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

Summer 2012 Diet Survivor's Newsletter

Diet Survivors Book


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

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

Summertime, and the livin' is easy… So starts the well-known song recorded by many singers over the years. That statement may or may not be true for you, especially if you're concerned about your relationship with food and your body. No matter where you are on your journey to become an attuned eater, speaking to yourself with compassion will ease the journey and actually put you in a stronger position to make changes.

What type of internal voice do you carry around with you? A critic? A best friend? If you've already cultivated a voice of compassion, that's wonderful! For some diet survivors, however, negative and judgmental thoughts are the norm when, for example, they eat past fullness or catch a glimpse of themselves in the mirror. In fact, some people are so used to yelling at themselves that the idea of speaking with a kind inner voice is foreign. We know that how you talk to yourself affects your ability to make changes, so this season we're offering a lesson to help you build your inner voice of compassion. It goes like this:

Develop a nurturing way to talk to yourself. Use this caretaking voice to help you through difficult moments. Read more here.



We were thrilled to receive a beautiful piece called Befriend Your Body as part of a weekly e-mail sent out by Rick Hanson. We had the pleasure of meeting Rick at a conference a couple of years ago, and we're big fans of his books Buddha's Brain and Just One Thing. We were struck by the fact that this inspiring practice is written by a person who is not part of the world of eating and weight issues, but whose wisdom speaks directly to the importance of making peace with your body. Rick graciously agreed to let us share it with you, and we hope you enjoy it!

The Practice:

Befriend Your Body


Imagine that your body is separate from you, and consider these questions:

  • How has your body taken care of you over the years? Such as keeping you alive, giving you pleasure, and taking you from place to place.

  • In return, how well do you take care of your body? Such as soothing, feeding, and exercising it, or taking it to the doctor. On the other hand, in what ways might you run it down, feed it junk food, or intoxicate it?

  • In what ways are you critical of your body? For example, are you disappointed in it or embarrassed by it? Do you feel let down by it, or wish it were different?

  • If your body could talk to you, what might it say?

  • If your body were a good friend, how would you treat it? Would that be different from how you treat it now?

Personally, I can't help squirming a little when I face these questions myself. It's common to push the body hard, ignore its needs until they get intense, and tune out from its signals. And then drop the body into bed at the end of another long day like—as my father would say, having grown up on a ranch—"a horse rid hard and put up wet."

People can also get mad at the body, and even mean to it. Like it's the body's fault if it weighs too much or is getting old.

But if you do any of these things, you'll end up paying a big price, since you are not separated from your body after all. Its needs and pleasures and pains are your own. Its fate will be your own someday.

On the other hand, if you treat your body well, like a good friend, you'll feel better, have more energy, be more resilient, and probably live longer.


Remember a time when you treated a good friend well. What was your attitude toward your friend, and what kinds of things did you do with him or her? How did it feel inside to be nice toward your friend?

Next, imagine a day of treating your body like another good friend. Imagine loving this friend—your body—as you wake up and help it out of bed: being gentle with it, staying connected to it, not rushing about… what would this feel like?

Imagine cherishing your body as you move through the morning—such as helping it kindly to some water, giving it a nice shower, and serving it healthy and delicious food. Imagine treating your body with love as you do other activities, such as driving, caring for children, exercising, working with others, doing dishes, having sex, or brushing your teeth.

How would this approach feel?

You'd probably experience less stress, more relaxation and calm, more pleasure, more ease, and more of a sense of being in control of your life. Plus an implicit sense of being kind to yourself, since in a deep sense you don't just have a body, you are your body; treating it well is treating you well.

If your body could speak, what might it say to you after being treated with love for a day?

Then, for real, treat your body well for a day (or even for just a few minutes). What's this like? In what ways does it feel good? Notice any reluctance to be nice to your body. Maybe a feeling that doing so would be self-indulgent or sinful.

Explore that reluctance, and see what it's about. Then decide if it makes any sense. If it doesn't, return to treating your body well.

If you could talk to your body, what might you say? Perhaps write a letter to your body, telling it how you've felt about it in the past, and how you want to be nicer to it in the future.

Make a short list of how to care better for your body, such as quitting smoking, or leaving work sooner, or taking more time for simple bodily pleasures. Then commit to treating your body better.

Kindness begins at home.

Your home is your body.

The "New" Binge Eating Disorder

As a diet survivor, you're probably familiar with the terms compulsive eating and binge eating. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they imply a difference in the degree of intensity around overeating. In the past, we've defined compulsive eating as repeatedly reaching for food when not physically hungry. In our culture, where skipping meals, eating past fullness and dieting are normative, compulsive eating is a common phenomenon.

Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM IV), used by mental health professionals for diagnostic purposes, has a category called Eating Disorder Not Other Specified (EDNOS) that lists criteria related to binge eating. However, it looks like that is about to change. In May 2013, the DSM V is likely to give Binge Eating Disorder (BED) its own separate status as an Eating Disorder. Here are the proposed criteria:

  1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

    1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances

    2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (for example, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)

  2. The binge-eating episodes are associated with 3 (or more) of the following:

    1. Eating much more rapidly than normal

    2. Eating until feeling uncomfortably full

    3. Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry

    4. Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating

    5. Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating

  3. Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.

  4. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.

  5. The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behavior and does not occur exclusively during the course Bulimia Nervosa or Anorexia Nervosa.

According to the Binge Eating Disorder Association, more than 8 million Americans are affected by BED. Some of the advantages of making BED a discreet eating disorder is that it will help people know that what they are experiencing is a real disorder that cannot be solved through willpower or dieting, thereby reducing shame and allowing insurance benefits for treatment. Some diet survivors also find that when a doctor says they should diet to lose weight, letting them know that they have an eating disorder is a proactive way to stop the conversation and switch the focus to the medical issue they are actually seeking treatment for.

At the same time, everyone who struggles with overeating does not have Binge Eating Disorder! Dieting itself can trigger binges, and regardless of whether your overeating is the result of the deprivation of diets or meets the criteria for BED, moving toward attuned eating will help you to develop a healthy and peaceful relationship with food.


  • Judith will be speaking at ANAD's 2012 Midwest Eating Disorders Conference, Wellness not Weight on Friday, October 26th, 2012 in Oakbrook, IL. The title of her workshop is Overcoming Binge Eating: Finding Peace Through Attuned Eating and The Health At Every Size® Paradigm.

  • Judith continues to collaborate with illustrator Elizabeth Patch on their children's story Amanda's Big Dream. The goal is to offer an engaging book for children that will help them to have a positive body image without a focus on weight loss. Stay tuned to for more information in our next newsletter about how you can support this project!

  • Ellen continues to write full-time; her next book, due out in September, leaves issues of eating and weight aside as she focuses on spirituality within Judaism. For those of you interested, the title is Revolution of Jewish Spirit.

  • It's always helpful to diet survivors to hear that attuned/intuitive eating and Health At Every Size® are gaining momentum around the country. Judith recently had the pleasure of meeting Michelle Gallant, a dietitian who is spreading the non-diet approach at Harvard. You can learn more at

  • 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!

A Tale Of Two Dieters

Leigh and Deborah, two sisters, were recently invited to an open house to celebrate the college graduation of their friend's son. Since the event took place from 1:00 – 4:00, Leigh and Deborah assumed there would only be snacks available, so they decided to eat lunch before they left for the party. When they arrived, Leigh and Deborah were surprised to discover a lavish buffet, complete with grilled chicken and steak, a variety of pasta salads, fruit, roasted veggies, and luscious desserts.

Leigh and Deborah handled the situation in very different ways. After 20 years of being caught in the diet/binge cycle, Leigh had been practicing attuned eating over the past year. Although she felt disappointed that, because she had just eaten lunch, she wasn't hungry for this feast, during the hour and a half that they spent at the open house, Leigh became somewhat hungry and sampled several of the items that especially appealed to her; she spent the rest of the time catching up with old friends. She felt too full to eat dessert when it was time to go, but felt comfortable asking the hostess if she could take home a piece of the raspberry cheesecake for later. Her friend was pleased to meet this request, and Leigh left the party feeling satisfied physically and emotionally as she had connected with both her stomach and the other guests.

Deborah, on the other hand, had a completely different experience. She had also been dieting for much of her adult life and was currently in a program that required counting points. As soon as she saw the buffet, Deborah couldn't stop thinking about all of the delicious food available. She initially tried to stay away, but found herself drawn to the food and finally decided to "go for it." Once Deborah began eating, she knew she had already exceeded her points for the day and figured she would keep going, knowing that she could "start over" the next day. In addition to eating the main courses offered, she had several of the chocolate chip brownies.

On the way out the door, Deborah told Leigh that she felt uncomfortably stuffed and asked if she had the same experience. Leigh was pleased to be able to say that she wasn't uncomfortably full, and to realize just how far she had come in breaking the diet mentality through attuned eating.

We welcome your inspirational stories. Was there a moment that "clicked" for you when it comes to quitting diets and becoming an attuned/intuitive eater or feeling more comfortable in your body? Please read our guidelines and share your journey by writing to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Wishing you a season of warmth and comfort,

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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