Count It As A Vegetable and Move On

June 7, 2012
Stop the continual character assassination of diets, become more compassionate, and lose weight.


A ”Fond Farewell” Article

When I changed Support4Change to a new format, I needed to delete some articles that didn’t fit in the new site but were too good to completely throw away. So I have moved many of them here to the blog, where they will still be available and people can find them by using tags.

This is the sixth of seven articles on the topic of weight loss that appear on Thursdays. See the Getting Lighter Weight Loss Program, on May 3,  to get you started. Although this article is by someone else, the advice remains the same.



The following is from the book, Count It as A Vegetable…and Move On by Dolly Cowen, M.A. and Lynne Goldklang, M.A. The concept presented in this chapter is for everyone even though the subject matter is centered around weight issues.

Reprinted with permission

West Show Jersey July 2010 17“Count it as a vegetable and move on” started at one of my Weight Watcher’s meetings. Annie, one of my most dedicated members, was very upset because she had gained two pounds after six months of consistent weight loss. She was desperate.

“Dolly, I want to quit. I binged all weekend after all these months of being good. I even ate a whole cheesecake. How can I fix this? How can I count it? I feel like a failure”

I understood her frustration and longing to fix. That used to be me. I would go on a deprivation diet in an attempt to punish myself and undo the damage quickly. This kind of “fixing” led to self-contempt and giving up. I didn’t want this to happen to Annie and struggled to find the words that would reach her.

“Look Annie, you’re human. So you ate a whole cheesecake. There is no way to fix it and no way to count it unless you want to count it as all your fats for a year Why don’t you just pretend that the whole binge, cheesecake and all, was vegetables. Just count it as a vegetable and move on.”

She laughed and agreed to ease up on herself and get back on the program that worked so well for her. She went into the meeting room and told the rest of the group about her new mantra. By the time I came in to start the lecture, it was a hot topic of discussion.

It didn’t end with that meeting. People kept coming back week after week with examples of how they were using “Count it as a vegetable” to live with themselves in a better way.

I believe it touched so many people because we are longing for a way to stop our continual character assassination. We want to be more compassionate with ourselves but don’t know how.

“Count it as a vegetable” goes way beyond food issues. It is more than a technique to deal with minor incidents in life. There is always an
underlying deeper issue when we turn against ourselves.

Randi, a woman in one of my meetings described the “disaster” that occurred as she was ready to leave for work:

“I was racing through the house doing a million things when I threw on my clothes and noticed that my slacks were full of electricity. I ran into the kitchen and sprayed myself with Static Cling when suddenly I sensed that something was very wrong. I took a good look at the container in my hand and saw that in my haste I had grabbed a can of cooking spray and now had an oil slick all over me and the floor. I wanted to laugh at myself but all I could feel was fury at my stupidity. I knew my self-contempt was undeserved but couldn’t stop the inner tirade. What I needed to do was clean up and move on. What I actually did was change clothes and grab a brownie to soothe my feelings instead of a mop to clean the floor. I came home to that slimy mess at the end of a long workday.”

We talked about the incident in the meeting and it became clear that Randi’s reaction had nothing to do with the spray mix-up. The real issue was her unrealistic desire to be a person who would never make that mistake. Her image of herself as superwoman–in charge and in control –was badly damaged.

As we talked, Randi recognized that the eating and beating herself up did nothing to eliminate the mess or give her what really wanted–protection against making those kinds of careless mistakes in the future.

We resist softening our inner dialogue even though it feels so good to treat ourselves with respect. We are afraid we will do nothing and be
nothing if we drive ourselves with a steering wheel instead of a whip. It takes deep work to be self-forgiving and move on.

That inside voice goes back to childhood. Many of us were raised with punitive parents who may have loved us but believed that children learn best through blaming and shaming. They were not quick to forgive. They wanted us to learn from what happened so we wouldn’t do it again.

My parents were in the Holocaust and survived an environment where a mistake could mean death. They were hard on my brother and me because that was the only way they knew to keep us safe.

We continue the parenting we grew up with through our inner talk. There is something about the guilt and shame that feels necessary. We are living out that old tape that says: “I’ll teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.” If we just forgive ourselves easily then we think we won’t learn anything. We believe that we have to parent ourselves in the way it was done to us.

