Dieting Not Working? Blame The Diet And Become A Survivor

September 23, 2011   17 Comments

Snack Girl is one of those people who simply hates diets. Her favorite quote is from Garfield, "Diet is DIE with a T."

Diet Failure Advice

My reason is that all that counting of calories, leads me to want to eat everything in sight. I feel the restriction and then I start to feel hungry all the time!

On the other hand, I have learned a ton from diet books and programs about healthy eating and the number of calories in some of my favorite foods. For example, 260 calories in a doughnut was a REAL wake up call not to inhale them at a moment's notice.

A reader told me about a book that had helped her with her diet failures - "The Diet Survivor's Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care" by Judith Matz, LCSW and Ellen Frankel, LCSW (see below and Diet Survivors).

I found this book to be very inspiring and helped me to define why dieting does not work for me. Judith Matz, LCSW, director of The Chicago Center for Overcoming Overeating, and co-author of the book was kind enough to take the time for an interview:

Snack Girl: Why is dieting hazardous to your health?

Judith Matz: Unfortunately, about 95% of people who go on diets will gain back the weight – and about one-third to two-thirds of people will end up heavier than before the diet. So, diets often make you fatter!

It may surprise you to know that weight cycling – also known as yo-yo dieting – actually puts you at greater risk of health issues, including heart problems and type-2 diabetes. Since most people go on more than one diet, this is a real concern.

Dieting also leads to depression, lower self-esteem and shame. While it always feels great when you’re in the weight loss phase of the diet/binge cycle, when the weight returns, your emotional state plummets.

Snack Girl: What is "attuned eating" and how can we achieve it?

Judith Matz: Attuned eating simply means eating according to your body’s natural, physical cues for hunger and satiation. We’re born knowing how to eat this way! Attuned eating guides you in deciding when, what and how much to eat, and teaches you to trust your own body’s internal wisdom.

When to eat:

To reconnect with your internal signals you need to identify physical hunger – which should feel like an empty or gnawing sensation in your stomach.

Attuned eaters honor their hunger by waiting for the cue of physical hunger to tell them when to eat. They also make sure that they don’t ignore their hunger and become ravenous, which sets you up for overeating.

What to eat:

Next, ask yourself what you’re hungry for – what would not only taste good, but also feel just right in your body. If you’re used to following a lot of rules about what to eat, this can take some practice! If you’re having trouble, try asking yourself some questions: Do I want something hot or cold? Spicy or bland? Chewy or crunchy? Protein, carbohydrate of fat?

Let go of the notion that foods are “good” and “bad” because when you try to ignore your craving to eat some pizza, for example, and instead stick to a salad, there’s a good chance you’ll overeat later to make up for not getting what you really wanted (and what would really satisfy you.)

Instead, keep a wide variety of foods around - including foods that nourish you and meet your nutritional needs - and then pick the food that truly satisfies you.

How much to eat:

If there was a signal of physical hunger to tell you when to start eating, then there will be a signal of fullness to tell you that it’s time to stop. The key is to pay attention by being mindful of how your body feels.

You may find that getting rid of distractions while you’re eating helps you pay better attention to when you’re getting full. You may also want to think about how you’ll feel 15 or 20 minutes after you stop eating – and how you want to feel. It’s always easier to stop when the food(s) you’re eating truly satisfy you!

What to expect:

If you want to become an attuned eater, start by collecting these experiences whenever you can. Don’t let yourself turn attuned eating into another diet where the new rule is that you can only eat when you’re hungry – becoming an attuned eater is a journey that takes time and practice!

Snack Girl: I think many of us equate thin with healthy. What is your theory regarding "healthy at any weight"?

Judith Matz: The simple truth is that there are people who are thin and healthy and people who are thin and unhealthy, just as there are people who are fat and unhealthy and people who are fat and healthy!

There’s no doubt that thinness is usually equated with health – despite the existence of over 40 research studies that show people in the overweight category for BMI (body mass index) actually live the longest - and this is unfortunate because people spend so much time, energy and money on weight loss plans and programs that don’t really work long-term.

