Fall 2015 – Diet Survivors Group Newsletter
Welcome to the Fall 2015 e-mail!
The crispness in the air today is a reminder that the holiday season is just around the corner. First comes Halloween with its bright orange pumpkins, playful costumes, and the excitement of kids as they go door to door for trick or treat. Next comes Thanksgiving with bountiful meals and the opportunity to express gratitude for the many blessings in life. Then we move into the winter holidays celebrated with different traditions and rituals depending on your background. And finally, January 1st arrives, ushering in a New Year with lots of hoopla.
Depending on your relationship with food, the holidays can be a wonderful time to share meals with friends and families, or it can be a time of preoccupation with food, attempts to stay "in control," times of overeating or bingeing, and guilt. Our fall lesson, based on a blog we wrote for Oliver-Pyatt Centers, offers three strategies to help you enjoy holiday eating and decrease your risk of overeating. As always, we've posted this lesson on our Diet Survivors website – we've also included it in our Stay Attuned section below.
The holiday season can be an especially challenging time for people with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). For some it's a time of family and social gatherings where special foods are widely available. For others it's a time when difficult feelings surface. For everyone, it's a time when we're bombarded by diet talk from the media and from family, friends and colleagues. Since dieting behavior can cause and/or sustain binge eating, it's important to make sure you don't fall into the diet mentality trap. Here are some gentle reminders to help you navigate the holiday season.
Remind yourself that you can have it later
Who says you can't make your sweet potato pie time any time you want? If you believe that you can't have a special holiday food for another whole year, you're likely to have it whether you're really in the mood for it or not.
Instead, promise yourself that you can make turkey and mashed potatoes any time of year, and those special desserts can be baked or bought when you desire. Knowing that these foods can be available reduces the need to eat something at a holiday celebration you don't really want at that moment.
Consider asking for the recipe or a doggie bag when you're at a holiday event. This strategy stops the worry that if you don't eat a special food immediately, such as the appetizing double chocolate caramel brownies that Grandma makes once a year, you won't be able to have it again until next year. When appropriate, you can say to your host, "The brisket looks delicious, but I'm not hungry right now. Would it be O.K. if I took some of the leftovers home for later?" Or, "This cake is fabulous. Can I have your recipe?" People are usually flattered by your desire for their food, and knowing you can eat that food later decreases the need to overeat something you're not hungry for.
Avoid becoming too hungry
It can be tempting to "save up" your hunger for parties and special events. However, when you go without food for a long period of time, you become ravenous. At this stage of physical hunger, you're likely to eat anything and everything is sight, leading to a feeling of being out of control.
Instead, eat in accordance with your physical hunger throughout the day. If you want to ensure that you have a good appetite when you arrive at an event, try to eat enough to take the edge off your hunger before you leave home, without becoming too full. A piece of fruit, some crackers or nuts, or a slice of cheese can help you to respond to your hunger so that you don't walk into the party feeling desperate to eat. Then, you'll truly be able to relax and to feed yourself exactly what will satisfy you!
Stay compassionate with yourself
Just about everyone overeats sometime, especially during the holiday season. If you yell at yourself for your transgression, you're likely to create anxiety, which actually fuels overeating. You're also likely to fall into the trap of telling yourself that you might as well eat whatever you want right now because as of tomorrow – or next week or January 1st – you'll have to restrict your eating. This attitude typically guarantees that you'll eat more food than your body needs, leading to feeling out of control and increasing your sense of guilt.
Have you heard of Weight Stigma Awareness Week? Sponsored by the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) it takes place in September, and includes multiple issues. There are lots of wonderful blogs to read – here is Judith's contribution on the topic of Children and Weight Based Bullying:
Are We Teaching Kids to Love (or Hate!) Their Bodies?
15-year-old Claire walked into my office along with her parents, and averted her eyes from me as she took a seat on the couch across from her parents. I'd received a call the previous week from Claire's mother, who expressed concern over her daughter's weight and eating habits. Now, Claire's parents discussed their concerns that her body size would interfere with her health and friendships if she stayed at her current weight.
There was no doubt that Claire's parents wanted what was best for her. Their concerns came from what they'd heard from the media, other health professionals, and their own struggles with eating and weight, which they hoped their daughter could nip in the bud.
Food judgement and fat shaming
After her parents left the room, Claire told me that her dad often rolled his eyes when she ate something he didn't think she should have. Her mom told her that no one would want to date her because she was too fat and kept taking her to professionals (dietitians and therapists) to lose weight but nothing had worked so far, which made Claire feel she was letting them down.
When we think of weight bullying, an image of kids on the playground taunting a higher-weight child may come to mind. But a 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics showed that kids also experienced teasing or bullying at the hands of adults: 37% of respondents by parents, 42% by physical education teachers and coaches, and 27% by teachers. I don't think it would ever occur to Claire's parents that the way they treated her was actually part of a problem of bullying and weight stigma, and it was causing her lots of pain.