We get confused about the use of self-power. If we attack ourselves over the oil slick or the eating binge or some other mistake, we can be powerful in our anger and get a momentary high from the adrenaline rush. When I turn against myself, I have the illusion I am doing something about the situation even though I’m just wallowing in the feelings of self-contempt. The punitive inner dialogue saps the energy needed to move forward.

A friend has a slogan hanging in her office that says: “I don’t worry much about tomorrow but I keep hoping yesterday will get better.” As long as long as we are busy attacking ourselves, we get to stay in the fantasy that we can redo the past.

Each of us may look like a grown-up to the rest of the world but inside we are the two year old who cries when the vacuum cleaner goes on and shout “NO” all day with only minor impact on those big people making all the decisions.

We long for control over everything from the cheesecake to the earthquake. We get disillusioned when we find we can’t even control ourselves–at least, not without ongoing work.

Control is a very big issue. I see over four hundred people a week in my meetings and the discussion often turns to handling setbacks and poor choices–those times when we feel “out of control.” We were talking about what really goes on at a deep level when we get ballistic over our mistakes.

The gut-wrenching reaction for most of my members is major disappointment that turns to self-outrage. We reflexively fight against any relief that would come from being gentler with ourselves because of the voice inside proclaiming: “You should have known better.”

Many of us grew up believing that when we make a mistake we were bad. Little infractions often felt like sins. “I’m ashamed of you” was used for the “B” on a report card or a missed catch on the playing field.

We were often in trouble just for being young and inexperienced. Our little hands would drop the full glass of milk. We would forget to wipe off the muddy shoes before walking in the house. We would leave toys on the floor and want to watch TV when it was time for homework. A gentler approach with ourselves forces us to abandon old tapes that contain the messages that have been with us forever. Shutting off those familiar tapes can feel like killing off our parents and teachers and all the other big people that were part of our childhood world.

The message many of us got was “I can’t trust you to behave right.” Now when we have an instinct about what is good or bad in our lives whether it be a food, job or person, it is easy to discount that inner message with: “What do you know? Why should I listen to you, anyway? You’re not trustworthy.” We make decisions about feeding friends or family members but we turn to “experts” to tell us what to eat. We often feel self-contempt because we turned away from our own inner knowing.

Some of my group members had parents who would stay mad for the whole day but would be over it by morning so that when everyone woke up life was back to normal. My members felt exonerated as if they had a clean slate. Many of us are good at taking a tiny mistake and letting it ruin the whole day so we can have the feeling of being pure and fresh when the sun rises on the new morn. We binge today and hope for a tomorrow when we will be the perfect dieter, I think the process of embracing “count it as a vegetable and move on” starts by grieving those places inside us where we still feel wounded. It is very hard to get to the “moving on” without feeling the pain of accepting that whatever has happened is a done deal and there’s nothing we can do about it. Until we let go of our yesterdays, we are still trying to make it different. If we can bring back the flawed moment, we will have another chance. Letting go is accepting that there are no more chances with that particular circumstance. We will have new opportunities but not with the one that has past. It’s really over.

A man in one of my groups was furious with himself because he lost ten thousand dollars on a computer transaction. The money loss was a big financial blow and he believed that he let his family down. It had been over a month and he was still ruminating over the crisis. His weight went up and his mood continued to spiral down. His wife did everything she could to be a source of comfort to him She even drove him to the beach and they walked along the ocean and watched the waves on a beautiful Southern California day. It didn’t help. He was still overwhelmed by guilt, beating himself up without mercy.

Finally, his wife was done with compassion and turned to him shouting: “Enough already. I don’t care how much money it is or what a jerk you think you are. I want you to count it as a vegetable and move on!”

He was shocked but got the message and finally let go of the negative energy and began dealing with his grief. He sobbed and let himself mourn not only the lost money but also the death of the illusion that he could never make that kind of mistake. It wasn’t easy but when he let go of the self-contempt and grieved, he was able to move on to begin the process of recouping financially. When he released the self-hatred he also stopped using food as an emotional pain killer.

He was fortunate to have a loving wife who encouraged him to be self-forgiving. We may be ready to “count it as a vegetable” but people we care about may not be as supportive as we would wish when it comes to our human foibles.

The other day I filled up my gas tank, paid at the pump and began to drive off when I heard this huge noise. I looked around and saw the man from the station wildly waving his arms and screaming at me to stop. It was then that I realized I had driven off with the gas pump attached to my car.

Of course, I was horrified as I saw the damage to the pump and my car. I knew the insurance would take care of the expenses but I was still shaken up. However, by the time I headed for home, I was fine with myself and hysterically laughing over the whole incident. It was truly an “I Love Lucy” moment in life.

