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“A must read for women ... an amazing read for men.”

“Recommended for libraries serving consumers, educators
and health professionals.”
—Library Journal


Afraid to Eat

Breaking Free in Today's Weight-Obsessed World


Softcover 352 pages $19.95

Hardcover 352 pages $27.95


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Women Afraid to Eat
Breaking Free in Today’s Weight-Obsessed World

by Frances M. Berg


AN AUTHORITY ON weight management, Berg provides the most comprehensive and socially responsible guide to dealing with weight-obsession available to date. Its scope, intensity and integrity are simply unparalleled. . . . Highly recommended to all readers from undergraduates and the general public to faculty and professionals.

—CHOICE, American Library Association


THIS BOOK SPEAKS the painful truth all women need to hear so that we can come home to our bodies.

—Jeanine Cogan, PhD
Research Psychologist, Washington, DC

WOMEN AFRAID TO EAT CHALLENGES the social and medical pressures to be thin. It shows in startling detail what the current warped norm for body shape (unachievable by most) is doing to women, how it harms them physically, emotionally, and socially. It takes an authoritative look at the many issues that negatively affect eating, weight, and how women feel about their bodies. . . It is also a handbook for change at the personal and cultural level. It offers women positive feelings, reaffirming that they can be healthy and attractive at any size.

— Midwest Book Review

 WHAT I LIKE MOST about Berg's approach is that she flings a coconut cream pie at the contention that thin equals fit. Even  more, she knows that we must make sure our girls recognize the distinction and start thinking in terms of how they feel more than how they look. The jackpot answer, which they're unlikely to believe until they experience it themselves, is that the better they feel, the better they look." 

—Minneapolis Star Tribune


 AFFIRMING AND LIBERATING, and a must-read for any woman who has ever obsessed over the size of her thighs.

—Sally E. Smith, Editor 
BBW Magazine

AN EXCEPTIONAL BOOK that can help high school students improve their health and well-being.

—What’s New

AMERICAN WOMEN ARE CAUGHT UP in a body-image crisis, afraid they’ll gain weight, afraid they will not lose down to their goal, afraid to fully nourish themselves. They feel oversized in one part or another and wish they were thinner. Women Afraid to Eat probes why this is happening at a time when women have more freedom than ever before. What are the powerful forces acting on women that make them feel defective if not thin? How did it happen that a woman’s value now is being judged by her degree of slimness, not her talent, insight or generosity?

Berg, a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, charges that the risks of obesity are being exaggerated, and the severe risks of eating disorders, malnutrition, and hazardous weight loss are ignored.

All public libraries will want at least two copies, one for the reference desk and a second for the circulating collection.

— Public Library Quarterly


EVERY PAGE IS PACKED with information, support and encouragement for women of all sizes. Bravo!

—Pat Lyons, RN, MA,
Co-Author, Great Shape
Oakland, Calif.

AS EDITOR AND FOUNDER of Healthy Weight Journal for the past 15 years, Berg is in a unique position to present the latest research described in her book. She analyzes the contrasting views of obesity and eating disorder specialists, size activists and the women who struggle with endless cycles of weight loss and regain. Berg believes that dieting can diminish women and keep them playing the anticipation game, instead of enjoying life to its fullest.

—Naples Daily News, Fla.

TRUE STORIES OF WOMEN FATALLY dieting to fit into smaller wedding gowns and avoiding medical checkups so that they won’t have to be weighed or ridiculed by their doctors help illustrate the problems. Throughout, Berg backs up her observations with research and statistics. She explains why women are so obsessed with their weight and calls for a change in the way overweight women are treated by society.

Recommended for libraries serving consumers, educators, and health professionals.

—Library Journal

A MUST READ FOR WOMEN ... an amazing read for men.

—Nancy King, MS, RD, Nutrition Therapist
La Canada, Flintridge, Calif.


A MUCH NEEDED BOOK. ...This is a practical approach to a difficult, multifactoral problem affecting many women in today's society. ... The author addresses the problems in today's weight‑obsessed world while providing direction in how to break free with a new approach that helps people and does not harm them. ... The book includes self‑help tools, questionnaires, health‑centered resources, websites, index and references.

—Doody’s Journal for Health Sciences Libraries

A WHOLESOME COMBINATION of sound research, good sense, and passionate commitment to the cause of healthy weights.

Ellen S. Parham, PhD, RD, LCPC
Professor of Dietetics and Nutrition
Northern Illinois University

, lists of help centers and national organizations, references (including websites) and helpful charts, graphs and sidebars are also provided.

— Fitness Management


DELIVERS WHAT THE TITLE SUGGESTS — tools women can use for “breaking free.” The powerful opening chapters give a stirring overview of the many forces acting on women to make them feel defective if they are not thin. It is explained how it came to be that, in our American society, a woman’s value is judged by her degree of slimness. Intellect, competence, generosity — none of these matter unless a woman meets the warped norm for body shape — a norm that is biologically unachievable by most people.

The tremendous human costs of our cultural imperative for thinness are put into sharp focus. For example, there are predictable personality changes accompanying caloric deprivation ... irritability, apathy, depression, self-centeredness are typical of women who severely curtail their food intake. The statement “Well-nourished women cannot be stereotyped but malnourished women are all alike” is typical of the thought-provoking perspective of this book.

