In our recent Huffington Post interview we talked about starting this year out with compassion. Remember that the deprivation of dieting ultimately feeds the out of control feelings with food, while attuned eating helps you to feel in charge of your eating.

As you reflect on where you’re at along the path to feeling in charge of your relationship with food, our lesson this season invites you to pay attention to fullness. Most diet survivors find that it’s easier to figure out when to start eating than when stop! So, here’s a chance for you to reflect on this issue. Our lesson begins like this:

Pay more attention to your fullness. The sooner you stop eating, the sooner you will get to start again. (Click here for Lesson)



As a diet survivor, you've learned that attuned eating is the antidote to dieting. But how attuned are you when it comes to moving your body? Do you exercise too much, not enough, or just the right amount for your body and your lifestyle?

If you’re like most diet survivors, at some point exercise was part of the diet mentality for you: a way to burn up calories and lose weight. Exercise may have felt like punishment for eating "bad" foods or for not having the right body size. When you worked out you felt like you were in control, and when you stopped, you probably felt guilty.

The key to attuned exercising is to unhook physical activity from weight loss, a daunting task for many! Instead, check in with your body and notice what it has to teach you. Does your body want to move more? Less? Focus on what – if anything – makes exercise caretaking and/or empowering for you. Is it flexibility? Endurance? Strength?

Some people find there’s joy in moving their body, while for others exercise is a way to take care of their health and well-being. In either case, try to make the best match(es) in choosing what you’ll do. Are you a team sports kind of person? Do you like the mindfulness that comes with yoga? Do the dances in a high energy Zumba class invigorate you? Does a walk or bike ride that gets you in touch with nature do the trick? Do you find that the swimming pool beckons? Or does walking on a treadmill - perhaps with music for your IPod or a TV show – give you an efficient way to get your body the movement it craves?

If it turns out that no kind of exercise gives you pleasure, does it feel worth it because of how your body feels afterwards? (Sort of like not wanting to do the laundry, but being really glad to have clean clothes!)

We encourage you to experiment with tuning into your body and trying out different ways to move it. Notice how you feel before, during, and after. And it’s not a race – go at a pace that honors your body’s needs. There’s no doubt that exercise does support physical and emotional health – and that’s true regardless of whether any weight is lost as a side effect of physical activity.

Weighty Matters

An article in the New York Times magazine called The Fat Trap made a big splash earlier this month. Writer Tara Parker-Pope looked at some of the science behind weight regulation – and why it’s so hard for people to lose weight despite their sometimes "superhuman" efforts.

In a striking example of how weight is much more complicated than "calories in, calories out," researchers followed 12 sets of male twins (who did not have a history of "obesity" based on family history and their own body mass.) They were followed in their college dormitory where under 24-hour supervision (can you imagine?!!!) they ate 1,000 extra calories six days per week, and ate normally one day per week. Beyond video games, playing cards, reading and watching TV, their physical activity was restricted to a 30-minute walk per day.

"Over the course of the 120-day study, the twins consumed 84,000 extra calories beyond their basic needs. That experimental binge should have translated into a weight gain of roughly 24 pounds (based on 3,500 calories to a pound.) But some gained less than 10 pounds, while others gained as much as 29 pounds. The amount of weight gained and how the fat was distributed around the body closely matched among brothers, but varied considerably among the different sets of twins. Some brothers gained three times as much fat around their abdomens as others, for instance. When the researchers conducted similar exercise studies with the twins, they saw the patterns in reverse, with some twin sets losing more pounds than others on the same exercise regimen. The findings, the researchers wrote, suggest a form of ‘biological determinism’ that can make a person susceptible to weight gain or loss." (New York Times Magazine, 1/1/12 pp. 24-25)

At the end of the article, Tara Pope-Parker acknowledges her own struggles with weight, and expresses how understanding the science of weight loss has helped her to make sense her own experience. It’s our hope that as the growing mountain of scientific studies explaining why diets don’t work makes their way into the mainstream media, the shame around diet failure will diminish for the millions of people who blame themselves.