I got home and talked to some of my friends. They couldn’t stop laughing at the image of me driving away connected to the gas pump. Then my husband came home. Alan is a good man who spent years as Chief of Paramedic Services for Los Angeles. In his work, a mistake could cost lives. He also is a guy who loves his car that it was part of the family.

In spite of everything I knew about my Alan, I still expected him to hear my story and laugh, saying to me: “That’s the funniest thing I ever heard. That’s my honey. You’re so adorable. I just love that about you–those funny little things you do.”

Now I no longer felt okay about myself. I felt shame and wished I could disappear. My stomach was in knots and I wanted to either eat or start an argument with Alan. Instead I sat down and just let myself feel the disappointment for a few minutes.

The “grieving” was not about what happened at the gas station but about my sorrow that I would never have unconditional love from my husband or anyone. I also had to grieve that I no longer was going to ease my emotional pain by eating. It took all my strength but I was able to get up and go on with the day without dragging the incident around just like I did the pump.

“Count it as a vegetable” is a vivid affirmation that we can go on whether we are dealing with small mistakes of the moment or big issues from the past. Just becoming aware of the concept can start the process of being kinder to ourselves. It is a concept that moves steadily from head to heart. It doesn’t prevent emotional pain nor does it exonerate us from the damage we have done to ourselves or others. The spilled milk, broken objects, hasty words and other actions have consequences that still need attention. We need a tool to stop the energy drain of tying to undo the past and be perfect in the present. We need a reminder that pencils have erasers, computers have a delete button and human beings will continue to be human.


“Count it as a vegetable and move on” is both a tool for future progress and a light-hearted reminder of our membership in the human, not superhuman species.

If you have any questions or comments, you can call Lynne at (323) 874-5097. If you wish to order the book, call Dolly at (818) 725-3235 or order from

Vegetable photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


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Eating Just Until You’re Through

May 31, 2012
Here is a very special imagery script for people who want to “get lighter” and also to lose weight.


A ”Fond Farewell” Article

When I changed Support4Change to a new format, I needed to delete some articles that didn’t fit in the new site but were too good to completely throw away. So I have moved many of them here to the blog, where they will still be available and people can find them by using tags.

This is the fifth of seven articles on the topic of weight loss that appear on Thursdays. See the Getting Lighter Weight Loss Program, on May 3,  to get you started.


By Jill Place, MA, RD

If you’re overweight, you most likely overeat. Most of us who overeat eat quickly, don’t pay attention to our hunger and — as a result — wonder where all that food on our plates went. You can begin to change that behavior by picturing yourself eating slowly and feeling fullness radiating throughout your whole body. Now here is a script for those of us who overeat.

[ NOTE: To help you get the most out of this guided imagery exercise, you may want to read some articles in the Imagery and Symbols section of Support4Change. ]

In your special inner place as you take in what is all around you with each and every one of your senses . . . you notice just out of the corner of your eye a TV screen.

And so . . . breathing normally in and out . . . I invite you to walk over to the screen and turn on the TV. On the TV you see yourself eating. See the place where you are eating and who is with you in this place. Notice how you feel about watching yourself eating.

Now picture yourself taking a step toward the screen to get a better look at the way you are eating. Notice that you may be eating in a different way than you normally do. Watch yourself on the screen looking down at the plate of food in your eating-place on the stage. Notice that you take awhile to see each food on the plate. And instead of eating them right away notice that you look at them for a very long time. You see yourself noticing the color, the aroma, the texture, the color of the foods on the plate. You see yourself really wanting the food. You see yourself not being able to wait another minute before you taste it. And when you do taste it, you notice you’re now eating the food in slooow motion. You see yourself slllloooowwwwly raising one of the foods on the plate to your lips. You see yourself sllllooowwwly tasting a small bite of the food, sllllooowwwly rolling it around in your mouth, slllooowwwly chewing it . . . You see yourself loving the taste, texture, and temperature of the food. The experience on the screen may become so real that you almost feel the taste, texture, and temperature of the food yourself.

You see yourself repeating this experience with the next bite of food (pause) and the next (pause) until you suddenly notice that you are very full. You are satisfied. And suddenly you just don’t want to eat anymore. You feel full and satisfied with the food you’ve eaten. The experience on the screen may become so real that you may feel a little bulge in your stomach and that fullness feeling slowly radiating throughout your whole body. You are full from your head to your toes. And . . . even though you love it . . . you no longer want the food anymore.

