Sunday, December 27, 2009


I was at the airport yesterday, waiting for my flight back to Chicago, and thought I'd pass some time at the newsstand. I expected that with the New Year just around the corner, the women's magazines would be full of diet and weight loss tips - and I have to tell you that I was not disappointed.

I remember when The Diet Survivor's Handbook was first released, and our publicist at Sourcebooks told us that every January, the magazines have the same theme: "A New Year - A New You." Wow...a new me every 12 months? That feels like a lot of pressure!

I borrowed a pad of paper from my son, and started jotting down all of the brilliant ideas to help us lose weight - since apparently the ones they offered last year didn't work out so well for their readers. I offer them here to you, with the following suggestions:

  • First, take a deep breath. And now another one.
  • Remember that if any of them really worked, they wouldn't need to keep coming up with more.
  • Finally, a little humor always helps. With that in mind, I thought I'd make an attempt at rewriting some of my "favorites."

Self Magazine:
The Food Lover's Diet - 31 Tiny Tricks That Peel Off Major Pounds
My Edit:
The Food Lover's Diet - Eat What You Love and Savor Every Bite

The Easiest Diet Ever: Drop 600 Calories A Day Without Feeling Hungry
My Edit:
The Easiest Diet Ever: Eat When You Are Hungry And You'll Never Feel Hungry (duh!)

How We Lost 477 Pounds Together: 6 Women Share The Diet Secrets That Worked For Them
My Edit:
How We Raised Our Consciousness Together : 6 Women Share Their Wisdom And Empower Each Other

Your Best Body Ever
My Edit:
Your Body Is The Best Body Ever

O Magazine
How To Get What You Really Want This Year: Weight Loss That Sticks - Dr. Oz's Simple Secrets For Keeping The Pounds Off
My Edit:
Keep Working Toward Getting What You Really Want This Year: Body Satisfaction That Sticks - Dr. Oz's Simple Secret Is That There Is No Secret For Keeping The Pounds Off.

Total Body Confidence - Great Abs, Butt & Legs By New Year's
My Edit: (I got kind of hopeful with the first part...)
Total Body Confidence - Enjoy Your Body In Its Fullness All Year Long

The Biggest Loser - How I Did It!
My Edit:
The Biggest Winner - How I Did It! Tips To Love, Respect, And Honor Yourself

Woman's World:
Break Through Ohio State University BELLY FAT CURE! Discovery - Two Spoonfuls Of This Oil Will Block Fat Storage! Melt 5" Of Belly Fat - No Diet Required!
My Edit:
Woman's World Announces Bankruptcy As Readers Boycott Magazine Due To Outrageous Claims!

Imagine what it would be like to stand in the grocery line, and see magazine articles that actually support and nurture the well-being of women. Would they sell?

I know that as long as women buy what they're writing, they'll keep on writing it...and then women will keep feeling "not good enough"...prompting the need for more "A New Year - A New You" articles. A most unfortunate vicious cycle.

If this "magazine madness" brings you down, avoid them at all costs! Or at least take a shot at turning their negative messages into positive ones - I had fun giving it a try and just may make it an annual event.

As 2009 comes to a close, may you find peace and fulfillment in who you are now and in your journey to live with a full heart, mind and spirit.

Eat well! Live well! Be well!


Thursday, December 24, 2009


There are times in our lives when skillful living depends on knowing, truly knowing, what time it is. I have a friend named Jim. Jim is a successful businessman who retired early and divides his time with his wife living in Colorado and New York. I have never spent time with Jim in either of those places. In fact, I’ve never spent time with Jim in the Unites States. Jim and I met through spiritual study/hiking trips led by a rabbi with whom we both study. Over the course of an eight-year span, Jim and I joined trips that took us hiking and studying in the Swiss Alps, the Italian Dolomite's and Andalusia, Spain.

Many times, on our hikes, Jim and I would talk about writing a book together about how the wise words hikers say about trekking were really words for living. For example, we’d hear a fellow hiker say, “Sometimes you have to look up and assess if you are on the right path.” Or, “My goal was to get to the summit, but now I realize that the beauty was in each step.” And, “The unexpected views as your travel along take your breath away, but you have to remember to stop and look up.” We never did write that book, but we had great fun with these pearls of wisdom and we shared wonderful times of abundance together: in spirit, laughter, meals and community.

Two months ago, the rabbi told me that Jim was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I hadn’t talked to him since we were together in Spain, three years ago. The rabbi told me that he wants to hear from the people in his life. “Send him an email,” he advised.

I had planned to.

Later that week, I searched through my email contact list, and realized that I didn’t have his email. I made a mental note to ask a mutual friend, or the rabbi, for his email address.

I didn’t follow through.

I thought about Jim, he was on my mind and in my heart, but I didn’t send that email.

“I have time,” I thought. I’ll do it soon…

After the problems left on my doorstep were solved, the errands were run, when life slows down…

I didn’t know what time it was.

How many of us put off what needs to be attended to now…in this moment. I think we see it all the time:

“I’ll take the dance class I’ve always wanted to take when I lose weight…”
“When I’m thin, I’ll let myself become involved in a relationship…”
“When my daughter gets into preschool, I’ll sign up for that painting class…”
“When my son gets into college, I’ll start my novel…”
“I’ll start living the life I truly want next month, next season, next year…”

Skillful living means being mindful of what time it is in our lives, and then acting from a place of wisdom. Sometimes you get a second chance, sometimes you don’t.

Jim died yesterday morning, before I sent him that email.

I missed what time it was.

If you look at the universe, we are a second, a split second. But our lives are part of that universe, and that second holds everything. If we understand that second, if we understand how important it is to pay attention to the present, to see clearly, we will understand what time it is in our lives, and we will act.

In the physical sense, attuned eating allows you to feed yourself in a consistent and loving manner. In a spiritual sense, attuned living allows you to pay attention to the world around you and to respond in a way that is life affirming and sustaining.

We don’t do it perfectly. Sometimes we miss the cues, or we’re off the mark in our response. Those are the times we need to be open to and learn from.

I wish I responded differently. I wish I knew what time it truly was…time to stop, and to be present with Jim in his dying. Now, it is time to remember Jim and to honor him by working toward living more in the present, living a life more in attunement.

