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Dear OO:

I would like some help on handling a situation that left me angry and upset…

A woman and her "husky" son were at the fish counter of a local grocery store. The mother asked the clerk if orange roughy was a "diet" fish. The clerk answered that it is a low-fat fish.

She then asked her son what size portion he could have according to his diet. He flipped through the stack of stapled paper he was holding to find the answer. It appeared that they had just come from a doctor's office as the papers did not have the sleek look of a corporate diet group's manual.

The mother announced that they were only buying diet food today. This poor child looked like he wished the floor could swallow him up.

This child is being set up for FAILURE. His mother probably thinks she is helping her son—she's only buying food for his diet today! What a sacrifice! Should we give her a medal?

I was so bothered by this incident. I wanted to yell at the mother—but instead, I yelled at myself for not doing anything.

What would be a better way of handling a situation like this?



Dear Eunice:

It is unfortunate that the situation you describe has been experienced by many of us. Feelings of anger, sadness, and helplessness are natural when you see a child treated in this way. After all, you have worked your way out of the cycle that this young boy may just be beginning. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could prevent this pain for him? However, just as you firmly believe that you have found a better way, this mother believes in what she is doing, and probably would not be able to hear anything different. You did nothing wrong by not intervening. Staying with your own feelings about the situation, rather than yelling at yourself, would be a more compassionate way for you to respond to yourself.

Because you feel strongly about the Overcoming Overeating approach, think about ways you might promote this work to newcomers to the antidiet philosophy. Perhaps you could invite a group of friends over to discuss the issues of body hatred and dieting; if you don't have a formal Overcoming Overeating group in your area, you might set up a peer support group. Or maybe each time you're included in a conversation about dieting, you could declare yourself diet-free and say a little about your philosophy. You overheard a discussion in the grocery store, but no doubt you're included in many other conversations on the topic.

Dear OO:

A few weeks ago I had my physical exam, and I was so surprised at the results! Ironically, the year I quit dieting and ate whatever I wanted, not giving a single thought to calories or fat content or even sugar content for that matter, I lost 24 pounds, my cholesterol came down from 241 to 215, and my blood sugar A1C test was 5.4 (nondiabetic level)! Was my doctor ever surprised! I made sure I told him about the Overcoming Overeating approach and how this was the year I quit dieting for good! He said, "Well, whatever you're doing, just keep doing it!" I'm not really even concerned about the weight loss or all these numbers, but I think it's really neat to have documented physical "proof" that this approach works. And when I say that it works, I mean I've achieved all these great results without being food-obsessed or weight-obsessed. I hardly ever give a thought to those issues anymore! I can hardly believe I'm the same person I was a little over a year ago when I started demand feeding!

I also wanted to let you know that my diabetes control is going really well. After talking with Dana Armstrong [Ed. note: Dana is a nutritionist who practices in Salinas, California, using the Overcoming Overeating ideas. She was interviewed in the Health Care Professionals Talk About Overcoming Overeating.] and getting some ideas, I sort of established my own methods. I'm using the same rule of thumb that I use in the OO approach—anything goes! I've sort of become more of an "observer" than a "judge" when it comes to blood sugar monitoring. I observe the results and make changes when necessary—but only if I want to make changes! And as far as the Coke vs. Diet Coke decision, I realized I don't have to make a decision! I have Diet Coke when I don't want a real sweet taste and I have Coke when I do. That's what I just love about this program—there are no blacks and whites, only greys! This gives me so much peace about everything. No more "shoulds" or "yelling" because there are no rules.

Recently, my husband and I purchased a NordicTrak® ski machine, and it was so funny. When I placed the order, the salesman wanted to know what health goals I had. We'd already discussed the fact that I weigh around 260 because I needed to know which model I should buy. So, of course, he assumed I wanted the machine for weight loss. What was so interesting is weight loss didn't even enter my mind! No kidding! I wanted the machine because I've had chronic fatigue syndrome for the past four years (and still do) and I wanted something that would be fun, but easy, that I could do when I felt like it.

I also want to help control my diabetes and lower my blood pressure and generally get my heart in good shape. I kept telling the salesman that if I happen to lose weight, that would be a good side benefit, but that wasn't my focus. He acted so surprised. I bet he hasn't been told that very often! Also, he was telling me how you just have to force yourself to do this every day and have a lot of willpower to keep it up. I told him that I'm not even calling it "working out." I don't like that term. I consider it a "toy" and I like to "play" on it. But if I don't want to, I don't have to. It's always my choice! That way I won't rebel against it! He thought that was a great new perspective and said he might try that attitude himself! We'll change the world, yet!


Dear OO:

I am still afraid to let enough time go by to feel my hunger signal. I get angry because it only takes a bite or two or three to satisfy my hunger when I do. Chewing and tasting are a big part of my life. I love to eat. I enjoy food immensely. But, you know, it rarely tastes as absolutely wonderful as I imagine it will. I wonder why that is.

I also am having a heck of a time figuring out less harmful ways to care for myself than eating. I really don't have a lot of things I'd rather do. I've even imagined if money was no object what would I like to do. Nothing much happens there either. Thanks for listening.


Dear Joanne:

You've raised several issues. Many women have a bittersweet feeling as they begin to reconnect eating with physiological hunger and discover that it often takes very little food to satisfy them. Your anger is understandable. Food has given you a lot of solace in your life. It has been your friend at the same time that it's been your enemy. Saying goodbye and mourning the loss of this friend is very difficult. But, think about what you get in return—yourself.

If the food isn't tasting as good as you imagine it should, it may be because food is no longer magical and it does not work as well to calm you down. This might make you a bit angry as well. Check to see whether at those moments the food doesn't taste especially good because you're trying to use it for emotional reasons. If you're responding to stomach hunger, perhaps you could make a better match.

Many people with eating problems would like to figure out other ways to care for themselves. But if you're a compulsive eater, when you need to turn to food to distract yourself from what's going on, another activity simply won't do it. Food symbolizes comfort and caretaking. The more you feed yourself when you're stomach hungry, the more cared about you'll feel; the more cared about you feel, the better the chances are that after a while, you'll be able to comfort yourself at difficult moments without turning to food. In the meantime, the best way to care for yourself at these moments of mouth hunger is to be compassionate about your need to turn to food and not reproach yourself for eating. The kinder you are, the less intense the mouth hunger will be.

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