Now picture yourself pushing the plate away. And picture yourself getting up from and leaving your eating-place. And see that you’re very happy to leave the food behind and go onto something else in your day that will be as rewarding as eating. See yourself walking happily out of the picture. Forgetting the plate of food and moving on to some other rewarding activity in your day. And all that is left behind on the screen is the eating-place and the still-full plate of food.

And sooo . . . now picture yourself going over to the TV and turning it off. And happily going about your day with that fullness still radiating from your head to your toes. And going onto something else in your day that will be as rewarding as eating.

And so . . . I’m going to count from five to one and when I get to one you’ll be back in the room. Five . . . move your fingers and toes. Four . . . begin to move the rest of your body and strreeetch. Three . . . while you’re still stretching your body begin to open your eyes. Two . . . open your eyes. And one . . . you’re back in the room.

© Copyright 2002, Jill Place, MA, RD


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The Tale of Three Who Got “Lighter”

May 24, 2012
Discover how a conflict between two parts of our personalities, the part that wants to lose weight and the part that doesn’t, prevent us from achieving weight loss.


A ”Fond Farewell” Article

When I changed Support4Change to a new format, I needed to delete some articles that didn’t fit in the new site but were too good to completely throw away. So I have moved many of them here to the blog, where they will still be available and people can find them by using tags.

This is the fourth of seven articles on the topic of weight loss that appear on Thursdays. See the Getting Lighter Weight Loss Program, on May 3,  to get you started.


By Jill Place, MA, RD

Call Me Crazy

I always think that my clients will call me crazy when I tell them that we have at least two parts to our personalities, one that wants to lose weight and one that doesn’t. I always think they’ll call me crazy. But they don’t. Instead they smile and say, “I know EXACTLY what you mean!”

PastriesI’ve dieted all my life. But when I decided to quit dieting and Get Lighter instead, I realized that I had a little voice inside of me. A voice that was growing louder by the moment. A voice that was SCREAMING at me to binge on whole cakes and boxes of red licorice. It was then that I realized that there was someone inside of me that was more scared than I was to give up dieting.

I found out that the little voice screaming inside of me was called a sub-personality. I’m not a therapist, but I worked with one at that time that believed that recognizing sub-personalities was an important part of healing your psyche. As a matter of fact, there’s a whole model of psychotherapy called the Psychosynthesis model. Its goal is to heal the relationship between these splintered sub-personalities that compel you to do things you might not want to do and your Healthy Self or Higher Self-the part of you that does everything for your greatest good.

Recognizing that you have different sub-personalities doesn’t mean that you’re hearing voices, have multiple personalities, or that you’re crazy. But it may mean that at some time in your life you had some kind of emotional upset or subtle ongoing stresses from family dynamics. Families also pass on a way of behaving that may have to do with the time they grew up, their temperament And began to use food or other behaviors to soothe that upset. And in time those collection of behaviors may have created within you a whole sub-personality that perceived and reacted to the world very differently than your Healthy Self.

The Overeating Self

I call the overeating sub-personality the Overeating Self. When I had my eating disorder, my Overeating Self and Healthy Self were always at war over what and how much they should eat. And the Overeating Self often won. When I seriously started to Get Lighter, I began to make friends with the Overeating Self-the part that was so scared-the part that was screaming.

My mother had stuffed me with food almost from birth because I was a very sickly child. Then they took out my tonsils and I got better. My mother stopped stuffing me. But I started stuffing myself. My first closet eating began about age four right after my tonsils were removed and I started feeling better. I eventually developed an eating disorder. The Overeating Self sub-personality became stronger and stronger and eventually ruled a large part of my life.

The journey out of my eating disorder was mostly about making friends with my Overeating Self. And understanding why she used food as a coping mechanism. And honoring how she developed that coping mechanism as a way to deal with the world around her. She’s now my closest friend. And she’s also stopped stuffing.

So when I started counseling overeating clients, I made it a point to explain about the Overeating Self. And no one called me crazy. As a matter of fact, I met people who had more than one self-more than one sub-personality-who was controlling their eating. Here’s the compelling stories of just a few of them.