We are all on a hike; our lives are a journey. May this New Year bring us the wisdom to live life fully, to be present to what is right in front of us, and to act from a place of both wisdom and compassion…by knowing, truly knowing, what time it is.”


Monday, November 30, 2009


I took my son to a doctor's appointment this morning, and as we were waiting for his turn, another patient's mother asked a staff member is she had a nice Thanksgiving. "Yes," she replied, "I spent it with my family who was in from out of town. How was your Thanksgiving?" Without hesitating, the mom answered, "It was too fattening." She went on to express her guilt at eating so many rich foods, and the conversation about overeating and weight continued from there, a lament we're all familiar with.

I couldn't help but think how sad that was - to focus on the calories of the meal rather than the joy of the season. Whether you're with family, friends, or even by yourself, it seems to me that Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to connect with others, express or feel gratitude for what we do have, spend a day relaxing without having to go to work (for many of us), and to take joy in the abundance of delicious food that is often present at gatherings.

This year, I had Thanksgiving at my house and took great pleasure in preparing the meal: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, carrots, broccoli casserole, salad, cranberry sauce and four different types of pies. Ellen and her family were in town for the occasion, and as we were cleaning up after our feast, I commented to Ellen that I had clearly bought too much food, and now there were tons of leftovers.

Ellen responded, "That's what we get for raising attuned eaters!"

She's right about that. Our children eat exactly what they are hungry for - no more and no less. No complaints about being too full - just comments like "I might have some more of that pie later."

But the truth is that even attuned eaters eat more than they need sometimes - and Thanksgiving may be one of those times. So what? It's just food. You get too full, realize you're uncomfortable, and eventually stop. The issue isn't so much about whether you overeat, but how you respond. If you're staying connected to yourself, you gently remind yourself that it doesn't feel so great to eat too much, and then wait for your next cue of hunger to eat again. But if you're still caught in the diet/binge cycle, you either continue to overeat since you've "blown it" anyway, or you go into a restrictive mode that you cannot sustain. And sadly, you focus on you eating and weight as the way to assess the quality of your holiday.

I'm grateful to have experienced a lovely and satisfying Thanksgiving last week. And all of those leftovers that I was complaining to Ellen about have made for some delicious lunches and snacks. In fact, a slice of that leftover pumpkin pie is sounding pretty yummy right now!

Eat well! Live well! Be well!


Friday, November 20, 2009


I was chatting with my physical therapist, Sarah, a couple of days ago as she was working out a sore spot on my hip that's developed from a muscle imbalance. I had just returned from the Renfrew conference where Ellen and I presented a workshop based on The Diet Survivor's Handbook, and I was explaining my work to her.

Sarah is a kind and open person who understands that people naturally come in different shapes and sizes. Yet as she told me a story about a friend of hers, I could feel my body begin to tense up.

She talked about a friend who was "overweight" when he went to college, where he proceeded to gain even more weight. Eventually (I can't remember the trigger, but in the end, it doesn't really matter...) he decided that he needed to do something about his size. So, he began to exercise for the first time, stopped drinking massive amounts of beer and soda, and quit eating pizzas late at night. He lost weight and, seven years later, continues to feel great.

When I hear a story like that, I think about the weight loss as a side effect of new behaviors. Never exercised before? Lots of ignoring physical cues for hunger and satiation? Change these factors and your body may change in response to your new lifestyle. I was prepared to be pleased for him.

But then the story went on. He was so thrilled by what happened to him, he decided to become a personal trainer so that his story could inspire others. My relaxed hip now became tense. I reminded Sarah that only 2 - 5% of people who lose weight can keep it off - about 98% gain it back. So, lucky him - he gets to have the body type that our culture values. When I asked Sarah more about his history, she told me - as I expected - that he never had dieted before. If anyone is likely to keep the weight off, it's a male who has never dieted before...

Now I think about the people who come to him for personal training. He may be wonderful at teaching people how to use their bodies for fitness, strength and flexibility. But in my experience, many people who go to personal trainers want to lose weight, and their trainers are often ready to give advice. I couldn't help imagining his inspiring, supportive words like, "If I can do it, you can do it too." And then I couldn't help imagining the shame someone would feel once again as she tries to do what she's supposed to, but doesn't lose weight. She may be more fit, stronger and more flexible, but if the focus is on weight loss, does that count for her? For her trainer? For the culture at large? Or does she experience shame - that is so insidious - and consider herself a failure?

Last week, a woman that I've worked with sent me a beautiful letter she wrote to the person in charge of fitness at the facility where she exercises. I recognize that many fitness and other health professionals honestly believe that they are inspiring others with stories of "success" and don't understand how their words and actions create shame for their clients. With her permission, I am printing it here (using an initial instead of real names) - it speaks loudly and clearly for itself and shows the power of speaking out:

Dear J:
I'm F's trainee; you see me regularly at the JCC. I'm a fat person who is using movement in order to become fit, not in order to become thin. I want to be able to walk far, have good circulation, a lot of energy and good health overall. I am usually at the end of my day when I see you and don't have energy for anything other than working out with F.

What I want to do is open a discussion with you about the weight loss program you are involved with at the JCC which is named after or references tv's The Biggest Loser. Research has shown that a program focused on dieting with weight loss as a goal is unhealthy and does not work. F told me that you're very open to new information and I'd like to send you some information about the effects of dieting, about the Health At Every Size premise, and also to let you know that when I see that "success" board upon entering the gym, showing who is "winning" at losing weight fast, that it makes me feel terrible and NOT want to be in the gym.

I would like you to read a book by Linda Bacon called Health At Every Size: The Truth About Your Weight. If your office doesn't have a budget for it, I will lend you my copy. It is here, on Amazon:
and information on it is here at Linda Bacon's website:

Linda Bacon's site is here:

Another view of movement, health, and the myth of dieting is here:

I'm also attaching a piece on healthy living at any size.

I realize that the idea behind The Biggest Loser is a very popular one and that certainly you are satisfying the requests of a number of your clients by initiating and providing this contest. I propose that it is irresponsible to promote this perspective of eating and exercising. I will come say hello soon when I'm in the gym and to answer any questions you may have regarding my ideas on this topic. I truly do not mean to be stealthy or be on the attack by emailing you: I am drained when at the gym and talking about this is hard.

