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

Summer 2013 Diet Survivor's Newsletter

Diet Survivors Book


Welcome to the Summer 2013 e-mail!

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

(A special welcome to those of you who attended Wellness Beyond Weight and the ASDAH conference in Chicago!)

What a glorious day it is today – the summer brings such pleasure to all of the senses when the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and the birds are singing. Summer also brings lots of eating experiences between Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day, along with other celebrations… and food is usually part of these festivities.

Have you noticed how often people talk about food at these events? It's great to see people enjoy their food, and even comment on how delicious it tastes. But it's also the case that people often lament that they shouldn't be eating certain foods—or express a sense of virtuousness about their eating as they refrain from foods they deem unhealthy.

For our lesson this season, we're posting Ellen's recent Huffington Post blog—you can read it on our website or at the end of this newsletter beneath our signature. It goes like this:

Eating healthful foods is important for everyone. However, overly focusing on healthy foods can become a preoccupation that interferes with the pleasure of eating; this manner of eating is often a diet in disguise.



A few years ago, a diet survivor shared a bit of humor about the problems with diets, and we thought we'd pass them on to you. She told us they came from a cookbook called Looneyspoons by Janet and Greta Podleski (Granet Publishing, ISBN 0-90680631-1-X). As you consider all of the reasons to let go of dieting and become an attuned eater, we hope these will make you smile ☺

"D.I.E.T. is a four-letter word that really means…

  • Deny Ingesting Everything Tasty

  • Did I Eat Today?

  • Determined Initially, Enthusiasm Temporary

  • Doomed Investment Every Time

  • Desperately Impossible Eating Targets

  • Deceptive Eating—Industry Trap

  • Don't Imagine Eating Treats

  • Deprivation Inevitable, Everything Taboo

  • Damned Idiots Endorsing Thinness

  • Dangerously Inadvisable Eating Tactics

  • Disallowing Imperfections Equals Trouble"


As you have probably heard by now, the American Medical Association (AMA) decided to call "obesity" a disease, despite the recommendations of its own Council on Science and Public Health. According to Medpage Today, "The report from the AMA's advisory board "panned body mass index as a proxy for obesity, saying it's limited as a stand-alone. Furthermore, calling obesity a disease may undermine prevention efforts and will do little to impact its treatment, the report said."

Yet in a stunning announcement two days later, the AMA said it would go ahead and declare obesity a disease. While proponents say that this means more attention to the issue and better insurance reimbursements, there are numerous problems with this stance.

We'd like to focus on the directive to physicians to: First, do no harm.

While some may argue that calling obesity a disease takes away the shame and blame of personal responsibility for ending up at higher weights, we disagree. There is already considerable bias against patients falling into the obesity category of BMI, as well-documented by Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center. By suggesting that every person in the obese category is diseased (despite evidence to the contrary), people are more likely to experience weight stigma, regardless of their health status.

At the same time, there is no proven treatment for weight loss that is sustainable. Studies show that people who lose weight through dieting are likely to gain the pounds back and end up heavier than their pre-diet weights. As doctors consider obesity to be a disease we can expect to see more prescriptions for weight loss drugs, despite the fact that over the past decades, diet pills have been pulled off the market for harmful side effects—including death—and the most recent diet pills also come with warnings of safety issues and no long-term testing for negative consequences. We are also likely to see an increase in recommendations for bariatric surgery, even though there is a high mortality rate, along with a multitude of health and nutritional issues for people undergoing the surgery, as well as frequent weight regain post surgery.

Finally, the constant cultural preoccupation with weight is likely to increase the prevalence of eating disorders as people becoming overly focused on the number on the scale. Undereating and bingeing are both part of the fallout from the fear of fat. Instead of "fighting obesity," supporting people in cultivating sustainable behaviors that promote physical, emotional and spiritual well-being is much more likely to have a positive effect on health.

We can't help but wonder what will be the consequences of the AMA's decision for people at higher weights and who will truly stand to benefit from this classification?