In the meantime, they may not learn or implement other practices that lead to better health, such as fitness, attuned eating, good sleep habits, and meditation. While weight loss may be a side effect of cultivating these practices, you’ll become healthier regardless of whether you lose weight!

Snack Girl: When you struggled with weight issues, did you have an "aha!" moment that you could share with us?

Judith Matz: After many years of trying to lose weight by restricting “fattening” foods, I spent a summer in Boston where I was worked as a waitress at a well-known (and delicious!) seafood restaurant - I also tasted Steve’s oreo-cookie ice cream for the first time.

I didn’t have a scale or mirror and was so tired of dieting that I decided to take the summer off from my obsessive worries about eating.

When I moved back to Chicago at the end of the summer, I discovered that I had returned to what was a natural weight for me. My “aha” moment was the realization that the deprivation caused by dieting actually triggered me to overeat!

At that moment I made myself a promise: if I ever wanted to eat something and thought I shouldn’t because it was “bad,” I would go ahead and have it to remind myself that no foods are off limit.

It’s been about 30 years since that moment, and I have had a relaxed, peaceful and satisfying relationship with food (and my body) ever since.

Snack Girl: What is your favorite snack?

Judith Matz: As an attuned eater, my “favorite” snack depends on what would be the best match for my hunger at a particular moment! Favorites include: a banana, Dove chocolates with a glass of milk, hummus with carrots, a mini-meal from last night’s leftovers, such as an enchilada or piece of lasagna, and a bowl of soup.

Thanks, Judith! Love those snacks and the advice on our relationship to food.

Want to read about snacks?
Fab Snack Finds For Keeping It Fun
Mix Up These Healthier Corn Muffins In A Jiffy
Five Restaurant Tips For People Who Love Food
The Secret To Making Chicken Breast Taste Much Better Than A Hockey Puck

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What a great interview! It's so much better to approach eating with a positive attitude rather than the deprivation, fail and guilt cycle.

This is such a great post! So many people approach dieting with dread thinking they need to deprive themselves. This is why I love weight watchers, they encourage you treating yourself but in a smart way. Since I started a healthier lifestyle, I feel better and make smarter food choices. I never have felt deprived since when I have a craving, I just have a little of it!

She also makes a great point that we should listen to our bodies' signals. If we are hungry, we shouldn't wait until we are so starving that we get ravenous. And when we are full, we should stop. Thank you for sharing this! :)

What a phenomenal post - thank you so much for it! I am totally the person Judith describes - I obsess about food when I'm on a diet (or even just an eating "plan"). I'll overeat later if I feel unsatisfied now (or, I'll gorge on something "forbidden" by believing that if I'm in for a penny, may as well be in for a pound - pun intended). I often wish I could just not think so much about food and just relax and enjoy it! I almost felt she was speaking to me - now on to find this book!

Thank you for posting this! After one strict dieting plan, lost a lot of weight, but was so hyper focused on the "bad" foods afterwards. Finally let go of my restrictions, and thought of those foods a LOT less. I still struggle with being mindful and not just gulping at the first thought of hunger though, so some guidance and tips sounds very good.

This is so true! Dieting, Diet Pills, Fat Burner Teas, Body name it I probably tried them all...Obsessed to the max and taking the fun out daily. This is why I LOVE WEIGHT WATCHERS...because you can still have girls nights out, Pizza & Wings on Friday and still drop weight. It simply amazes me how much I have learned about portioning my food properly, knowing when you're full, breaking in between to be sure you really want seconds....Becoming aware of the signs that body will naturally give me.

Love all of your posts!