On Thursday as I was leaving the gym, a child of about 6 years old poked his friend and pointed at me, laughing. The idea that all people are different sizes and have different health spectra, and that there is no perfect weight is one that should be promoted to all of the JCC's members and especially children. It is too easy to demonize fat and fat people and suggest that there is one answer. My own general doctor told me on Friday that she sees a lot of fat people and a lot of thin people in her practice and that overall, the fat ones have better health. No child should be encouraged to treat fat people this way and besides my own issues (that allow me to feel hurt when a small child makes fun of me) I think contests like this support the belief that the only way is the thin way.

Please reconsider your programming choices in favor of your clientele's health rather than their investment in America's delusion that weight loss rather than fitness is a superior goal and that becoming thinner is the answer to everything. This is a myth and is an unhealthy mode of operation.

I would love to help in any way that I can. I'd love to see a Health At Every Size discussion group at the JCC. It is hard for fat people to believe that they (we) are allowed to be in the world and that health and fitness are reachable goals regardless of BMI or waistline, etc. There is no SUPPORT for us that shores up the ideas of movement, feeling good, and listening to our bodies when it comes to nourishment. There is only shame and the push toward weight loss as a "solution".

Thank you for reading this and I will see you soon. Please feel very free to show this email to anyone and everyone. I feel strongly about this issue and want to make change so that all fat people are respected and so that fitness, rather than dieting and weight loss, becomes the focus of every athletic facility. One of the reasons I signed up for the JCC, a significant expense for me, was that I met F, a trainer who is NOT pushing diet as a focus and because I felt that the environment would be more comfortable for me because there are all kinds of people who use the gym; all levels of physical strength, all races, all ages, people in wheelchairs, fat people and thin people. The sign facing me when I enter now does not agree with the vision I had of the JCC when I first started there.

All my best,

Here is the response she received:

Hi R,

Thank you so much for reaching out to me, I will truly take all of this to heart and would love a time to chat with you. I am very open about things, am always willing to listen, learn etc.

In the meanwhile, please accept my dearest apologies for any hurt, pain, etc. that our Biggest Melt Down results board has caused you – that was never my intent but honestly a perspective I hadn’t thought of or was openly expressed, up until now! I will work on finding a more appropriate way to display results and try to please everyone (you, the team, their trainers – perhaps something else we can discuss).

I will take a look at the resources you listed – thank you for the suggestions.

Take care,


Now that's what I call inspiration!

If you have your own stories of speaking out (or not speaking out) please leave a comment.

Eat well! Live well! Be well!


Friday, November 6, 2009


I was leaving my office to do a quick errand the other day, and I caught a snippet of a radio interview about the current state of health insurance. The guest (I can't tell you who he was...) was suggesting that certain groups should pay higher premiums because of their increased risk for illness and injury.

I already knew what was coming...

On the positive side, he mentioned a few categories of people who engage in a variety of risky behaviors - ski jumping was part of the list - before he went to the F word to explain who should take on more of the high costs of insurance. Not surprisingly, he spent the most time (at least what I heard) explaining that people who are fat put a burden on our healthcare system.

If you've been listening to the healthcare debate, undoubtedly you've heard this idea many times by now - people who are "overweight" and "obese" need to lose weight or pay higher premiums because they are costing us too much money. I have a big problem with this thinking.

First, let me say that I have nothing against people losing weight - if that's what their bodies naturally do when they live a life of wellness. It's just that I'm weight neutral. Body size is a characteristic - not a behavior - and therefore not necessarily malleable. We cannot know anything about a person's health status based on size - and many of the correlations between health and weight have been debunked.

Think about this: The person who is fat because of an illness, or a medication, or genetics, or a history of yo-yo dieting. Should they be punished with higher premiums?

How about a person who eats a healthful diet, exercises regularly...and is fat. Should they be punished with higher premiums?

How about a person who never exercises, eat a poor diet...and is thin. Should they be rewarded with lower premiums?

All of these scenarios exist. If companies want to offer incentives, they need to be based on behaviors that can be quantified and applied to ALL individuals, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity and size.

If insurance companies want to offer incentives for reduced premiums, the fair approach is to target behaviors we can all potentially engage in, such as not smoking or participating in regular exercise. Many will argue over whether even these incentives are fair; but at least if we level the playing field, then people of all sizes can potentially improve their health and lower their insurance costs - isn't that what everyone wants?

This focus on weight loss is damaging to our individual and cultural psyches, and does not move us any closer to solving the healthcare crisis.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Conversation

During a lunch meeting with my editor a couple of years ago, we were discussing topics related to book publishing, including my love of writing. She told me that it's important to pay attention to "the conversation," as I consider what I might write about in the future - "what are the topics that everyone's starting to talk about?" she asked me.

Part of being an author is that after the thrilling news that your book is accepted for publication, and then the excitement of seeing your book come to life, you have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to get the word out there. I'm happy to say that several years after the release of The Diet Survivor's Handbook, I am truly part of the conversation in a way I would never have expected!

On Friday, I got a "google alert" that lets me know my name has come up somewhere. It turns out that the LA Times has a column called Cocktail talking points for the weekend. This list highlights what is front and center in the news, with a sentence to start a conversation when you're at your favorite weekend social event.

As someone who doesn't have the easiest time making conversation at cocktail parties, I sure got a kick out of seeing a quote of mine from an LA Times story, that had appeared a week earlier, in Deborah Netburn's list for the weekend of October 17.
Here's what she wrote:

2. Fat activists: It's a complicated issue, fat activism. Not all obese people are unhealthy, it turns out, although certainly many of them are. Still, does that give us a right to judge? Here's a quote from our story: "Size tolerance, fat-acceptance activists say, should be right up there with religious tolerance, ethnic tolerance and gay tolerance. 'It's the culture that has to change,' says Judith Matz, director of the Chicago Center for Overcoming Overeating."

Conversation starter: I'm size tolerant; are you?

So here I am - right in the middle of the conversation - and very glad to be there!

