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By Judith Matz
Beyond the Diet Mentality
Empowering clients through attuned eating
Q: Many of my clients struggle with food and weight problems. I've helped them look at the emotional issues behind their overeating, but it doesn't always help. What else can you recommend?
A: When I began treating clients with eating problems, I believed that once they understood the emotional triggers behind their overeating, their compulsion to reach for food would decrease—which in turn would lead to weight loss. Instead, I discovered that, although they could resolve issues around depression, anxiety, relationships, work, and self-esteem, conflicts with food and weight usually remained. In the early 1990s, after witnessing the failure of most diet programs, I learned a nondiet approach to treating compulsive eating, one that has enabled me to intervene directly in the diet-and-binge cycle and help my clients make peace with food, their bodies, and themselves.
In our culture, dieting is seen as the primary way to control eating and feel better about one's body. It's often viewed as a means of self-care—the route to happiness, success, and greater self-esteem. Statistics, however, tell us that diets don't work in the long run. Virtually every diet leads to short-term weight loss, but research shows that 95 to 98 percent of dieters will gain back the lost pounds, and about 66 percent of those people will end up heavier than they were before they started dieting. People who diet are eight times as likely to develop an eating disorder, are at higher risk for disease as the result of weight cycling, and have higher rates of depression and lower self-esteem. Thus, while dieting may seem like good self-care, it's actually hazardous to our clients' physical and mental well-being.