Tara - Chicago, Illinois
(Please note the following "Your Voice" essay was written in response to a national magazine's request for an essay describing a book that changed your life.)
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6.4.2003 – the date the roller coaster ended.
I started my first diet at the age of 12 and spent the next 14 years of my life and endless amounts of energy dieting myself to obesity. With each new diet came dreams of a thinner and happier life filled with enriching experiences, inspiring relationships, and ultimate satisfaction. But inevitably, the end of each diet brought despair, hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness, body hatred, and ultimately, a few pounds more than before the diet started.
June 4, 2003 was the day that I first met Judith Matz, an author of the new book The Diet Survivor's Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care, and the day I got my life back. By the time I began working with Judith, I was so beat up from my years of dieting that the mere mention of food points, a food journal, or a nutrition label literally brought me to tears. I had tried everything – and I mean EVERYTHING! I was exhausted and worn down from staking my self-worth and self-esteem on my body size and appearance, only to be failed by every diet I tried. I knew I could NEVER face another diet again.
Through Judith, I came to realize that I had not failed in my years of dieting, but that my years of dieting had actually failed me. In fact, dieting itself was what had actually caused me to gain weight and to hate my body. With Judith's help, I ventured down a path of learning to trust myself and my body, to eat intuitively and in tune with my body, and to appreciate my body – no matter its size and shape. At first, I couldn't even imagine what trusting my body and eating in tune with my body could possibly mean – it went against everything I had spent the last 14 years teaching myself. But, I came to realize that my body had its own way of letting me know when it was hungry and, that if I paid close attention, I could often tell which foods would best satisfy my hunger. The more I ate when I was hungry and the more I allowed myself to eat the foods that I was hungry for, an amazing thing happened – I began to eat less and less out of emotional need.
Perhaps the most important outcome, however, has been my new perspective on my body. Through Judith's approach, I began to realize that the infinite amount of energy I was spending degrading my body in my own mind was incredibly detrimental to my own wellbeing. Every minute I spent thinking about how huge my stomach was or how gross I looked in the mirror was actually a minute that I could have spent doing something productive within myself or the world around me. I realized that I would never think about others the way I thought about myself, which seemed so unfair and destructive.
Today, through my work with Judith, I am eating much more in tune with my body's needs. I eat when I am hungry, stop when I am satisfied, and eat a wide variety of foods, including those that were once off-limits during my diet days. I have learned to appreciate my body the way that it is and to find beauty in all body types. Ironically, because I am no longer depriving myself or spending so much time and energy hating my body, I have naturally stopped binging on food and my weight has stabilized. I may not be at my thinnest (I am also not at my heaviest), but most importantly, I appreciate and enjoy my body. It is amazing how many enriching experiences and inspiring relationships I have found by ending my preoccupation with food and my body and turning my attention to more productive aspects of my life.
The book The Diet Survivor's Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care and the approach articulated through the book have truly changed my life and allowed me to start living again. Though I began this approach long before the book was even written, it has had a profound impact on my life. Each chapter I read was like reading a chapter in my journey through dieting and ultimately through this approach. The book empathized with the pain I once felt and truly made me realize just how far I have come. Through this book, I realized that I am a diet survivor – I have made it, I have survived! Today, I am living a very fulfilling, satisfying, and happy life without the burden of preoccupation with my body and weight – something I never thought I could do and something that never would have happened without the approach described in this book. I do not have words to express how amazing that feels.