I'd like to continue the conversation that Ms. Netburn refers to when she says, "Not all obese people are unhealthy, it turns out, although certainly many of them are." I would add that, "Not all thin people are healthy, it turns out, although certainly many of them are!" My point is that there are fat people who are healthy and fat people who aren't, just as there are thin people who are healthy and thin people who aren't. Whether you call it fat acceptance, size diversity, or even this new term of size tolerance, the goal is to become weight neutral: get rid of assumptions based on body size.

When I do workshops where people are exploring their own attitudes about weight, I sometimes brainstorm a list, asking participants, "what do you think about when you think of someone who is thin and someone who is fat?" Here are some typical responses:

happy lazy
successful stupid
sexy inactive
attractive unhappy
active unhealthy
healthy ugly

Next, it's helpful to take these words, and think about the real people you know in your life. If you're like most of us, there are people you know who are thin, but do not necessarily have the perfect life suggested by the associated words. Likewise, you can surely point to some people you know who are fat - friends, relatives and/or colleagues - who you would not characterize by the words listed in the fat column.

What's going on here is stereotyping. It has happened to every group that's in the minority - Jews, Italians, African-Americans, homosexuals - to name a few, and it happens everyday to people who are fat. At this point in our history, while it is no longer acceptable to stereotype most of the groups who fall outside of the mainstream, weightism continues to permeate our culture. The acceptability of stereotyping fat people as unhealthy, for example, can be seen in the healthcare debate that often blames those who are larger for growing health care costs, even in an administration that is particularly sensitive to the needs of minority groups.

The series of LA Times articles that originally quoted me were exploring fat as "the new normal." As more and more attention focuses on issues of quitting diets, size acceptance and Health At Every Size, we can hope to move to a future that is weight neutral. Each person can foster wellness by embracing behaviors that promote physical and emotional well-being, and wherever their body size lands - thin, fat, and anywhere between - is where they are entitled to live their lives, free from the shame and discrimination that so often rears its ugly head.

This conversation is here to stay for now. With all of the attention on the "obesity crisis," those fighting for the rights of people at any size are becoming well-organized; The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH, held it's annual conference in Washington D.C. in August organizing visits to Capitol Hill to educate legislators about Health At Every Size; Fat Studies is receiving greater attention as an academic focus, and with the release of the new Fat Studies Reader, Amy Farrell was on the popular Colbert Report (, bringing humor and awareness to a nationwide audience.

And for diet survivors everywhere, stories like the recent LA Times, Dieting? Not for these folks validates the courageous decision to let go of dieting and develop a healthy relationship with food through attuned/intuitive eating. Given the billions of dollars people have spent over the past decades to get thin, if diets really worked, we wouldn't be needing to have this conversation.

If you'd like to read the LA Times series, here are the links.

Eat well! Live well! Be well!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You Have Got to be Kidding!

Years ago, I remember visiting my dear friend in the hospital hours after she had given birth to a healthy baby girl. Holding her infant daughter, who was swaddled in a hospital blanket decorated with pastel colored teddy bears, my friend was beaming.

"She's beautiful," I said.

My friend smiled and responded, "I know. She only weighed 6 pounds and 3 ounces, and I'm hoping from day one, she'll always be petite and thin."

All I could think about was this poor little baby, only hours old, and already her mother was preoccupied with her weight and her wish for her daughter be be thin. While I was appalled, apparently the insurance companies approve of this sentiment. This was what I read about today:

A Colorado health insurance company denied 4 month old Alex Lange coverage claiming he has a pre-existing condition - obesity - which makes him a financial risk. Alex weighs 17 pounds and is breastfed. After gaining national attention, The Rocky Mountain Health Plan said this past Monday that it will reverse it's decision for babies who are "healthy but fat."

Alex's mother, Kelli Lange, said that her baby has had nothing but breat milk and that the brief insurance rejection didn't change how she fed him. She stated, "I'm not going to withhold food to get him down to below that number of 95 {the 95% on the bell shaped curve}. Good for her. Although I do worry a bit when Alex's parents joked that, "when he is ready for solid food, they will start him on slim-Fast."

I remember being in a play group way back when. There was a woman who was a nurse and the mother of 6 month old Kyle. Kyle had a healthy appetite and was exclusively bottlefed. Kyle was a big, happy, health baby until his pediatrician and mother became concerned about his weight. They decided that Kyle's intake must be reduced. They cut out a predetermined number of ounces, reducing the number of bottles he was allowed each day. From that point on, when we met for our weekly playgroup, I came equipped with a bottle of Excedrin. Kyle would scream, cry and howl. The once happy baby became miserable when he was up, and would no longer go down for his nap. He just cried and cried. Kyle was hungry, and his mother refused to feed him, "for his own good." His mother, I should add, was a chronic dieter who, I have to say, was a bit on the moody side herself.

We need health care reform, and major changes in the health insurance industry, for sure. The Alex Lange case is outrageous. But we also need some intensive care as a culture. The hope for a lower weight infant daughter to stay petite and thin? The withholding of sustenance from a happy, thriving 6 month old because he's deemed "too fat?" No wonder there is such body shame in our culture, and so many people engaged in an unhealthy relationship with food, their bodies and themselves. I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes, that babies, before the interference begins, can model for those of us who forget:

"When hungry eat your rice, when tired close your eyes. Fools may laugh at me, but wise men will know what I mean." -Lin-Chi


Friday, October 9, 2009


In September, Judith blogged about her experience at her son's open house. She was pleasantly surprised by the physical education teacher who talked about his emphasis on celebrating body size diversity, and his intolerance of students making negative comments about weight. Voicing how impressed she was by the physical education teacher, and how rare and needed his perspective was, her husband had wondered aloud if there weren't a lot of teachers out there promoting the idea that people come in different shapes and sizes.

I thought I'd tell you about my experience at my son's high school open house this past week. My son is a senior, and after sitting in with his teachers in classes like AP Calculus, Statistics and Robotics, I was looking forward to meeting with his gym class where I figured my heart wouldn't race so much, being that I'm a bit math and science phobic.

Minutes into the physical education teacher's presentation, my heart was racing and my pulse quickening much more intensely than talk about Chi Squares and derivatives. He talked about the activities they would be focusing on throughout the year, and the importance of instilling in the students the need for both physical activity and nutrition...wait for make sure they don't become victim to the "Freshman 15" at college, that they stay thin, and that they fear gaining any weight because obesity is the leading cause of death in this country.