I first had an inkling that some people may have more than one sub-personality that contributed to their overeating when I met Linda. Linda was a patient at the last HMO that I worked at, and tracked me down after I left to start my private practice. Linda had tried this diet, that diet, Overeater’s Anonymous, and hypnosis to stop her ballooning weight. And was more out of control with her eating than ever. She told me that my way of approaching overeating was the only thing that made sense to her after years of trying other things. We worked with her Overeating Self for six months but couldn’t seem to get anywhere with her weight or boosting her sagging self esteem.

Then Linda came in one day with a character analysis of three separate parts of her that might be contributing to her problem neatly typed on a piece of paper. I still have that paper in my files. Doing that process was a huge breakthrough for Linda. And a breakthrough for me in my work with sub-personalities.

The sub-personality that she called Little Linda, who was about four, was very different from my four-year-old closet eater. She was carefree, happy, knew who she was, and didn’t overeat. But something must have happened to Linda about age six or seven, because her demeanor totally changed. Middle Linda was sullen, withdrawn, and often went to the store down the block for a candy binge. But Older Linda, tottering on puberty at age 11, was very much like Little Linda-happy, carefree, enjoying her early puberty, her woman’s body, and her sudden popularly with the boys.

All this time we were talking to the wrong Linda! We found that, if we talked directly to Middle Linda, we were able to find out some of the reasons why Linda overate and hated herself so much for it. And, the more we found out, the more Linda could eat moderately and stop a binge before it started.

But we were also able to tap into the wonderful energies of Little Linda and Older Linda and work on the poor self-esteem that was also feeding Linda’s eating. Linda, once a performer, was then a full-time housewife. Although she loved her husband, children, and home, she had no creative outlet. I encouraged her to get involved in little theatre groups or express herself in other ways.

Today, Linda is still overweight. But she says she’s accepted herself the way she is. In other words, she’s made peace with Middle Linda. She’s lost about twenty-five pounds overall, kept it off, and doesn’t obsess much about food. She’s also the star of her little theatre group and recently got an agent and is pursuing an acting career. She also discovered she has a talent for art and is pursuing that too. Linda now has it all, self-acceptance, self-esteem, and the love of her family and community.


Steve is one of my best friends. He’s ebullient, eminently creative, and larger than life. As a matter of fact, he weighed over 400 pounds at one time. Obviously, Steve has struggled with his weight since he was a small child. Through our work on the Overeating Self, Steve discovered that he had two distinct overeating personalities which he calls Big Steve and Little Steve.

It was important to identify these two personalities because both constantly prodded Steve to overeat in different ways. We found that Little Steve liked sweets, while Big Steve liked starches. So, like Linda, Steve had to negotiate with the right sub-personality to get his overeating under control. He constantly talked with both of them and was able to talk them out of overeating more and more.

At my urging, and with the permission of his “Two Steves”, Steve also went on a low-carbohydrate diet. Because he was so overweight, Steve most likely had what is called insulin resistance, or Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome makes it more difficult for very overweight people to lose weight. Because he is so creative and loves to cook, Steve was able to find and prepare low-carbohydrate alternatives to the “Two Steves'” favorite foods.

As a result of his diet change and asking permission from the “Two Steves” to change his eating behaviors, Steve lost 100 pounds. He’s still on the journey, but has been able to get a handle on his weight and overeating for the first time in almost fifty years.


Paul has two overeating sub-personalities that define the overeating process for me. He calls one of them “The Animal.” According to Paul, The Animal is that mindless force inside us that he has to feed at all costs. To me, The Animal is the archetypal nurturing of the body, mind, and spirit. This archetype can be fed in many ways. But Paul feeds his Animal primarily with food.

The other sub-personality Paul calls “The Evil Genius.” It’s the job of the Evil Genius to plot and plan and get the Animal whatever he needs to eat. I think all of us that overeat have an Evil Genius inside that’s plotting our next meal. The Animal must be fed and the Evil Genius will move heaven and earth to feed him.

Paul’s still on the path with coming to terms with the Animal and the Evil Genius. And I applaud him for identifying and talking to these intense primal parts of himself. I think they terrify him sometimes. He still feels that he has to feed the Animal at all costs. But now he’s aware of them. And with awareness comes a possible strategy for dealing with these overeating personalities in a positive way.

Paul’s exercising almost every day, which he never did before. He cooks and eats low-fat meals. And he’s beginning to want to make better food choices when he eats out, which he thinks is a problem area for him. He’s on the path to coming to terms with these sub-personalities in his life.