Sometimes these messages are obvious – such as when a client I saw many years ago wasn't allowed by her parents to go to her friends' bar/bat mitzvahs if her weight was over a certain number – while other times it's much more subtle. At a recent presentation I gave for parents of teens on fostering a healthy body image, I asked participants to identify comments they make in front of their kids that either intentionally or unintentionally give a fat-shaming message, and here are some of the responses:
- "I know I've said that my jeans make me look fat while my daughter was standing next to me at the mirror."
- "I often tell my son he shouldn't have dessert (because of his size), and at the same time I offer a piece to his younger brother – who is thin."
- "I was telling my husband at dinner about how much weight my sister has gained since the last time I saw her, and that she needs to do something about it. My kids were at the table."
These types of comments are so common that the idea they're problematic may seem surprising. After all, as the common wisdom goes, shouldn't we want our heavier kids to get thinner?
Weight loss leads to weight gain
Actually kids who pursue weight loss are at three times greater risk for weight gain – as well as binge eating and other eating disorders – compared with their peers who do not engage in weight-control behaviors. It's estimated that about 50 to 80% of our weight is genetic; twins raised apart from each other develop a similar body size indicating genetic inheritance has a substantial impact on body size, while the environment during childhood has minimal impact.
When I dug deeper into Claire's situation, it turned out she was a competitive dancer, winning awards in her larger-sized body; from a health perspective, she certainly participated in a sufficient amount of exercise. Claire enjoyed a wide range of foods, but was actually not eating enough to support her intense physical activity. The result was that she was ravenous when she came home late in the evening and ate a large quantity of food—a problem that was solved by increasing her food intake throughout the day, including more snacks during her rehearsal time. It also turned out that her body type resembled many other people in her family including her mother, and grandparents on both sides of her family tree.
Given the fat-phobic culture we live in, there are all sorts of challenges for parents who have children who fall at the higher end of the weight spectrum.
- How do you deal with your own internalized weight stigma?
- How do you help kids accept, respect, and appreciate their bodies, the key ingredients for a healthy body image?
- How do you manage the pressure from others – including family members, other parents, and even health professionals – that they should be thinner?
In our culture, doing this is no easy task.
Support kids of all sizes
On a cultural level, we need more positive role models that show families how to support kids of all sizes. On the way out the door after our first meeting, I handed Claire and her parents a copy of Amanda's Big Dream – a children's story I recently published – because I wanted them to see how a different family viewed their daughter's body size and supported her when her coach made a comment about her weight.
When Claire returned the following week I asked her what had been most helpful to her from our previous session, and she replied, "I thought about Amanda all week. Whenever I looked in the mirror during dance class and thought I was too big I told myself, 'if Amanda can do it, I can do it too.'"
So what are we teaching our children? Constant preoccupation with food and weight, along with a belief that they can't be happy and successful unless they maintain a thinner weight – which may be a physiological impossibility for their body?
Weight diversity—a healthier option
Or the concept of weight diversity–the fact that bodies come in all shapes and sizes–so that they treat both themselves and others with respect and pursue their dreams free from a pervasive sense of body shame?
Teaching kids to love their body puts them in the strongest position to take good care of themselves, which has a positive effect on their health, happiness and well-being. I'd like to think that's what most adults who take care of and/or work with kids would want for them.
- Sign up for Rick Hanson's Foundations of Well-Being a transformational online program offering a wealth of information, guest speakers and experiential activities to promote mindfulness and calmness. You can also find out how strong your sense of "me" is with this revealing quiz from the Foundations of Well-Being program. (As an affiliate, we receive a small payment if you sign up through our link.)
- Judith will be presenting a workshop at the 2015 Renfrew Conference in Philadelphia, November 13th – 15th 2015: Treating Binge Eating Disorder: Understanding the Problem. Implementing Treatment. Finding Solutions. If you're a professional interested in this topic, it's a great conference (and Gloria Steinem will be there too!)
- The 2015 BEDA conference will take place from November 5 – 7th at the Hilton Diplomat Resort and Spa in Florida. This conference is for both professionals as well as people with Binge Eating Disorder (as well as their families.) It's a great opportunity to learn more and make connections – take a moment and learn more here!
- How To Foster Your Child's Healthy Body Image with Judith Matz. Tuesday, January 26th, 7:00pm, Northfield Public Library, Northfield, IL. Free to public.
- The Power of Mindful Eating with Judith Matz. Thursday, February 4th, 7:00pm, Winnetka Public Library, Winnetka IL. Free to public.
- Save the Date! Treating Binge Eating Disorder: A Mindful Approach to Recovery with Judith Matz. Friday, March 4, 2016. Oakton Community College Continuing Ed for Mental Health Professionals – CEU's available! More info in the Winter Newsletter.
- 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
[feel free to pass along this request to others who might be interested as well.]
- Join us on Facebook for words of wisdom and links to the latest articles
Wishing you a season of growth and peace,
Judith and Ellen
|Judith Matz, LCSW
|Ellen Frankel, LCSW
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