Now, I'm all for good nutrition and physical activity for the sake of health and a positive sense of well-being, enjoyment and pleasure. But this came from a place of fearing fat, and the inaccurate notion that obesity is the biggest killer in the country. I wanted to gather up all of the research and introduce the physical education teacher to the statistics teacher so that the gym teacher could see that he was spreading inaccurate research and faulty conclusions.

I don't think my sister, Judith, and I engage in too much sibling rivalry, but boy, did I envy her son and his physical education teacher!

As the gym teacher was concluding his short talk, he announced that we should support the student council by visiting the the bake sale in the cafeteria and purchasing some baked goods. Walking out, a parent said to me, "I'm upset by that talk." As I was about to launch in with my thoughts and join him in his concern, he continued, "He was right about kids needing to lose weight and stay thin, but then he blows it by telling us to buy something at the bake sale. That's not going to help our children lose weight."

I thought of launching into obesity and diet myths, sitting this man and the physical education teacher down and talking with them about HAES and about attuned eating. But honestly, that night I just didn't have the energy. Instead, I thought about how much my son loves chocolate covered strawberries, which they had at the bake sale, and I bought him some instead. That act itself slowed my pounding heart. Coming home that night, my son happily biting into a chocolate covered strawberry, I told him about the open house, about what it was like meeeting his teachers, sitting in his classrooms. When I started to tell him about the physical education teacher he said, "Oh, I meant to warn you about that. The whole Freshman 15, huh?" I shook my head yes. "Maybe I should give him your book," he said. When I smiled at him he said, "Are you hungry for something sweet? Do you want a strawberry?" And I smiled at him and took a big, juicy bite!


Saturday, September 26, 2009


We were having a "delicious" conversation the other day on a list serve that I belong to. One member explained that she struggled with overeating when she was younger, but is now an attuned/intuitive eater. She has always had a "sweet tooth" and continues to crave chocolate almost everyday - she becomes crabby if she wants it, but it's not available. Yet when she eats chocolate, she feels completely satisfied - sometimes after a few bites, sometimes after more -and doesn't feels uncomfortably full or that she is overeating/bingeing. She wondered if because of her need for chocolate every day, and sometimes more than once a day, people might consider her to be addicted to chocolate.

Here was my response:

"The beauty of intuitive/attuned eating is that everyone gets to decide what types of foods are right for them. So, you are someone who needs chocolate every day - enjoy! As you said, you feel good after you eat it and stop when you've had enough - you sound very in tune with yourself. In my work with clients, I rarely share the types of food that I eat because I don't want someone to ever think that there is a "right" way to feed oneself. But the one thing I do find myself offering from time to time is that I eat chocolate every day (and often I'm in the mood for sweets more than once a day...). I want to normalize that because it's still so much of the diet mentality that has seeped into our culture to think that somehow you shouldn't have sweets every day.

As for the thought that maybe a craving for sweet is a need for fruit (mentioned by another list serve member) chocolate and apples feel really different in your body. Sometimes I want chocolate and sometimes I want an apple, and I'd be as off eating an apple when I crave chocolate as I would eating chocolate when I crave an apple. Again, listening and taking out the judgement are key."

Our list serve discussion got me thinking more about chocolate. I had just finished a novel in which one of the characters, a precocious 12 year old girl, briefly contemplates her love of chocolate:

"This afternoon, after school, there was no one at home. I took some hazelnut chocolate from the kitchen and went to eat it in the living room. I was comfortably settled on the sofa, nibbling on my chocolate and ruminating on my next profound thought. I was thinking it would be a profound thought about chocolate or the way you nibble it, in particular, with a central question: what is it that is so good about chocolate? The substance itself, or the technique of chewing it?"

Just what is so good about chocolate? I'm at a loss of words myself to describe what makes it so wonderful. But I do know that it appeals to a lot of us, especially women. In fact, nutritionist Debra Waterhouse has an entire book devoted to this topic called Why Women Need Chocolate. When Ellen and I wrote Beyond a Shadow of a Diet, our book for mental health professionals, we included the following:

"Debra Waterhouse emphasizes that female food cravings are a 'normal, biological need for a specific food that will balance a woman's body and mind and revitalize her well-being.' She explains the brain chemistry of food cravings, noting that sugar and fat from chocolate boost serotonin and endorphin levels, resulting in positive mood and renewed energy. 'No study has ever found that women frequently crave tofu, Spam, or nonfat cottage cheese, and no study has ever found that men frequently crave chocolate...Only women crave these foods consistently.' "

Many years ago I had a booth at a health fair. A woman looked over my materials and said, "No, I don't have a problem with food. Except that I like to eat some chocolate every day" I explained to her that eating chocolate was natural and fine, and she replied, "You mean I can stop feeling guilty?" "Absolutely," I told her. What a shame that she had to feel that eating chocolate was "sinful" in the first place, but how nice that she seemed willing to let that belief go.

So back to my own chocolate cravings! While some women notice an increase in their desire for chocolate prior to menstruation, I like to eat chocolate all month long. When I eat chocolate it's because in addition to the way it tastes, it gives me just the right feeling physically in my body. Sometimes I prefer it with a glass of milk, sometimes I prefer it by itself. But I always make sure I have some with me wherever I go - to work, on vacation, at a conference.

I was in Costa Rica a couple of years ago, and, thankfully, had brought some chocolate with me. A woman on the trip was celebrating her birthday and said the only thing missing was some chocolate; she liked to have some every day, and couldn't find any at the hotel. I told her that I had chocolate in my room and would be happy to share some with her. Her face lit up - and I was glad to give her this small gift. Yes, you can always rely on me to have chocolate on hand!

So am I "addicted" to chocolate? I also happen to eat a banana every day, but I've never heard of anyone talking about an addiction to bananas! Like my list serve colleague, I eat chocolate in a way that's a perfect match for me.

And I don't need advertisements to tell me things like: My Moment - My Dove. I'll eat my Dove chocolates whenever I'm hungry for them, but not as a way to take time for myself - as women, we need to take time for ourselves when we need it, without feeling that we need to use food as an excuse to slow down. Yet the act of relishing my chocolate - or whatever food I'm hungry for at a particular time - does make for a satisfying moment.