Such a great post! My husband and I used to refer to the post-dinner "food baby" that we'd get - since I've been on Weight Watchers we don't get that any more. It feels so much better to be satisfied and not full. When I was in Turkey in February I had a hard time with translation of both the ingredients and the measurements of food and after about 3 days decided to do "attuned eating" although I'd never actually heard of that term. It worked wonders - I lost 2 pounds while on vacation for 2 weeks and was able to eat whatever I wanted - I just tried to stick to small portions and to listen to my body. I also think that the lack of processed food helped too - I've come to the conclusion that "processing" means "adding calories"!

When I started my fitness transformation 14 months ago, I started with the premise that this time was going to be different! I had to make a mindset change because dieting had me 100 lbs over weight. The mindset change was "to make changes that I would continue to follow!" Today, I'm 93 lbs lighter and in the best shape of my life at the ripe old age of 45, so it works!

Love the article and couldn't agree more.

If I could stop eating when I'm hungry or only eat when I was, I wouldn't be fat. Weight Watchers works for me because I eat the right combination of things and I have a goal each day. After a year, I still cannot tell you for certain when I am actually hungry or full but it's a lot better than I was. I agree with a lot of the things said here, but overall, it's not realistic for everyone.

This is The Weigh Down Workshop in a nutshell. I did that program thru my church after my 1st child was born and really learned a lot about hunger, fullness, and satisfying both without overdoing it. My biggest problem then and now is eating when i'm not really hungry, but without that program in my mind even today, I'd weigh a lot more than I do now. The creator is Gwen Shamblin, and although I don't agree with all of her newer information and programs, her original program and premise is still fantastic. With your faith and belief in God, plus learning about your body's signals for hunger and fullness, and understanding how they work together is a truly eye-opening experience that I highly recommend. Her original book is still available, i'm sure, if you want to check it out.

Yes! This is exactly what I've been thinking about for the last little while.

I've been obsessed with eating for the last year due to trying to lose weight for a wedding I just attended. Weight watchers has been my diet of choice. I didn't lose all the weight and now I'm rethinking my approach!

Years ago I had read a line from Wayne Dyer that said "Listen to your body - it knows what you need!" I applied that to nutrition and to exercise. I ended up losing a ton of weight by doing that!

I'm soooo glad I came across this article because it's just reinforced it in my mind. I guess I needed the white flag waved in my face to stop counting calories and start listening to my body.

Thanks to Lisa for interviewing me = and for all the great comments!

You can join our Diet Survivors Group on facebook - "like" us at:…

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Eat well! Live well! Be well!

Judith Matz

It's all about learning to trust your physical body's inner wisdom.

I love your interviews snack girl. Judith I can so relate to this. Anytime I tried a new diet or diet supplement, I felt so deprived. There were diet foods and the bad foods. I found the new ww points plus in February and have done so well on it because there is no food that is "bad" or off limits you just have to count it if you eat it, and you can earn more with activity. There are very few women I know who do not struggle with weight issues. I am going to friend you on facebook.thanks

I also thought this was a great interview, measured,balanced with no outrageous claims, just general good advice! I believe healthy lifestyle is the key, be AWARE of calories without counting them, exercise as much are you are ABLE to, STOP drinking soda & be happy!!

Loved this article and the concept of increasing your awareness and adopting a healthy lifestyle. Diets based on deprivation are doomed to fail because they conflict with our body's survival instincts. Slow & steady is the only way to win the weight loss race.

Great article! I'd like to mention to make sure you are drinking plenty of water. A lot of people mistake thirst for hunger.

How do you know if you're getting enough? Your urine should be clear or faint yellow. Dark or cloudy urine is not good.

I freaking LOVE this post. This was my favorite line "If there was a signal of physical hunger to tell you when to start eating, then there will be a signal of fullness to tell you that it’s time to stop. The key is to pay attention by being mindful of how your body feels."

I recently developed a 10 day fitness program for women so they can stop choosing unhealthy means to get in shape fast, and a lot of this post resonates with what I teach. So happy to see this type of information spreading. More women need to know this. And if you need more proof that it works-one of my clients lost 7.3 lbs, and over 5" across her bust, hips and waist largely because she just cleaned up her eating habits.

Thanks for the great post!

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