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

Summer 2014 – Diet Survivors Group Newsletter

beyond newDiet Survivors Book

Thursday, August 14th at Dominican University Featuring:

Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor,
authors of Health At Every Size (Linda) and Body Respect
Judith Matz and Elisa D'Urso Fischer,
author of Beyond a Shadow of a Diet and The Diet Survivor's Handbook (Judith)

*See the Update Section for more information*


Welcome to the Summer 2014 e-mail!

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

Summertime is here, and with this season comes beautiful flowers in a rainbow of colors that provides a feast for our senses. The bright reds and pinks of begonias, the deep purple of the iris, the pale pink and blue of the hibiscus – all with their different sizes and shapes – create an interesting and diverse landscape. Imagine if all flowers were the same in shape, size and color. You probably get where we're going with this!

People also naturally come in different sizes, shapes and colors. What would we lose if we all looked the same? As a society, we say that we celebrate diversity, but when it comes to size, there's no doubt we have a long way to go. Whatever challenges you face in accepting – and even embracing – your own body shape and size, keep in mind that your unique body is precious. Like a summer flower, give yourself the right amount of sunshine, water, and whatever other kinds of care you need to blossom and grow into your fullest expression.

Our lesson this season is about how to keep cultivating a positive body image. Judith recently offered a webinar through the Association for Size Diversity and Health on this topic. Whether you're a mental health/health professional or a diet survivor working on your own body image issues (or both!) we hope you'll find the time to view this engaging webinar, and that it will provide you with useful information and support. Enjoy!

Click here to view 5 Keys To Helping Your Client Cultivate A Positive Body Image




Now that Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is an official diagnosis, people struggling with BED have validation that their eating problem is real and that they deserve treatment from knowledgeable professionals. However, there are also millions of people who do not meet the criteria for Binge Eating Disorder, but still have disordered eating patterns.

Because certain behaviors around eating and weight are considered normative in our culture, many people think that the way they approach eating and/or exercise – in both action and thought – is normal and healthy. In Beyond a Shadow of a Diet (2nd edition, p.11), we offer the following definitions of Disordered Eating developed by colleagues in the field:

"Any woman who has some form of an unhealthy relationship with food and her body is a disordered eater. She may be caught in the diet-binge cycle, restricting 'forbidden' foods, feeling guilty after eating or in a semi starvation state from chronic under eating, fasting, skipping meals or over exercising." (Debra Waterhouse)

"Dysfunctional eating is eating is eating in irregular and chaotic ways – dieting, fasting, bingeing, skipping meals – or it may mean consistently undereating much less or overeating much more than your body wants or needs. Dysfunctional eating is separated from its normal controls of hunger and satiety, and it's normal function of nourishing the body, providing energy, health and good feelings. Instead, it is regulated by external and inappropriate internal controls and seeks to reshape the body or relieve stress." (Francis Berg)

Here are some examples of comments typical of people with disordered eating patterns:

  • I can't eat that dessert because I'm being good today.
  • I'm going to have dessert because I'm off my diet today.
  • I consider myself good or bad based on the food I eat (or don't eat).
  • I never eat past 8:00 pm no matter how hungry I might be.
  • I feel virtuous because I no longer eat carbs.

In these examples, decisions about when, what and how much to eat are based on external rules and the pursuit of weight loss, rather than honoring internal cues for hunger and satiation.

Think about your relationship with food. Which of your patterns feel satisfying? Which of your patterns create anxiety? As you consider your relationship with food, keep in mind that attuned eating doesn't mean being perfect! Here is the definition we offer in Beyond a Shadow of a Diet:

"… a healthy relationship with food means eating in response to physical hunger most of the time. However, normal eating can also include experiences such as eating occasionally because something looks good, eating past fullness at a special meal, eating in response to an emotion once in awhile, or choosing foods based on nutritional content because this feels caretaking. Attuned eating means that eating for satisfaction is predominant, and experiencing deprivation is virtually non-existent. Attuned eating is a natural skill. It can be relearned by people who have lost touch with their hunger and can be reinforced and nurtured with children so that they maintain this healthy relationship with food throughout their lives." (pp. 282-283)


An article in the New York Times reports a study that affirms when exercise is seen as a hard work – as is often the case for people pursuing weight loss – it may lead to overeating.

"Half of the women were told that their walk was meant to be exercise, and they were encouraged to view it as such, monitoring their exertion throughout. The other women were told that their 30-minute outing would be a walk purely for pleasure; they would be listening to music through headphones and rating the sound quality, but mostly the researchers wanted them to enjoy themselves.

When the women returned from walking, the researchers asked each to estimate her mileage, mood and calorie expenditure.

Those women who'd been formally exercising reported feeling more fatigued and grumpy than the other women, although the two groups' estimates of mileage and calories burned were almost identical. More telling, when the women sat down to a pasta lunch, with water or sugary soda to drink, and applesauce or chocolate pudding for dessert, the women in the exercise group loaded up on the soda and pudding, consuming significantly more calories from these sweets than the women who'd thought that they were walking for pleasure."

Of course, not everyone has fun exercising. If you have a difficult time finding joy in movement but want to become more active, consider positive reasons to move your body such as staying flexible or being able to join your friend on a walk. Next, try to find activities that feel good to you so that you can make the experience more satisfying.


beyond new

Marla's "Mistake"

During a consultation, Marla reports that she can't figure out why she binges in the evenings, and wonders if she is an emotional overeater. She explains that she loves to eat "healthy" foods, and starts every morning with a bowl of cereal with milk and a serving of fruit. For lunch, she enjoys a salad, sometimes adding chicken to it and sometimes not. Occasionally she has a yogurt or some more fruit for a mid-afternoon snack. Dinner typically consists of a protein (fish or chicken) and some vegetables.

But around 8:00 – 9:00 pm, her overeating begins. Marla feels distressed that sometimes she eats an entire box of crackers or a whole bag of pretzels during her late night episodes. Occasionally she eats the cookies she buys for her children's lunch. She wonders what is the matter with her that she loses control in the evenings. Can you figure out Marla's "mistake?"

Although Marla truly enjoys the foods she selects, it is also clear that she isn't eating enough calories throughout the day to sustain herself. As a result, her body is in need of more food, leading to her binges to make up for the deficit. Although it's possible that there's an emotional component to Marla's overeating, until she adjusts her eating throughout the day, she won't be able to determine what's the result of using food to comfort herself, and what's the result of her consistent undereating.

Once this was explained to Marla, she acknowledged that she didn't really pay attention to her hunger and fullness levels throughout the day. She agreed to become more mindful of these signals, and to give herself permission to eat a wider range of foods. For example, she loves sandwiches, but thought it was "bad" to eat bread. As she expanded the amount and variety of foods in her diet, she quickly discovered that her overeating in the evenings virtually ended. And, she joyfully reported that she now feels much more satisfied with her meals!

Wishing you a breezy and relaxing summer,

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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