If you're a chocolate lover, enjoy your cravings and the satisfaction that comes from this amazing substance. And if you have a way to describe just what it is about chocolate that tastes so good, please feel free to give it a try!

Eat well! Live well! Be well!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Open House

Last week I attended Parent's Night at my son's high school. I always look forward to getting a firsthand view of my children's teachers so that I can have a better sense of what their life is like during all those hours they spend away from home. While gym class isn't high on my priority list of exciting presentations, I was looking forward to seeing Mr. P. who I've known from previous years.

I entered the big gym and chatted with some of the parents that I knew. Mr. P. started the typical shpiel about what types of activities the students would do throughout the year, the importance of attendance, and what it's like to work with Freshman boys. That's when my ears perked up.

After telling us that he comes off as a tough guy in the beginning - even though he's actually a pretty low-key kind of guy - he offered his philosophy for making physical education a positive experience for everyone.

He told the parents that he will absolutely not tolerate any negative comments about weight. He stated that people naturally come in different shapes and sizes, and that by the time the swimming unit comes around next spring he wants everybody - yes, he meant Every Body - to feel comfortable and have fun. By letting the boys know his expectations from the outset, he believes he can encourage a safe environment for each and every student.

Wow! Did I hear that correctly? I have to admit that when I attend PE, Consumer Ed, and Health classes at various open houses, I usually brace myself for some comments about staying fit to prevent obesity or eating healthy foods to prevent obesity. (I'm all for fitness and understanding nutrition - but I want it to come from a positive place that promotes wellness for all children, rather than from a fear of getting fat that stigmatizes larger students.) I'm generally pleased when no comments are made about body size, but to hear a message to the kids and parents that supports size diversity is downright inspirational!

And it got me thinking. Can you imagine if every single teacher had a "no tolerance policy" regarding bullying, teasing and making negative comments about weight? What if they took that next step and regularly referred to the wonderful variations among all human beings, including body shape and size? Wouldn't that promote self- esteem for all students and help all of our children grow into more compassionate adults?

Here's my next question: How did Mr. P. become so enlightened? After the presentation, in the brief moment I had to greet him, I thanked him for his words and told him how wonderful I thought it was that he teaches his students about size diversity. He seemed pleased to hear my compliment; I couldn't tell if he realized that what he is saying is quite different from the usual messages that are given both overtly and covertly to students about body size.

Or so I think. After we left the open house, I told my husband how impressed I was by Mr. P., and how rare it is to hear a teacher promote the idea that people come in different shapes in sizes.

My husband's response was, "How do you know that? How do you know there aren't a lot of teachers out there who have a size positive attitude?"

Well, there was the Report on Size Discrimination put out by the National Educational Association in 1993, which concluded that within school systems, large students experienced "ongoing prejudice, unnoticed discrimination and almost constant harassment," while teachers experienced "socially acceptable yet outrageous insensitivity and rudeness" regarding their own weight.

But that was in 1993 so perhaps things have improved since then. Yet in my work with clients, at workshops and conferences, and among my colleagues dedicated to Health At Every Size, I've hear innumerable stories of harassment at the hands of gym teachers because of weight, leaving these former students feeling shamed, embarrassed and humiliated. At the same time, I know that there have been some wonderful curricula developed in recent years to teach body-esteem to students - and teachers - that may changing attitudes toward fat and tolerance of negative comments about body size.

So here's my question for you: Is Mr. P. one in a million? Or is he part of a new trend? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Eat well! Live well! Be well!

Friday, August 28, 2009

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times...

People will sometimes ask me if I think things are getting better or worse when it comes to pressures to be thin and attitudes toward dieting. I always hesitate a moment before answering because the truth of the matter is: both! My emotional state during the day can easily switch from exasperation and rage at news stories or policies related to the "war on obesity," to hope and inspiration when I see the latest article or action by those committed to creating a world where people can take pleasure in their bodies and honor their hunger.

The worst of the worst occurred over the summer when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released their Lean Works web site, which included a cost-calculator so that employers can figure out how much their fat employees cost them each year. Talk about institutionalizing size discrimination. Then there was the debate over Dr. Regina Benjamin, President Obama's pick to be the Surgeon General. No one questioned her brilliance, compassion and capabilities...but sadly, many did question whether she's just too fat for the job.

Story after story reports how being "overweight" is the equivalent of a death sentence - even when there is mounting research that says the opposite. Over this past summer, two long-term studies - one from Canada and one from Japan - were released that found people in the "overweight" category of BMI actually live longer than those in the "normal" range. I heard a doctor on CNN discussing these findings who said something along the lines of "Yes, that's what they found, but you should still lose weight." I wish I could say I was shocked, but that's the mindset of most people....including health professionals.

Despite the increased attempts at the "war on obesity" I remain encouraged and inspired by what Dr. Linda Bacon refers to as the "new peace movement." The framework of Health At Every Size, which focuses on wellness rather than weight, is getting more and more attention in mainstream news sources such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. There was a fabulous article published by Newsweek online yesterday entitled, Who says americans are too fat? Overselling the obesity epidemic isn't getting us anywhere. You can be big and healthy at the same time. You can read it at file: Fat and Healthy: Why It's Possible | Newsweek Health |

The Health At Every Size movement is organized and strong! During the recent Association for Size Diversity and Health conference in Washington, D.C., participants received training in how to meet with their legislators, and then went to Capitol Hill to speak directly with their representatives. Although I was sorry not to be able to attend these visits, I understand that people were well-received and able to give factual information on the relationship between weight and health that will hopefully have a positive effect on future health policies.

I am thrilled that there are more and more resources that promote body acceptance, and that they are making their way into the culture, giving people a positive framework to think about how to best care for themselves. During my group this week, I showed a wonderful DVD called Finding Your Healthy Weight, created by The Body Positive. Medical experts and researchers offer compelling information to validate Health At Every Size as the best alternative to dieting, and real women who have struggled with eating and body hatred tell their stories of learning to eat from hunger, move their bodies in way that feel great, and discover self-love.

Perhaps that's where my greatest hope lies. People who practice Health At Every Size are in more and more places: teaching college courses, offering community programs, working in government positions and providing services to people who are ready to quit dieting and live more fully in the world. As we get our message out there, we are slowly but surely changing the world.