How to Get a Handle on Your Overeating Self

You can see by my stories that you may be able to get a handle on your overeating by meeting the parts of you that compel you to overeat. There are actually many ways to do this, such as:

  • Meeting with a qualified professional, such as a Nutrition Therapist, who can role-play and/or use guided imagery to help you connect with your Overeating Selves
  • Becoming aware of what the Overeating Self is saying to you by meditating or just listening
  • Drawing a picture of your Overeating Self and coloring it in with markers, watercolors, or any other type of art media. The more specific the image becomes, the better you will be able to address it.
  • Writing or journaling a dialogue of the Overeating Self talking to the Healthy Self
  • Using guided imagery. Guided imagery is a terrific tool for connecting with your Overeating Self. For more information about guided imagery, please read Getting Lighter with Guided Imagery in this section. There are also many guided imagery scripts in this section and on this website that may start you on the journey.

© Copyright 2002 Jill Place, MA, RD


Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


A Journey Toward Getting Lighter

May 17, 2012
A food expert shows a better way to lose weight than grief, guilt, and obsession, demonstrating that losing weight can be more than weight loss.


A ”Fond Farewell” Article

When I changed Support4Change to a new format, I needed to delete some articles that didn’t fit in the new site but were too good to completely throw away. So I have moved many of them here to the blog, where they will still be available and people can find them by using tags.

This is the third of seven articles on the topic of weight loss that appear on Thursdays. See the Getting Lighter Weight Loss Program, on May 3,  to get you started.


By Jill Place, MA, RD

So you’re probably wondering what to do now that you’ve let go of your belief that diets help you lose weight. And you’ve tossed away the latest diet book or the paper with those neat, cute little boxes on it.

Feet on scaleEven if you’re just considering tossing your dieting beliefs in the trash, I applaud you for being brave. And trusting that there’s got to be a better way to lose weight than grief, guilt, obesity, and obsession. Now I invite you to look at weight loss in a whole new way. Even if it’s scary. As a matter of fact, let’s rename this whole process. The words “weight loss” are just too limiting. And consider what these words are saying to you. When you “weight” for something it never happens. And when you “lose” something you’re always trying to find it. So how are you going to reshape yourself when you’re waiting forever for it to change or always trying to regain it?

So why don’t you “Get Lighter” instead? The process of Getting Lighter involves a lot more than weight loss. When you Get Lighter, you not only lighten up your body but your mind and spirit as well.

My Getting Lighter Story

I’ve been moving toward Getting Lighter since I was born. I’ve been overeating all my life. I can’t remember when I didn’t diet. I did high-protein, low protein, predigested protein, Fit for Life, Unfit for Life, and Fat for Life. With each diet, my obsession with food grew until I found myself roaming the supermarket aisles late at night because I couldn’t sleep and scarfing up a whole cake and a box of red licorice on the way home.

My weight yo-yoed as long as I can remember. I was almost anorexic when I was acting. Every other actress was thinner and more beautiful than me. I was too afraid to eat. When I didn’t have a reason to be thin, I ate and ballooned. I’ve been all the way from 112 to 180. Size 6 to popping out of a size 16.

I was so obsessed with food that I became a Registered Dietitian. And as a Registered Dietitian, I ate myself into an awful state as the spokesperson for Health Valley Foods in 1993. I was eating endless samples of fat-free goodies nonstop for eight hours a day for a baking cookbook we were writing. When I found that I had gained TWENTY-FIVE POUNDS and was popping out of my size-ten suits, I freaked! Here I was going around telling people “Just eat fat-free and lose weight” and I was gaining instead! I made a conscious decision to Get Lighter instead of dieting. I lost the twenty-five pounds and have kept it off for almost ten years.

Before I was ready to Get Lighter, I did a lot of therapy. I healed some emotional wounds that I was stuffing down with food since I was a small child. Then I explored why I overate. So when I was finally ready, I used the principles of non-dieting and learned how to eat like thin people eat. I even had a boy friend around that time who totally ate like a thin person. It was difficult to plan meals around him because he only ate when he was hungry. I learned a lot.

The Getting Lighter Plan

I also learned that there are many books about non-diet weight control. But most of them talk only about the process of relearning to eat like a thin person. Few of them talk about the underlying reasons why people overeat. And if they do, they don’t talk about it in a sequential way so that you can work and rework all the steps to Getting Lighter. I wanted to create a real foundation to replace those diet books and neat, cute little menu boxes.

