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Greetings!chicago

Those of you who read Carol and Jane's column in the last issue of the newsletter will recall that they discussed the common tendency to turn the Overcoming Overeating guidelines into rules which incite rebellion. It is clear to us that diet thoughts and diet language find their way into the most valiant efforts of nondieters. We want to address an aspect of rule making and rule breaking—the assumption that there is one "right" way to use the Overcoming Overeating approach. Our ubiquitous tendency to idealize the successes of others who are using this approach and to assume that they have found the "right way" exacerbates this problem.

It is important to acknowledge that we, as women, are encouraged to conform to rules and ideals that are not of our making. We learn that we should manipulate and torture our bodies to conform to someone else's ideal of the female form. We believe that we are in competition with one another on the basis of body size and shape to obtain the supposed good things in life. Rather than trust that who we are and how we feel are sufficient and satisfactory, we strive to emulate cultural role models. Currently, Kathleen Sullivan, ex-anchorperson, is serving as one of these role models and is advocating that Weight Watchers® and her own weight-loss process should be the way for all women. Via computer, she has "personally" written to thousands of women, inviting them to join her on her quest for traditionally acceptable beauty.

Because of our tendency to look for rules and ideals, even when we say no to one of the big outside rules—diets—we assume that the Overcoming Overeating road will be exactly the same for everyone, that there is, indeed, a right way to do it. We suggest an alternative. We want to promote the concept of the many roads to Overcoming Overeating, each one reflecting the individual's unique experience. A true sense of connection and community results when we look not only at the similarities we experience as we integrate Overcoming Overeating into our lives but when we also learn to tolerate and treasure the differences we experience as we travel along our individual paths.

Let's take an example. Denise struggled with herself for a long time about packing and carrying a food bag. One week, she was delighted to report to the group that she had finally been able to pack a new, more convenient food bag with lots of foods she really enjoyed. She felt great relief and felt good about herself as a demand feeder. "I've heard you talk about food bags again and again, but this time it really clicked for me. I feel as if I finally got it right."

The group was excited for Denise, but very soon other participants started talking about their own lack of success with the food bag. They assumed that Denise was doing it right and were comparing themselves to her—as if what was right for Denise would be right for each of them (and, for that matter, would be right for Denise all the time from now on!) Denise's food bag became the ideal food bag with all the right foods packed perfectly. "None of those foods ever occur to me," said one woman wistfully. "I don't carry a food bag every day," said another. "Maybe I should try harder to do that."

When we say no to the diet road, we often assume that we are all on another road together—a clearly defined Overcoming Overeating road. And not only are we all on the same road, but we are walking at the very same pace. The women in Denise's group who felt inadequate after hearing about her success thought that because they all began the journey at the same time, they should arrive at their destination simultaneously.

Groups are always particularly discombobulated when one or two people lose weight rather quickly as a result of demand feeding and others go on for years without any change in size. Is there a right way that leads to weight loss? Think about it. Some of you have struggled with dieting and compulsive eating for most of your lives. Your history—and your metabolism—are quite different from someone who has not dieted very much. Some of you come from families of large people, others of you have a different heritage. Some of you find a hunger for exercise in the same way you found stomach hunger; others of you will always experience exercise as a weight loss measure that you rebel against. Some of you feel comfortable when demand feeding leads to a change in your size; others do not feel as comfortable about it.

Each woman has her unique history and present circumstances; her process will reflect both her past and her present. When you try to push yourself further than where you are ready to be, you end up a little further "back" than where you were when you started yelling at yourself. Respecting your unique needs and pace will ease you into Overcoming Overeating in the one way that is right for you.

We encourage you to observe your successes and difficulties staying on your own Overcoming Overeating path and tune in to your internal barometer to answer the question, "Am I doing it right?" Ask yourself, "Am I feeling truly satisfied with the foods I am eating? Do I have all the foods available to me that allow me to be a good demand feeder of myself? How do my eating experiences feel to me? If no one else in the world were using this approach, how would I feel about myself and my eating now as opposed to when I began? Where am I on my road and where do I want to go?" Your particular experiences help weave the rich tapestry of the work we are doing together.

Please write to us about your experiences with any aspect of this approach—legalizing and stocking; the when, what and how much of eating; self-acceptance; food bags—and any of your experiences on your particular journey that have meaning to you. Remember that the newsletter is meant to be a forum for nondieters, an exchange of ideas, information, questions and observations.

Judith Matz and Carol Coven Grannick

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