In fact, there's a revolution going on, and each of us has a part to play. Whether we write a letter, refuse to go on a diet, tell someone else about Health At Every Size or choose to feel more comfortable in our own bodies, each and every action will reverberate in our communities.

In keeping with my Tale of Two Cities theme (part of the fun of writing a blog!), I would have to conclude that "Off with their heads" is on the way out. Pictures of headless fat people in news stories - as if they are merely objects - are being replaced by large people out in the world and enjoying life. And of course, what could be more apropos to support the movement toward attuned/intuitive eating than the famous line, "Let them eat cake!" I would like to modify that to say, "Let us all eat cake - when that is what we are hungry for." And let us also eat anything else we darn well please!

Eat well! Live well! Be well!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

American Idol Kelly Clarkson Rocks!

Each morning, armed with a cup of hazelnut coffee, I head to my computer and read over the CNN headlines on my homepage. Probably, from a spiritual point of view, my morning cup of coffee should be a cup of herbal tea, and I should be sitting down to meditate, or taking an early contemplative walk instead of filling my head - so early in the day - with so much bad news: bombs, typhoons, deadly prescriptions for Michael Jackson, the unsolved health crisis and the dire predictions about the "obesity epidemic," house foreclosures.

But this morning, ah, this morning. I sat down to my computer and what did CNN offer me? A headline from that read Kelly Clarkson Slams Weight Critics." I can't remember if I voted for Clarkson all those years back on the first American Idol, but she sure has my vote and support now.

Over the past few months, as bloggers have been bashing Kelly about her weight, she has stepped up to the microphone and her voice - her wonderful voice - has spoken loud and clear striking the perfect tone, that resounding chord, that has those of us diet survivors clapping and thinking Encore! Here's a few choice "lyrics" that Kelly has sung out:

"Of course celebrities have cellulite."

"When people talk about my weight, I'm like 'You seem to have a problem with it. I don't; I'm fine."

"My happy weight changes. Sometimes I eat more; sometimes I play more."

About food she explains that she still eats chicken-fried steak, but also had days when she prefers salads.

She refuses to diet saying, "For me, it's the times when I'm not paying attention that I end up losing weight. But I'm never trying to lose weight - or gain it. I'm just being."

Okay, so this morning my coffee isn't Zen tea, and I'm making an internet connection instead of connecting to my inner soul. Still, reading about the enlightened spirit of Kelly Clarkson is damn close to nirvana!


Friday, August 7, 2009

"No Wonder You Look Like That!"

A couple of nights ago, a group of us sat together at Dairy Queen to enjoy some soft serve ice cream on a hot summer night. An old family friend happened to pass by and stopped to say hello. As she noticed that my daughter wasn't eating any ice cream, she was quick to comment, "No wonder you look like that!"

These kind of moments always fill me with tension. Do I explain to her that she happened to catch my daughter at a moment when she wasn't hungry, so she didn't order the ice cream? Do I inform her that on another evening she may have found her enjoying a hot fudge sundae? Do I lecture her on the intrusiveness of comments that focus on body size and make assumptions about another person's relationship with food? Or do I ignore her words, and move on to the next topic?

My daughter solved these particular dilemmas for me when she jumped in and explained, "One of the parents at our camp brought in donuts today. They were delicious, but now I'm just not hungry for ice cream." Ahhh...the joys of raising an attuned/intuitive eater!

This experience reminded me of a time when I worked in an office where cakes were brought in routinely to celebrate each other's birthdays. I remember that if I wasn't hungry and passed on the cake, invariably someone would say, "No wonder you look like that." But the interesting thing was that when I was hungry and had a piece of cake, the response was, "You are so lucky - you can eat anything you want!"

The assumptions people make about our eating - whether we are fat, thin, and anywhere in between - have much more to do with their projections than with our relationship to food. In fact, there is yet to be a scientific study validating that fat people eat more than thin people. I think that for all of us, it's worth reflecting on any assumptions we make that are connected to body weight, when we observe others eating. At the same time, it is so important to remember that when someone comments on our weight and/or our relationship with food, it says a lot more about them than it does about us.

This family friend has always been obsessed with her size. I have no way of knowing what she was thinking about or feeling when she noticed my daughter without any ice cream, but I do know that her interpretation of my daughter's body size - and the fantasy that she must not eat ice cream - had nothing to do with my daughter, and everything to do with her.

I still haven't figured out the best way to respond in these situations. To do nothing seems reinforce or accept a statement that I am uncomfortable with. To have to respond each and every time feels like a burden, and truthfully, I just don't always have the energy to engage in a discussion about the concepts of ending diets, attuned/intuitive eating, and size diversity. So I pick and about you?

Eat well! Live well! Be well!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The New York Times...Almost

Several months ago I had the pleasure of speaking to Mandy Katz, reporter for the New York Times. She was writing an article on "diet cessation," - a term I love and a subject that was a perfect match for The Diet Survivor's Handbook.

After a couple of months of hearing nothing back I assumed that I would not be in the article - I've learned to do the interviews that come my way and then let go (as best as I can) with no expectations.

So imagine my excitement when I came home a few weeks ago to find a message requesting a picture of the cover of The Diet Survivor's Handbook and a picture of myself for the upcoming article. I let myself believe that our book would really be in the NYT, with an opportunity to reach a lot of people. A few days later, I received an e-mail from Mandy for fact checking - not only was she accurate, but I really liked the quote.

In the back of my mind I always knew that until it's in print, anything is possible...but I have to admit that this time, I counted on it. It's really a dream for an author to be in the New York Times...along the lines of getting on the Oprah show (something I also aspire to do!) I let my publicist at Sourcebooks know about our good fortune, my photographer, David Sutton, asked if he could announce it in his newsletter, I added it to our Diet Survivors Group quarterly e-mail (, and waited for July 2nd to arrive.

Alas, the article lost out to a more urgent topic of the day: vampire chic! I knew that it would be in the Thursday style section, so once again, on July 9th, I checked first thing in the morning...but no article.