  • Ellen will be speaking about her novel, Syd Arthur, on January 11th at 10:00 am as part of the JCC annual Book Festival in West Palm Beach, Florida. If you live out that way (or are enjoying a Florida vacation) stop by for the brunch, book talk and book signing at Temple Beth El: 2815 North Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach. For ticket information call: 561-712-5226 or contact Melissa Engelberg at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Eating from the Inside Out is a three-part beginning workshop offered by Judith through the Infinity Foundation in Highland Park. This is a great opportunity to learn the basics of attuned eating – please tell your friends! Meets Mondays April 16, 23, 30 from 7pm – 9pm. Cost is $70/60 payment 10 days in advance. Learn more here.

  • The Psychotherapy Networker will rebroadcast its webinar series, Diets and Our Demons. You can register for free by clicking here (and then you will be sent a link the week of the webinar.) Judith’s session, Is Attuned Eating the Answer To Diet Failure will be available for free from Thursday, Jan. 19th through Tuesday, Jan. 24th. Also of interest is Linda Bacon’s session, Achieving Health At Every Size, and Geneen Roth’s session, Overcoming Compulsive Eating. Full details available here.

  • Registration is now open for the Binge Eating Disorder Association conference, March 2 – 4 in Philadelphia. Please note there is a track for treatment professionals and a track for individuals and families, so there should be useful information and support for everyone! Judith will present two workshops: Body of Knowledge: Exploring the Clinician’s Experience of Body Size and Its Impact on Treatment (along with Deb Burgard, Ph.D) and The Diet Survivor’s Circle: Journey to Empowerment.

  • Judith will return for the second year in a row to present two workshops at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium, March 22 – 25 in Washington D.C. Thursday’s workshop, Attuned Eating, Attuned Living, is part of Creativity Day for therapists' own personal growth. She’ll also offer a clinical workshop, Beyond the Diet Mentality.

  • Judith and Ellen are available to speak at your organization or university. Please contact us directly to discuss your needs. You can learn more about what we offer at our websites: and

  • Don’t forget to "Like" the Diet Survivors Group on facebook! And if you missed our third annual Magazine Madness, - where we rewrite the usual January diet/weightloss headlines with a dose of sanity and a touch of humor - you can find it at


Erika found herself alone one night, and remembered she had a bag of her favorite chocolate candy sitting in her cabinet. Erika thought it might be nice to have some – and there was no one there to “judge” her for eating it - so she went to the kitchen to have some. But just as she reached for the bag, she realized she didn’t really want any. She just wasn’t hungry. “Maybe later,” she thought.

Later came, and still alone in the house, Erika began to get hungry. She thought about the chocolate – and the fact that her family would be home soon – and went to get some. But once again, as she started to open the bag, she thought that chocolate just wouldn’t hit the spot. What she really craved was the leftover spinach pie and salad from her meal at a Greek restaurant the night before. “Maybe later,” she thought.

Later came, and still Erika didn’t want any chocolate. Her family came home, and soon it was time for bed. As she snuggled under the covers, she realized she had forgotten about the chocolate. At that moment, Erika felt surprised. Here she had told herself she could have the chocolate – in fact she tried to convince herself that this was a great time to eat it – but she couldn’t get herself to have any. It just didn’t make sense to her!

As Erika talked more about this incident, she had her epiphany. Now that she had given herself full permission to have her favorite chocolate, it just didn’t call to her anymore. She also realized that it wasn’t “better” that she didn’t have the chocolate that night: if that’s what she was truly hungry for, that’s exactly what she would have done. In fact, Erika’s epiphany was her deep knowledge that the chocolate was there for her whenever she was hungry for it, so there was no longer an incentive to eat it when she wasn’t hungry – or it wasn’t the right match.

Erika felt proud of herself, noticed her calmness, and enjoyed her chocolate (usually when she was hungry for it) happily ever after!

facebook2Don't forget to "like" Diet Survivor's Group on Facebook. You'll get more frequent support, inspiration, and updates, such as Deb Burgard's excellent post: Can I love my body and still want to lose weight?.

Wishing you a glorious and abundant season!

All the best,
Judith and Ellen

Judith Matz, LCSW
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Ellen Frankel, LCSW
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