Summary and Info
"Beyond a Shadow of a Diet" is an important guidebook for clinicians and therapists. The book summarizes and clinically pre-packages the so-called Non-Diet approach to helping clients manage their compulsive overeating. The Non-Diet approach, also known as physiologically attuned eating or "intuitive eating" (Tribole & Resch) or normal/natural/naturalistic eating (Craighead), is premised on the notion that people can be entrusted to self-regulate their eating on their own without the exoskeleton of dietary restrictions and constraints. As such, the book offers a highly humanistic path towards non-disordered eating.
The book, to my knowledge, is the first truly comprehensive non-diet approach guidebook for clinicians. "Selling" clients on a non-diet approach to managing compulsive eating is not simple clinical task. Most clients seeking assistance with weight issues have been heavily propagandized to believe that diet is the only way to recover control over their eating.
Matz and Frankely do a nicely nuanced job of highlighting the intricate complexity of helping clients shift from diet mentality to non-diet mentality. And (!) they begin this process on the clinician's side of the couch - in their second chapter, entitled "The Therapist Trap," the authors guide clinicians through an evaluation of their own (therapists') attitudes about the diet paradigm. This isn't merely a clever narrative angle at educating providers and clinicians about the pitfalls of dieting. Instead, it is an important reality check of the unconscious biases that might unwittingly inform clinical decision-making.
The main strength of the book is the wealth of practical guidance that it offers clinicians for both anticipating and neutralizing conceptual resistance from clients. Towards this end, the authors hand-hold clinicians throughout the book with offering a running sub-section entitled "presenting the concept." In addition to highlighting various subtleties of transitioning - or shall we say, detoxing - clients from diet mentality, the book offers numerous case vignettes and clinician-client transcripts for processing clients' ambivalence as well as clients' abuses of the proposed strategies. In similar vein, the book skillfully assists the clinicians in making sure that the humanistic position of entrusting the client with self-regulation is not misperceived by clients as a permission to over-indulge.
Perhaps, the biggest accomplishment yet, in my opinion, is the fact that the authors manage to avoid radical non-dietism, to coin a term. While they unequivocally condemn dieting, they also - rather wisely - acknowledge that "there are clients who are uncomfortable with some of the guidelines suggested by non-diet experts. As social workers, we are trained to `start where the client is.'" (p. 98). In this truly enlightened Harm Reduction thinking, Matz and Frankel model willingness to be clinically flexible and not pedantic about treatment protocols.
In sum, "Beyond a Shadow of a Diet" is - beyond a shadow of a doubt - an invaluable clinical tool.
Pavel Somov, Ph.D.
Author of "Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time" (New Harbinger, 2008)
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