  • Wellness Beyond Weight took place in Chicago on June 28th. You can read Judith's blog, A Dream Come True: The Power of Community—an account of this energizing event—as part of the HAES Files.

  • Judith and Ellen have just turned in their manuscript for the updated version of Beyond a Shadow of a Diet: The Therapist's Guide to Treating Binge Eating Disorder, Compulsive Eating and Emotional Overeating (tentative subtitle). Look for it to be released in early 2014, including the new Binge Eating Disorder diagnosis, latest research related to dieting and Health At Every Size, new case studies, the neuroscience of mindfulness and expanded information related to weight stigma.

  • Ellen will be the keynote speaker at the Samstone Lecture Event with a talk is entitled: Navigating the Journey: Women and Spirituality in the Material World. November 1st – 2nd, Unitarian Universalist Church at Washington Crossing, Titusville, New Jersey

  • Judith and Ellen are pleased to be contributors, along with other experts in the field, to the forthcoming book Wellness Not Weight: Health At Every Size and Motivational Interviewing, edited by Ellen Glovsky, Ph.D, RD, LDN. More details in our next newsletter.

  • Judith continues to collaborate with Elizabeth Patch on their new children’s book, Amanda’s Big Dream. Watch for our upcoming Kickstarter campaign! Here is a sneak preview of Amanda with her pink skates:


  • Please add your "like" to our Diet Survivors Group Facebook page. We're posting more often and would love to have you join us. ☺


At the age of 60, Rita wasn't sure if there was any way left to develop a peaceful relationship with food and manage her weight. She stumbled upon the non-diet approach when a friend gave her a copy of The Diet Survivor's Handbook, and she decided that she was ready for a new approach to solving her food issues.

After years of trying just about every diet, Rita quickly realized that attuned eating was a path that made sense to her. She loved the idea of letting go of restrictions, and while she found herself overeating some of her "forbidden" foods initially, once she became convinced that she would never ban them again, she saw her bingeing decrease significantly. As Rita practiced attuned eating, her biggest challenge was to figure out how to really tune in to her body so that she could make a good match for herself. Each time she was able to honor her cues for hunger—and eat what satisfied her—she felt stronger. Dieting was no longer an option.

Rita felt fortunate that she discovered this approach, and that she was able to implement it in a fairly short amount of time. With her energy freed from dieting, Rita read as many books and blogs as she could on the subject and focused on developing a fitness program for herself. She had some health concerns related to a family history of heart problems and—based on the information she learned through her readings—decided that working out on a more regular basis would be her best defense in supporting her health. She let go of a weight loss focus, and at her last doctor's appointment learned that all of her numbers were within a healthy range.

But not everyone in Rita's life was convinced that accepting a higher weight was a rational decision. She felt pressure from her brother and her adult children to lose weight or else risk getting sick and dying at a young age. As committed as Rita was to a non-diet paradigm, she was still vulnerable to the messages about her health as well as the shame she had felt in the past about her body size.

After much reflection, Rita came to a conclusion. She analyzed her relationship with food and decided she was eating less—not more—as an attuned eater. While she now had permission to eat all types of foods without restrictions, she was now including more nutritious foods in her diet than when she was choosing "good" foods because they were supposed to help her lose weight. She also realized that she was now the most physically active she had been since childhood and no longer subject to the feelings of guilt and punishment she previously associated with exercise. Rita concluded that she was doing everything she would if she wanted to lose weight—without the side effect of rebellious eating. If her body adjusted to her new behaviors with weight loss she would feel pleased, but even if she didn't, she felt she was taking the best care of herself that she could. Rita tried to explain her journey to her relatives, with mixed results. Though she knew that they loved her and were genuinely concerned about her, she continued in her resolve to never to diet again.

As you consider Rita's story, think about the people in your life. Is there someone who truly understands your decision not to diet? Are there people who make comments that negatively affect your ability to move away from a weight loss focus? Where can/do you find support for yourself? Are you in a position to support other people who are on this journey to quit dieting?


Wishing you a season of vibrancy and good vibes!

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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