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

Spring 2016 – Diet Survivors Group Newsletter

beyond newDiet Survivors Book


Welcome to the Spring 2016 e-mail!

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

This spring ushers in the 10th anniversary of The Diet Survivor's Handbook! We're grateful to the thousands of people who've read our book over this past decade. We honor your journey to let go of dieting and develop a healthy, satisfying and peaceful relationship with food.

Are you a diet survivor? If you've been on more than one diet, lost and regained the weight, and are becoming aware that the failure is not your fault, you are a diet survivor. Whether you're in the process of letting go of diets—or gave them up already, we're glad you're here!

So much of our work helps people make the transition from the diet mentality to becoming an attuned eater. When that happens, many of you have told us it's challenging to deal with all of the diet comments and behavior that are so normative in our culture. Out of these conversations, Judith wrote an article called 8 Reasons I Don't Want To Hear About Your Diet. We hope you find it supportive of your experiences and work to let go of diets!

And finally, in the spirit of celebration our spring lesson is an offering of our:

Diet Survivors Group Top 11 List
(You can also find this image on our Facebook Page)


#11: Diets make you crabby
#10: Diets leave you feeling deprived
#9: Diets become a preoccupation, which depletes your mental energy
#8: Diets are expensive
#7: Diets interfere with your natural weight (known as setpoint)
#6: Diets lead to weight cycling, which is detrimental to your physical health
#5: Diets (and diet talk) are boring
#4: Diets take the pleasure out of eating
#3: Diets almost always fail, leaving you with a feeling of shame
#2: Diets lead to overeating and/or bingeing
#1: You are so much more than the number on a scale. YOU ARE ENOUGH!

© 2016 J. Matz and E. Frankel, authors of The Diet Survivor’s Handbook

May you continue to blossom!



Lately we've heard from many diet survivors who find that as they practice attuned eating, they judge themselves—and/or feel judged—by people around them. In the name of "healthy eating" you may find that family members, friends, and/or colleagues give up major categories of foods in pursuit of being healthy—and usually in pursuit of becoming or staying thin.

There is a term for these behaviors: Orthorexia Nervosa.

While Orthorexia isn't an official diagnosis, Steven Bratman, MD coined this term in 1996 to describe his patients who developed an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. In Beyond A Shadow of a Diet, we list the criteria he offered:

  • Do you spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about healthful food?

  • Does your diet socially isolate you?

  • Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?

  • Do you plan tomorrow's food today?

  • Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?

  • Have you found that as the quality of your diet has increased, the quality of your life has correspondingly diminished?

  • Do you keep getting stricter with yourself?

  • Do you feel an increased sense of self-esteem when you are eating healthy food?

  • Do you look down on people who don't eat healthy food?

  • Do you sacrifice experiences you once enjoyed to eat the food you believe is right?

  • When you are eating the way you are supposed to do you feel a peaceful sense of total control?

You may find that being with people who eat in this way triggers questions about your own relationship with food such as:

  • Should I be able to get by without certain foods that I've considered "bad" in the past?

  • Will eating foods I enjoy affect my health?

  • What will people think of me because I eat foods that aren't considered "healthy?"

Each Diet Survivor needs to answer these (and any other) questions for themselves. As you do so, keep in mind that there are no miracle foods to keep you healthy, just as there are no foods (unless they are literally poisonous!) that will kill you. The key is to eat a wide variety of foods that satisfy you. If you have specific health issues, you can decide what best nourishes your body to achieve optimal health and then make adjustments that are caretaking for you. You cannot control what other people think of you – but you can keep in mind that those thoughts are a projection of their own issues and concerns.

Attuned eaters enjoy a relaxed, satisfying and peaceful relationship with food as they nourish themselves day in and day out. Remind yourself that having a healthy relationship with food doesn't mean only eating healthy foods!


We've known for a long time that Body Mass Index is a poor measure of an individual's health. Now, a new study out of UCLA confirms that using BMI to determine health misclassifies nearly 75 million Americans as healthy or unhealthy. The researchers used the latest data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)—considered to be the most reliable health data on the U.S. population = and looked at cardiometabolic health data, which gives measures of blood pressure, triglycerides, glucose, insulin resistance and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation).