So I enlisted the aid of my friend and colleague, Arlene Harder, MA, MFT. I’m a personal veteran of Getting Lighter and have counseled eating disordered and overweight clients for years, but I felt I needed a therapist’s perspective. Together we came up with a step-by-step approach so you can find out how you feel about the world, how you feel about your life, how you feel about your body, how you feel about others, and how all that information relates to the way you use food. The first part of Getting Lighter is about you. The second part is about how you deal with food. When you Get Lighter, you not only lighten up your body but your mind and spirit as well.

Getting Lighter in Many Ways

Getting Lighter also shows you how to connect to your relationship to food in several ways. Most self-help books encourage you to process your feelings by writing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t process things in that way. Even though I write for a living, I’m also an actor and acting teacher who was has studied and taught Method acting and improvisation for many years. Because of my acting experiences, I’ve worked out a lot of the answers to my life questions and my relationship to food by moving my body, improvising, and imaging. Acting training is so healing that one of my acting students continually writes “therapy”, “ongoing therapy”, and “continuing therapy” on his checks. When I finally decided to Get Lighter, I connected with my inner process by using guided imagery to meet my ideal self and using movement to join with that ideal self.

That’s why there are four ways to help you to Get Lighter. Four ways to build a physical, mental, or creative bridge between the inner world and the outer world.

When you’re doing The Writing Way you’re answering the step-by-step Get Lighter questions by recording and journaling your answers, thoughts, and feelings.

In The Art Way you can answer the same Get Lighter questions by drawing, coloring, collaging, or any other artistic endeavor.

The Image Way uses guided imagery scripts to help you Get Lighter. Guided imagery is a powerful tool to help you change your mind by taking a fantasy trip to meet, for example, your ideal self or the part of you that overeats. When you do guided imagery you can get out of the thinking mode and into the feeling mode where change might take place faster and easier.

In The Moving Way, you can have a similar experience to guided imagery by doing the same exercise physically instead of mentally. For example, instead of picturing your ideal self in your mind, you can move like your ideal self or dance with your ideal self.

You can also use more than one way to look at a question or exercise. Whatever works for you. That’s the beauty of Getting Lighter. If one thing doesn’t work, try another.

The goal of Getting Lighter is to explore your belief systems one by one to find out what serves you or doesn’t serve you on your Getting Lighter journey. Once you can see your unique journey clearly with all its obstacles, traps, and potholes, you may have acquired enough knowledge to change your body once and for all instead of rollercoastering, yo-yoing, and those other things you do when you’re dieting. So I invite you to Get Lighter!

© Copyright 2002 Jill Place, MA, RD


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A Diet This Dietitian Never Gives Anyone

May 10, 2012
A registered dietitian discusses how diets are empty promises that are unsuccessful for at least 95% of those who try them. 


A ”Fond Farewell” Article

When I changed Support4Change to a new format, I needed to delete some articles that didn’t fit in the new site but were too good to completely throw away. So I have moved many of them here to the blog, where they will still be available and people can find them by using tags.

This is the second of seven articles on the topic of weight loss that appear on Thursdays. See the Getting Lighter Weight Loss Program, on May 3,  to get you started.


By Jill Place, MA, RD

Overweight man standing on broken scaleAnn, a medical assistant at a very busy HMO in Los Angeles, came to my office begging me to help her lose weight. She said that she had no problem eating a small breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. But from the moment she arrived at work, she overate nonstop until she went to bed at night. Then she did something I’ll never forget. She asked me for BREAKFAST menus. My immediate response was, “Why are breakfast menus so important to you? Breakfast seems to be the one time of day when you have no trouble with food.”

What is this fascination we have with menus and diets? I hear over and over again from clients, “I think I need STRUCTURE. A diet will give me STRUCTURE. Give me a DIET!” What they’re really saying is “I want an easy way OUT”. What they’re really saying is, “I want a MAGIC PILL. A magic pill that I can take and instantly end up 50 pounds slimmer”. As if the sheer act of holding the piece of paper with the diet on it might work that spell on us.

Diets Don’t Help Us Lose Weight

Those little pieces of diet paper don’t help us lose weight. They actually help us get heavier. Statistically, over 50% of the American population is overweight. And the diet industry, which brings in $45 billion a year to help us get lighter, has about a five percent success rate. In addition, 2/3 of us who actually lose weight regain it within one year, and virtually all of us regain it within five years.