I came home yesterday to two emails from the reporter, Mandy Katz. The first said that the article would definitely run today - July 16th. Hooray!!! But then I read the second, which she was kind enough to send me personally. At the last minute, the editor needed to shorten the article, and, unfortunately, I didn't make the cut. That's the way it goes in journalism. I knew it could happen, but still...

As I told Ellen about it, she reminded me of her close calls with her book, Beyond Measure; New Yorker Magazine and Men's Health both planned to use her quotes and mention the book, but it never happened. She also reminded me that as an editor, her friend, Beth, is on the other side, and when there's only so much room on a page, something has to go.

Despite my disappointment, I am thrilled that this article appeared in the New York Times, giving credence to the work of so many who are helping people to stop dieting and feel comfortable in their own skin. I hope you'll check it out at:

(and if you check out the comments, I'm #19!)

Eat well! Live well! Be well!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Over this past weekend, I was at an outdoor festival where the band Heart was playing on the main stage. Some of you will remember Heart from the late 1970's through the early 80's - I was surprised by how many songs were familiar to me (Barracuda, Magic Man, Crazy on You). Heart features the Wilson sisters - Ann and Nancy - who were one of the first female rock and roll bands, paving the way for others to come.

It was a beautiful evening, and as Ann belted out her songs, I couldn't help but think how great she sounded and how great she looked on stage. Ann is a larger woman, and as she rocked in her black sequins, I felt her power.

A few days later, I was looking up the name of a song I had forgotten and came across this entry in Wikipedia:

As a child, Ann was teased for her size. She revealed that in the seventies she would starve herself to stay thin. When Heart created a comeback in the mid-eighties, Ann had gained a significant amount of weight. Fearing it would hurt the band's popularity, record company executives and band members began pressuring her to lose weight. In music videos, camera angles and clothes were often used to hide her weight, and more focus was put on her sister Nancy. Ann stated she began suffering from panic attacks due to the stress caused by the negativity surrounding the issue.[2] She underwent a weight-loss surgery called "adjustable gastric band" in January 2002[3] after what she calls "a lifelong battle" with her weight.

I felt so sad after reading this brief entry. Here is a woman who has empowered others - what a shame that, according to this information, she has gone through life feeling shame about her body and struggling with the diet/binge cycle.

I hope Ann has been able to make peace with herself. I hope she knows that it is our culture that is wrong - not her. I hope she knows that she hasn't failed diets; diets have failed her. I hope she knows that the deprivation of diets only trigger overeating, and that there is a way to honor her own hunger and be calm around food. I hope she knows that it isn't fair for people to judge her by her weight, and that she can cultivate wellness at any size. I hope she never stops singing.

Eat well! Live well! Be well!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Are You Addicted To Diets?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why it is so hard for people to let go of diets, even when they understand intellectually that diets don’t work, and they won’t work.

I've always loved the example Ellen uses about a person going to the doctor when they are sick. The doctor says, "I'll give you an antibiotic - there's a 2% to 5 % chance it will work." You may think the odds aren't very good, but decide to give it a try. But, when the antibiotic fails and you go back to the doctor who says, "Well, I have another antibiotic that also has a 2% - 5% of working," what would you do? Try again despite the very poor odds, or find another doctor?!!!

Well, those are the odds of succeeding in a diet.

In the most general sense, an addiction exists when there is an interference with daily life. When I meet with clients who are repeat dieters, one of the most common experiences I hear about is the amount of mental energy that thoughts about dieting, food and weight take up as mental energy. Sometimes concerns about food and weight also lead to avoiding social situations.

Why is it so hard to quit dieting? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Diets are extremely seductive. They promise that if you follow them perfectly, you can have the perfect body and the perfect life. Commercials constantly play upon this theme when they have a person say outright that before the diet, she was miserable, unloved and unsuccessful, but now that she has lost weight, her life has begun again with a new hope: she is now loved and can finally feel good about herself. The magic of diets is like a drug, offering a salve to the difficulties of life.

  • Diets give a “high.” Anyone who has been on a diet knows the high that comes when you feel in control. There is a virtuous feeling; you are on top of the world. There is no doubt that this feels good, and therefore, there is a strong wish to repeat it.

  • Diets do work in the short-term. To make matters more complicated, there is a sense of relief once the diet begins. Some weight is lost and you feel in control, leaving you truly feeling better. After all, whatever else is bothering you in life feels more manageable when you believe you’ve finally taken charge of your life and yourself. But like any addiction, the good feeling is short-lived. As the diet wears off, weight returns and overeating resumes, leaving you feeling worse, not better.

  • The dieter doesn’t know what to do instead. If you spend a good portion of your life on a diet, then you will also spend a good portion of your life going off your diet! If being on a diet is about being in control, then being off the diet is about being out of control. But, being out of control with food never feels good. Therefore, the pull is to get back in control as soon as possible, leading to the next diet. The problem is that when you are addicted to diets, you no longer know how to eat instead.

  • We have a culture of enabling. When it comes to addictions such as alcohol and drugs, our culture - made up of family, friends, doctors, mental health professionals and a wealth of written materials - strongly discourages dependence on these substances. The term “enabler” describes someone in a person’s life who actually supports the addiction in some way. When it comes to a dieting addiction, our culture is the biggest enabler of all. With messages coming from health professionals, commercials, magazines, colleagues, family and friends that dieting is a positive way to provide self-care to yourself, it’s no wonder that this is a tough habit to kick. This cultural pressure to diet is constant, but peaks in January as people are encouraged to make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, and in the spring when societal messages about dieting for bathing suit season abound. In fact, when you decide to quit dieting, you are likely to run into people who think you are doing something destructive.

What the diet survivor knows is that while diets are seductive, attuned eating feels much more satisfying and leads to a more satisfying life. The high of a diet is replaced by a consistent feeling of being in charge of your eating. Instead of the short-term success of dieting, you find ways to deal directly with the issues in your life, so that you feel stronger both physically and psychologically. You shift from the mentality of being on or off a diet to becoming an attuned eater in which you honor your hunger, match what you are hungry for, choosing from a wide variety of foods, and stop when you feel satisfied. You do your best to reject messages in the culture that tell you diets for weight loss are the only way to live your life, and instead, search out people, books, websites and experiences that positively reinforce your decision to give up dieting.

Eat well! Live well! Be well!