Consider these numbers:

  • 34.4 million people (half the people) in the "overweight" category are healthy

  • 19.8 million people in the "obese" category are healthy

  • 2 million people in the "very obese" category are health

  • 21 million people in the "normal" category are unhealthy.

The authors of the study conclude that this research is the "final nail in the coffin for BMI."

The take away message?

To reach optimal health, focus on behaviors that support your individual, unique body e.g. physical activity, honoring cues for hunger and fullness, eating a wide variety of foods, getting a good night's sleep, managing stress and/or whatever else you need to do to take care of yourself.


  • 8 Reasons I Don't Want To Hear About Your Diet, written by Judith, was published on the website Everyday Feminism.

  • The 7th annual Binge Eating Disorder Association conference will take place from October 27th–29th in San Francisco, CA. Judith is pleased to be part of the team presenting The Basics of BED for all attendees new to this topic, and WE Are The Culture: Changing The Conversation About Dieting, Food and Weight. This conference is intended for anyone interested in BED including professionals, individuals with BED, caregivers and activists.
  • Diet Survivors

  • Looking for some fun summer reading? Check out Ellen's work of fiction, Syd Arthur! As they say, "you'll laugh; you'll cry." You'll also be moved as Syd's journey from the world of diets to the world of mindfulness unfolds with wit and wisdom.
  • For the children in your life, Amanda's Big Dream offers kids a positive role model to feel confident in their bodies—and pursue their dreams—at any size!

Chelsea's Challenges

When Chelsea first began working on ending her binge eating, she realized that she no longer felt connected to her body. What did physical hunger actually feel like? How could she determine what food(s) would truly satisfy her? And how would it be possible to stop when full?

After several months of counseling, Chelsea became better able to answer these questions for herself. She talked about a wonderful eating experience where she realized that she was hungry, and that her body needed some protein. She decided to prepare a chicken breast with her favorite teriyaki marinade, and as she usually did, to include some vegetables with her meal. What felt different to Chelsea was the permission she gave herself to notice that she wanted something "heavier" with her meal. On this occasion she decided that the French fries that she'd recently given herself permission to buy—and were now in her freezer—would be the perfect completion to her meal. To her great delight, the meal felt very satisfying to her both physically and emotionally.

One of Chelsea's challenges was that in an effort to "eat healthy" she'd cut out lots of carbohydrates over the past several years. She frequently found herself bingeing in the evenings, and she hadn't previously made the connection that her psychological deprivation and her physiological undereating contributed to her nightly binges on foods ranging from chips to cookies to ice cream.

Now that Chelsea moved toward reconnecting to her body and giving herself permission to reintegrate previously banned foods, she found that her evening bingeing decreased significantly. She understood—and felt relieved—that truly satisfying her hunger decreased her need to turn to food.

However, she also realized that wasn't the whole story. Chelsea knew that food was still a primary way for her to manage uncomfortable feelings that arose and she needed to anticipate how she would handle these binges. Her typical response was to yell at herself for being out of control and for her anticipated weight gain. Chelsea's next challenge was to change her inner dialogue.

Instead of saying to herself words such as "I can't believe you're doing this. What's the matter with you?" Chelsea began to use self-compassion by saying, "I'm reaching for food and I'm not physically hungry. Something must be bothering me right now." Instead of saying that she lacked willpower and would do better tomorrow, she began to express curiosity by saying, "I wonder what I would think about or feel if I didn't eat right now. Is something bothering me?" If she wasn't able to ask that in the moment, she tried to reflect on it later in the day, or the next day. And perhaps most importantly, rather than saying "I've already blown it, so I might as well keep eating, " or "I've been 'bad' today so I'll restrict tomorrow," Chelsea did her best to notice how her body was feeling—without the yelling—and then return to her attuned eating the following day.

When you're working to end binge eating, it's a process that takes time. It helps to anticipate that there's likely to be a "next" binge so that you can also plan strategies for how to respond. As Chelsea learned to practice curiosity and self-compassion, she felt calmer, found new ways to soothe herself, and began to deal directly with some of the feelings that bothered her.

What are your challenges? Can you think about how cultivating curiosity and self-compassion can help you as you work to end overeating?

Wishing you a season of relaxation and rejuvenation,

Judith and Ellen

Judith Matz, LCSW
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Ellen Frankel, LCSW
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Diet Survivors

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