Diets obviously don’t work. But most of us never ask why. We just try another diet. We’ve forgotten that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The act of dieting over and over again is probably why we get stuck in the belief that diets will help us lose weight…even if they don’t.

If you really want to lose weight, you might want to let go of the belief that diets help you lose weight. And finding out why diets don’t work may help you let go of that belief. Here are some of the reasons.

Why Diets Don’t Work

One of my friends once made a very astute comment that I’ll never forget. “I don’t understand that what I put in my mouth affects my body,” she said. You can call it resistance, misunderstanding, or brain farts, but most of us don’t really understand that doing a diet is a major lifestyle change. We think that if we buy the book or post the menu on our fridge that something will magically happen. In reality, dieting takes a lot of soul-searching, hard work, and problem-solving. And most of us are unwilling to do any of that for very long.

A diet is a bunch of foods we don’t like in portions usually too tiny for our appetites that we must eat at specific times of the day. NO ONE ACTUALLY EATS THAT WAY. I remember a diabetic client who was so confused by all the conflicting diet information he received that he was actually too afraid to eat. He got too thin. But he was unusual. The deprivation that most diets bring usually makes us eat more and put on weight.

One of the ways diets make us eat more is that they set up a “good food-bad food” scenario in our heads. As soon as we get that piece of paper and read about all the foods we can’t have, we feel deprived. We grow to hate the “good foods” we’re supposed to eat on the diet. And we can’t stop craving the “bad foods” that we’re not supposed to eat. That is, until we eat a ton of those “bad foods”—a whole cake or a box of cookies or chocolate bon bons. Once we think that some foods are “bad”, it may be hard to stop binging on them. So diets actually create and perpetuate bad habits…and weight gain.

When you diet, you also stop eating like thin people eat. You know them, the ones that can eat cheesecake and never gain weight. Thin people eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re satisfied. They have an internal mechanism that keeps them thin. You had the same internal mechanism too, once upon a time. But when you dieted, you felt deprived, you ate, and you gained weight. You began to obsess about food. And you lost track of the simple mechanism that thin people have that keeps them thin.

Diets also don’t work because what we’re really trying to do with dieting is change our lives. And become lovable. We think that if we change our body shape that we’ll have everything we want…money, a beautiful home, a beautiful spouse, a beautiful life. We’ll be eternally happy. But it doesn’t work that way. I’ll never forget standing in a checkout line right after I had lost a tremendous amount of weight. There was a mirror on the wall tilted to reflect the checkout area. I looked up and wondered who that skinny person was standing on line. It was me! I didn’t recognize myself. Instead of being happy about my foxy form in the mirror, I was terrified! Is it any wonder that I put the weight back on?

Diets also don’t work because the word “diet” has too much failure attached to it for the 95% or more who don’t succeed. The word “diet” has too much grief, guilt, and obsession attached to it. The word “diet” has the word “die” in it.

The Diet I Never Give Anyone

I know that diets don’t work. And I know why. So THE DIET I’LL NEVER GIVE TO ANYONE is the no-one-actually-eats-that-way diet. The one that comes in those neat, cute little boxes. The one that condemns you to a cookie-cutter existence of ½ cup of broccoli, 1 cup of rice, and a 3-ounce chicken breast. The one that condemns you to grief, guilt, obesity, and obsession.

I prefer instead to give people diet CONCEPTS. And ways to accomplish those concepts. These concepts sometimes come in those neat, cute little boxes. But I encourage people to think outside the diet box. I encourage them to make their own choices. If you take the information, make it your own, and find a way to make it work for you, you can bypass the grief, guilt, and obsession. And get right down to making positive lifestyle changes. For example, I told the diabetic who was too confused to eat that things like starches, fruits, milk, and sweets would raise his blood sugar. So it might be a good thing if he didn’t eat so much of these things. When he understood that it was okay to eat all foods, but he could control his blood sugar better if he ate smaller amounts of certain ones, he was starving! Then we talked about what he really liked to eat. He was a meat-and-potatoes man. So I encouraged him to immediately go somewhere to eat and have a BIG steak and a SMALL baked potato with maybe a salad on the side. He ran out of my office to the first steak house he could find. And in the next two weeks he put on ten much-needed pounds.

So please consider any diets in neat, cute little boxes merely information. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. Make the information your own. And if you wonder how you’re going to survive without a those neat, cute little boxes or the latest diet book, please read next Thursday’s post, My Journey Toward Getting Lighter.

© Copyright 2002 Jill Place, MA, RD


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