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

Fall 2013 Diet Survivor's Newsletter

Diet Survivors Book


Welcome to the Fall 2013 e-mail!

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

Autumn is such a lovely time of year, especially if you live in a place where the leaves turn from green to fabulous shades of red, yellow and orange. A quick Google search turns up all sorts of beautiful quotes about the inspiration of this time of year. For example, Elizabeth Lawrence, a noted gardener and writer observes, "Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn." Are you taking enough time to create the space you need to slow down and be still? Connecting with nature is often a wonderful way to do that!

Our lesson this season deals with focusing on the outward as well as the inward. Given the constant cultural message that thin is "good" and fat is "bad" it can be hard to sustain feelings of acceptance. If that applies to you, we encourage you to read our lesson this month as you work toward letting go of shame and move toward empowerment:

Search for size friendly messages and services. You are entitled to feel good about yourself.

(Click here to read more.)



If you've ever struggled with binge eating, compulsive eating, and/or emotional overeating, there's a good chance you've turned to dieting at some point to feel back in control. Did you know that it's been estimated that up to 30% of people who seek weight loss programs meet the requirement for Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

Unfortunately, dieting is counterproductive for people with Binge Eating Disorder. According to the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) website:

"Within a diet and thin-focused culture, the focus has been on weight loss as the goal. This 'treatment' is often promoted by well-intentioned friends, family, and professionals. But with binge eating, dieting is a causal factor in the development of binge eating disorder. So it's essential for treatment to provide alternatives to dieting for improving health and body image. In fact, weight loss as a goal of treatment – as opposed to goals of improved self-care – can be damaging to the process of recovery."

Instead of dieting, it is important to learn the steps of attuned eating as part of healing binge eating. As you become more able to recognize and honor your physical hunger, you're in a much stronger position to develop new ways to deal with any emotional overeating that leads to a binge.

As some of you already know, Binge Eating Disorder will be added to the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), the manual used to by mental health professionals to classify disorders. In fact, this change is what prompted us to update the first edition Beyond a Shadow of a Diet (which will be released in April, 2014.)

BED affects 3.5% of American women and 2% of American men, translating to more than eight million people, and twice as many who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia combined. Including BED in the DSM-V lends more credence to the seriousness of this problem. It also means that insurance companies are more likely to reimburse patients with this diagnosis. Of course, not everyone who overeats meets the criteria for this diagnosis; therefore, we use the term compulsive eating to refer to people who feel out of control with their eating, but do not fit into the BED category.

For those of you not familiar with the new criteria for Binge Eating Disorder they include:

  1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. A binge 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 during the eating 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 associate with 3 (or more) of the following:

    1. Eating much more rapidly than usual

    2. Eating until uncomfortable 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 of Bulimia Nervosa or Anorexia Nervosa

(American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (Fifth Edition), Washington, D.C., 2013)


Self Talk

How do you talk to yourself about your body? Unfortunately, so many people have internalized negative thoughts about weight as the result of messages from the media, health professionals, colleagues, family and friends. These internalized messages become so ingrained that you may not even realize how often you say them to yourself.

Pause for a moment and reflect on what you've told yourself about your body from the time you woke up this morning to right now. Are these messages gentle, kind and compassionate? If so, what kind of effect has that had on your day? Or are they harsh, mean and critical? If so, what kind of effect has that had on your day?

As we say in Lesson #31 of The Diet Survivor's Handbook:

When you speak negatively about your body, you inflict harm upon yourself. Learn to talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend.

It's hard to undo years of telling yourself that your body is not okay. But that kind of yelling never leads to positive change. Instead, stay mindful of how you speak to yourself, and when the negative thoughts arise, gently tell yourself to stop. Then, replace these thoughts with some words of kindness, exactly the way you would if you were talking to your friend.


  • Attuned Eating/Mindful Eating: a half-day workshop presented by Judith on Saturday, November 9th in Highland Park, IL from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. For more details and registration info click here

  • 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

  • The second edition of Beyond a Shadow of a Diet: The Comprehensive Guide to Treating Binge Eating Disorder, Compulsive Eating, and Emotional Overeating is scheduled to for release in April 2014. Look for exciting updates 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.

  • Congratulations to Ellen Glovsky, Ph.D, RD, LDN, on her recently published edited book, Wellness Not Weight: Health At Every Size and Motivational Interviewing. Judith and Ellen are pleased to be contributors, along with other experts in the field.

  • Our colleagues Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor will offer a 5-day HAES-facilitator training at Green Mountain in Vermont from December 14th – 19th. More info at

  • Judith continues to collaborate with Elizabeth Patch on their new children's book, Amanda's Big Dream. Here is a sneak preview of Amanda with her pink skates!



Valerie announced that she had a very difficult week. She and her boyfriend decided to break up, and then a job opportunity she was counting on fell through. As Valerie described her disappointments she suddenly stated, "I just realized. I didn't binge all week!" In that moment, Valerie understood that even though she was dealing with upsetting events, the fact that she didn't need to turn to food to get through her week was a victory in her journey to heal her relationship with food.

Like many diet survivors, when Valerie began counseling for her eating issues she explained that she had seen other therapists, but had never focused on her bingeing. She had believed that once she resolved her issues regarding relationships, she would no longer need to rely on food for comfort. But given that stressful situations in life never completely go away, Valerie came to understand that her goal was to manage these challenges without using food to distract or numb herself. She also revealed that in the past she had tried to control her overeating through food restrictions, but had never learned how to use her physical signals of hunger and satisfaction to guide her eating.

How did Valerie get to the point where it didn't occur to her to use food to deal with her feelings during a really tough week? During her past 10 months of weekly counseling, Valerie learned to connect her eating to sensations of hunger and fullness whenever possible. While there were many occasions where she found herself overeating because of something that was bothering her, at the times when life felt calmer, she built an internal structure for herself in which she ate when hungry, ate what she was hungry for, and stopped when satisfied. While she couldn't sustain this all of the time, she recognized how much better she felt both physically and emotionally when she was able to stay attuned.

In the meantime, Valerie began to recognize her feelings and talk about them in counseling. Sometimes she knew when she felt hurt or disappointed; other times she just knew something was wrong but couldn't name the feeling. Yet she also learned some strategies to soothe herself, regardless of whether she knew the source of her distress. For Valerie, taking 10 deep breaths, writing in her journal, or taking a walk outdoors were all actions that she found calming. Once she was calmer, she could reflect on whether or not she still wanted to reach for food, always giving herself full permission to eat if she needed to do so. This allowed Valerie to become in charge of her eating, rather than trying to control it as she had done in the past.

Can you relate to Valerie's story? Valerie felt good about her ability to make it through her week without bingeing. At the same time, she also understood that it was important to stay away from "all or nothing" thinking. While part of her wanted to say that she had overcome her binge eating and would never lose control again, she was able to recognize that as she moved in the direction of developing a healthy relationship with food, there might be pitfalls along the way. Valerie took pride in the fact that her binge eating episodes took place less often over time, and that they lasted shorter as she was now quickly able to return to her attuned eating.

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

Wishing you a season of abundance!

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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