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

Spring 2012 Diet Survivor's Newsletter

Diet Survivors Book


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

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

***April Introductory Workshop series
in the Chicago area—details here***

Spring came early this year, with warm weather and early blossoms signaling that it's time to reconnect with the outdoors. Pink tulip trees, purple lilacs and yellow daffodils remind us of the wonders and diversity in nature. While many people welcome this glorious time of rebirth, it's also a season that can be fraught with angst as you contemplate a shift in your wardrobe to accommodate rising temperatures. The resolve for people to get thinner as spring arrives is second only to the wave of dieting that happens on January 1st. Do you find yourself focusing on the beauty in nature? The shape of your body? Both?

Our lesson this season supports you in creating an environment of self-acceptance. One diet survivor told us that some of her friends have begun their latest diets to prepare for the summer months. She explained that they're constantly bemoaning the fact that they are hungry, wondering each day if they'll be "good" or "bad," and/or counting the days until June, when they believe they'll have lost enough weight to be able to stop restricting. She commented on how different she feels as an attuned eater: while she used to wake up each morning obsessed and worried about what her eating would be like for the day, she now welcomes the morning as she contemplates what the day holds for her.

Finding a place of acceptance can be the toughest part of letting go of dieting. Our lesson this season comes directly from the Diet Survivor's Handbook; because the activity is called "Spring Cleaning," it seemed like the perfect time to bring attention to this topic! Remember that acceptance doesn't say anything about what the future holds, but it does help you to be present in your life. Our lesson begins like this:

When you create an environment of acceptance for yourself, you will feel more comfortable. Understand the positive quality of these acts. Read more here.

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As an attuned eater, you've experienced the satisfaction and pleasure that comes from honoring your hunger, choosing foods that truly nourish you, and paying attention to fullness. This is a big contrast to the diet mentality, where eating is based on monitoring and/or counting something about the foods you consume in order to promote weight loss. When Judith presented a clinical workshop at the Psychotherapy Networker conference last month, she put together a list to show what kinds of beliefs are associated with each framework. The assumptions and values that underlie these different approaches to feeding yourself are striking to us; perhaps you'll add some more of your own!

External Rules Internal Cues
Rigid Flexible
Deprived Satisfied
Guilt Pleasure
Fear Trust
Preoccupied Empowered
Weight Loss Nourishment
Shame Compassion
Judgment Acceptance
Oppressed Freedom
In Control In Charge

As you look at this list, how do you feel? Where are you at in your process to move toward attuned eating? Does reflecting on the differences between these two paradigms affect anything about how you want to change your relationship with food? Moving from the diet mentality to attuned eating is a journey, so stay compassionate with yourself and take it one eating experience at a time!

Weighty Matters

For some diet survivors, finding ways to actively challenge society's messages about weight is an important part of empowering themselves and changing the status quo, while for others, developing a healthy relationship with food and one's body is a very personal and private endeavor. No matter where you fall on this continuum, we all know that our culture gives strong messages about thinness and fatness, messages that seep into our psyche and affect the way we feel about ourselves and others.

When Judith presented her work at the 2012 Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) conference that took place last month in Philadelphia, Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center gave a keynote address emphasizing the damage done by weight stigmatization. We've been heartened to see how different groups and organizations are collaborating to actively confront some of the most blatant messages that spread shame related to eating and body size. The coordination of these efforts has meant that new voices are being heard, and we're seeing these positive messages for health and well-being spread far and wide, resulting in new conversations and real change. We wanted to share a few of these recent efforts with you:

  • In early February, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) launched an anti-obesity campaign called "Stop Sugarcoating," sending shaming messages to kids and their parents. Their Strong4Life billboards around the city featured fat children with slogans such as "It's hard to be a little girl if you're not," and one video, for example, showed a child asking her parent, "Why am I fat?" In a swift response, several eating disorder organizations blasted this campaign, and BEDA and ANAD issued a press release asking CHOA to "discontinue their fear and shame based advertisements objectifying children. Campaigns that focus on overall wellness, not weight shaming, should be the goal."

    Meanwhile activists also launched campaigns to counter CHOA. Marilyn Wann, author of FatSo? created her own I Stand campaign, accumulating over 400 posters based on the CHOA design. And then Ragen Chastain, blogger of Dances With Fat, took on the project of putting up a billboard to support all kids. Her initial goal of $5,000 was well exceeded with a matching amount from More of Me To Love – in the end, she raised $21,700 for her Atlanta billboards that offer positive messages to children of all sizes! You can see the new billboards here.

