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

Winter 2015 – Diet Survivors Group Newsletter

beyond newDiet Survivors Book


Welcome to the Winter 2015 e-mail!

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

It's January, which means we're all being bombarded with media messages promising: A New Year, A New You. This idea of reinventing ourselves every 365 days diminishes who we are, the unique journey each of us is on, and how change takes place. In reality, New Year's Resolutions—including the most popular one to diet—typically fizzle by the end of January, resulting in feelings of failure or even shame.

We'd like to offer you some of our own reflections about New Year's resolutions in 2015:

Ellen: While I haven't set New Year's resolutions for years and years, periodically I take stock of where things are and where I'd like things to go. Sometimes it's New Year's, a birthday or another milestone. It's not like "now I have to start something new." It's more that "now I want to continue in this direction."

Judith: In my yoga class today, our teacher said something that really resonated with me. She suggested that instead of resolving to add one more thing to our "to do" list, we might consider something we want to let go of—something that no longer serves us. That idea feels very freeing to me.

Whether you skip the idea of New Year's resolutions altogether or use it as a time for reflection, we wish you a healthy, satisfying and peaceful relationship with food, your body, and yourself.

[And if you think that sticking to a diet is merely a matter of willpower or discipline, our lesson this season is a brief clip of Judith from the documentary film: America The Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments (2011) – it took us awhile to finally get this!] Click here to view.



Diet survivors are all too familiar with the "highs" that come from losing weight and the "lows" that come from weight regain. Along the diet journey, people typically experience guilt from overeating, anxiety over staying in control, and shame about body size.

In Beyond a Shadow of a Diet (p. 33) we mention 9 benefits that come from letting go of diets and focusing on sustainable behaviors. Consider which ones you've already accomplished, and which ones you'd like to address:

  • Feel calm around food

  • Listen to internal cues for hunger and satiation

  • Make sure that you're eating foods that satisfy you.

  • Enjoy all foods without labeling them as "good" or "bad"

  • Stop bingeing

  • Feel comfortable in your body

  • Move your body in ways that feel good

  • Improve your health

  • Manage feelings without turning to food

  • Practice self-care that spreads to other areas of your life

[If these ideas are brand new to you, consider using The Diet Survivor's Handbook as a guide to learning new skills.]

Keep in mind that change often takes place in fits and starts. Close your eyes, think of a time that you had a positive experience in one of these areas, and savor it as you hold it in your attention for about 30 seconds, letting the warm feeling spread throughout your body.

Next, choose an area you'd like to work on, and identify one "next step" you'd like to take in your journey toward attunement. As you do so, it may help to remember these words:

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.


Just about everyone would agree that it's positive for kids to have a healthy body image. What can adults—including parents, teachers, health providers, and other caretakers—do to help children feel strong and confident in their bodies?

A healthy body image occurs when a person is able to accept, appreciate and respect their body. Notice that this definition makes no mention of weight, and therefore honors the fact that people naturally come in different shapes and sizes.

Kids learn how to feel about their bodies from a variety of sources, including messages from adults and the media. Books are another place that children learn about the values placed on thin and fat. In the world of children's literature, most books feature characters that fit the conventional body ideal. If a child in the story is larger, he or she is often the butt of jokes and/or or seen as a weak and undesirable person. Or, the focus is on how he or she can change her body to better fit in with peers. There are few models to teach children about body diversity and the need to respect kids of all sizes.

Think about yourself.

  • What messages were you given as a child about your body?

  • What messages were you given about thin and fat?

  • What affect did these messages have on you?

  • Is there anything you wished the adults in your life had done differently as they taught you about body size and eating?

  • What messages have you passed on to children about thin and fat?

Most recently, a book for kids came out that teaches them to be ashamed of their weight. If you're interested in this topic, we encourage you to read this insightful blog entry by author Anne Ursu entitled: I See a Book and Get Angry and Write a Thing.


As many of you know, Judith and illustrator Elizabeth Patch are creating a new book for children to foster a healthy body image for kids of all sizes.


NOW LIVE: Visit our website at



  • Are you a blogger, journalist, or newsletter editor interested in writing about Amanda's Big Dream? If so, please contact Judith directly with the name of your publication to request a review copy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. [feel free to pass along this request to others who might be interested as well.]

  • It's not too late to sign up for Rick Hanson's Foundations of Well-Being online program, offering a wealth of information, guest speakers and experiential activities to promote mindfulness and calmness. Learn more by clicking here. (As an affiliate, we receive a small payment if you sign up through our link.)

  • Join Judith at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium from March 26th–29th. She will present Attuned Eating: Making Peace With Food, a full-day workshop on Creativity Day (Thursday) and Treating Binge Eating Disorder (BED): A Mindful Approach to Recovery (Friday) as part of the conference.

  • Please "like" Diet Survivors Group on Facebook.

Sara's Self-Compassion

Sara realized that she was dreading her upcoming doctor's appointment for her physical exam. She reported that she found herself bingeing on cookies a few days earlier, and asked herself what was really bothering her. She thought about the appointment that was just a few days away, and her concern that her doctor would be upset with her if she gained weight. Sara had high cholesterol and her doctor wanted her to cut back on foods with fat in order to lower her cholesterol.

Since Sara last saw her doctor, she had taken several steps to try and improve her cholesterol readings. She had worked with a non-diet approach for a couple of years, and she knew that if she tried to restrict her eating in the pursuit of weight loss it would only backfire. Instead, she continued to practice her attuned eating, honoring her cues for hunger, and paying particular attention to stopping when full. Sara made sure she that she had a wide variety of food available, including plenty of healthful choices, and increased her workout schedule from once a week to three times a week. She had felt good about these practices, but now that she would find out whether they "worked" she was worried.

Sara knew she needed to find a way to calm herself in anticipation of her appointment—without turning to food. When she learned about the concept of self-compassion, Sara discovered this way of talking with herself made a big difference in soothing her anxiety. Rather than yelling at herself for not doing enough, feeling like a failure, and worrying about her doctor lecturing her, here's how Sara changed the dialogue:

  1. I've done the best I can to take care of myself. No matter what has happened with my weight or cholesterol, I deserve to be treated well.

  2. There are lots of people who go to the doctor who are at higher weights and/or have higher cholesterol. I'm not alone.

  3. I feel sad that I have to worry about whether I'll be lectured. If I feel disrespected, I'll search for another doctor who will treat me the way I believe I deserve to be treated.

At Sara's appointment, she learned that her weight had remained stable; while she knew that it would also be okay to ask that her weight not be shared with her, she decided that she wanted to know. The results of her blood showed that her "bad" cholesterol had gone down, while her "good" cholesterol remained the same. Based on these numbers her doctor decided to postpone starting medication, and told Sara to "Keep up the good work!"

Sara felt satisfied by the interaction she had with her doctor and able to sustain her current behaviors around eating and physical activity. She also continued to use the three steps of self-compassion to calm herself whenever she started to become anxious about her health—and began to apply it to other areas of her life as well. (Read more about Self-Compassion here.)

Wishing you a season of peace and love,

Judith and Ellen

Judith Matz, LCSW
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Ellen Frankel, LCSW
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Diet Survivors

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