  • One of our favorite places on earth, Disney World, got into the act of fighting "childhood obesity" with their new Habit Heroes exhibit at Epcott Center, co-sponsored by Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Florida. Again, the response was swift when villainous fat characters with names like Lead Bottom and Sweet Tooth came up against the protagonists Will Power and Callie Stenics. Concern over the reinforcement of negative stereotypes of fat children – and it's potential to increase weight-based bullying – caused an outpouring of complaints to Disney, who shut down the exhibit within the week!

  • A girl's school in Melbourne, Australia invited Jenny Craig CEO Amy Smith as a speaker to discuss the empowerment of girls. After attempting to talk with the conference planners about the mixed message, Lydia Jade Turner of the eating disorders clinic, BodyMatters, launched a petition stating, ''Global giant Jenny Craig thrives on women's body dissatisfaction and the idea that their bodies are not good enough. It beggars belief how Jenny Craig's CEO could possibly be seen as an appropriate choice for educators of young girls." Her petition received 1000 signatures within 48 hours from concerned people all over the world, and she was interviewed on numerous radio and TV shows. Although the school did not back down on their invitation to Amy Smith, all references to Jenny Craig have been removed. Beyond that, a conversation has begun throughout Australia that's alerted parents and consumers about the high failure rate of diets. Read more here.

What are your thoughts about all of these actions? Does it energize you or overwhelm you? This may not be your "thing," but if you'd like to be more involved, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Consider joining the Association for Size Diversity and Health, or following one of the blogs mentioned above.


  • 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. Questions?  E-mail Judith directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

  • SYD ARTHUR: Ellen will be speaking about her novel, Syd Arthur, in Dallas, Texas at 7:00 pm on Monday, April 23rd at 7:00 pm at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas. If you're out that way, please come by and say, "hi, " or "howdy!"

  • Amanda's Big Dream: Judith is collaborating with illustrator Elizabeth Patch to create a new children's book that promotes self and body-esteem for kids. More details coming soon!

  • 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!


After 12 months of working with the non-diet approach, Isabelle found that she still had some binges that didn't make sense to her. She was well-stocked at home, generally ate when she was hungry, and stopped when she was full. But she reported that, at times, she ate foods she didn't even like to the point of being uncomfortably full, and then completely shut down as she fell asleep on the couch.

Most recently, Isabelle was on her way home from her hair cut appointment when she stopped by a convenience store and bought a bag of potato chips and a box of cookies. By the time she arrived home, Isabelle had finished all of the chips and cookies and felt ill. Isabelle began to call herself names, believing she was "stupid" and "self-destructive" to eat so much high carbohydrate food, which she knew was "bad" for her – and she hadn't even been hungry!

It's always important to bring compassion to understanding what might be behind binge eating behavior. Sometimes feelings of deprivation can trigger a binge, but for Isabelle, potato chips and cookies were no longer off limits. As she delved deeper into what might have been going on for her, she realized that the purpose of her binge was to actually create the numbed out feeling that followed her overeating.

When asked to consider what part of her needed to numb out, Isabelle revealed that she had so many responsibilities at home, but she just wanted to have some fun! The truth was that Isabelle grew up in a family that constantly required hard work and productivity, with no time to "relax and smell the roses." Isabelle now explored the responsible part of herself, as well as the part that wanted to have fun. She realized that the binge squelched the "fun" part of her that wasn't acceptable, and at the same time got the "responsible" part of her off the hook; after all, if she couldn't move off the couch, she couldn't do any of her chores. She wasn't "stupid" or "self-destructive at all – it was actually an ingenious solution to her conflict!

Isabelle now sees that the "fun" part of her needs room to thrive. Rather than being in competition with the "responsible" part of herself, her goal is to find a way for these parts to support each other in a balanced way, so that she no longer needs to use her binges to manage this life-long conflict. With compassion towards herself for the bind that she's been in, Isabelle announced, "I am going to go with my daughter to a concert this weekend!" Of course, this still leaves plenty of time for her to fulfill her responsibilities at home, but she now potentially has the space and freedom to take care of her fun side – an important step toward living more fully in the world.

Think about the different parts of yourself. Are they working well together or are they at odds with each other? This can be a fertile place to explore how overeating can become a way to manage the different parts of yourself that need your gentle understanding and compassion!

Diet Survivors Facebook GroupDon't forget to "like" Diet Survivor's Group on Facebook. You'll get more frequent support, inspiration, and updates.

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Wishing you a season of renewal and continued growth!

All the best,
Judith and Ellen

Judith Matz, LCSW
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Ellen Frankel, LCSW
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Diet Survivors

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