—Karen Petersmarck, PhD, MPH, RD
Public Health Consultant, Division of Chronic Disease,
Michigan Department of Community Health


AN OVERVIEW OF OUR MAJOR WEIGHT AND EATING problems, and a delightfully simple, integrated framework for working to resolve them. The result is an important book that supports and extends the “health at any size” revolution, a revolution that Berg has helped to create.

Will be extremely useful for dietitians, nutritionists, fitness leaders and other professionals who work with women, and it could be a life saver for women of all ages and sizes.

—Gail Marchessault, RD, PHEc, PhD
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada


WOMEN AND WEIGHT IS THE LAST accepted prejudice of our society. A must read for women of the new millennium! Ms. Berg’s analysis of the images of women reveals great truths that our society has for so long chosen to ignore. The need for a paradigm shift to good health at any weight is long overdue.

—Linda L. Johnson, MS, Director School Health Programs
ND Department of Public Instruction


FRANCIE'S WORK IS CONSISTENTLY on the cutting edge. She asks questions that must be answered if we are to truly assist people in improving health. I often use both her journal and books as references for my lectures and writings.

—Karin Kratina, MA, RD, PhD,
Author, lecturer, Nutrition Therapist; Consultant,
Renfrew Centers of Philadelphia and Ft. Lauderdale


BERG WRITES IN PLAIN LANGUAGE, drawing from a variety of sources that include personal experience and research. Divided into two parts, a warning call and handbook for change, she makes the argument of acceptance through illustrating these issues. Her message: you can be healthy at any size.

Her prescription is an easy pill to swallow, if we can accept it: Stop dieting; eat in normal ways, at normal times; listen to internal body signals that tell us to eat when hungry and stop eating when full; and increase activity level. She also advocates “saying ‘no’ to the diet industry . . . to medical and media pressures to be thin and weak.”

As a culture, Berg said we need to accept larger people; to demand, through boycotts and letters to advertisers, that media stop ridiculing large people and strive for size, shape and age diversity.

— Bismarck Tribune

MAKES THE CASE FOR CHOOSING the freedom paradigm versus the control paradigm by contrasting the two and setting forth the facts needed to plant the seeds for change. I am pleased to see the message of health at any size brought forward and the effects of the diet industry exposed in Women Afraid to Eat.

—Linda Omichinski, RD
HUGS International


THIS SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING for all students in medical, nursing or dietetics programs. Perhaps then they would not be so flippant in recommending weight loss.

—Joanne Ikeda, MA, RD
Nutrition Education Specialist, Cooperative Extension
University of California, Berkeley

BERG EXPOSES THE UNHEALTHY COLLUSION between government, pharmaceutical companies and scientific research in the multi-billion dollar a year diet industry. ... She advocates building self-esteem, boycotting products with destructive images, school-based education programs, and using non-dieting weight counseling techniques.

—Ventures, American Dietetic Association

EVEN THOUGH THESE ISSUES AFFECT BOTH men and women, Berg focuses on women because of the enormous pressure on them to have a perfect body. Society favors the thin body. Having the perfect body is supposedly a sign of happiness and success. People are convinced by the promoters of fad diets that it is the individual, not the diet, who is a failure if weight is not lost or kept off.

Berg also makes the startling claim that there are links between medical journals, federal obesity groups and the diet industry. She says there are many university obesity researchers whose work is funded by the diet industry.

—Fargo Forum


A DANGEROUS EPIDEMIC is plaguing women desperate to lose weight: They’ve become too afraid to eat! In her startling new book Women Afraid To Eat, Berg warns that the all‑too‑common end result is damage to the body from dysfunctional eating and to the mind from distorted self‑image.



Women Afraid to Eat
Breaking Free in Today’s Weight-Obsessed World

by Frances M. Berg

You are capable, loveable, unique
You’re okay just as you are. You’re a unique person, capable and loveable, with special talents and traits, and this is a marvelous thing. No need to work on perfecting yourself. In fact, it can be self-defeating. It keeps a person locked in the anticipation trap, waiting and hoping to be “better.”

We each carry around two powerful instruments that can bring about positive, creative change in our lives . . .Visualizing and self-talk are powerful tools that can help change aspects of life that are not working for you. They can heal the past; help you view the world through more positive and realistic beliefs. . . .

actively, naturally
Life is more fun when we live actively. It’s the natural way for people to live. Being active is a pleasurable experience in a balanced life. It’s something you do for yourself, for the sheer joy of it, to increase your enjoyment of life, your mental well-being and self-esteem as well as to improve your health, your strength and your endurance. Even problems come into better perspective when we’re active.

The new approach to physical activity is more light-hearted . . . activity should be a pleasure in itself, not pursued just for good health, and certainly not for weight loss. . . . Take a self-trusting approach to exercise. Trust that you have the ability to know what’s best for you, what is enjoyable, what feels right. You are the expert on your own health and well-being. Find the activities that are right for you. . . .

I’d like to inspire you to give walking a fair trial. You won’t know those rewards till after they become a part of your life. Then tell me you don’t have time for this!

Our culture is deeply ambivalent about women and their bodies
Page through almost any magazine, look at almost any television show. Notice anything about the women there? It seems as if there is literally one model — one who is thin, youthful, beautiful and who, in reality, represents perhaps five percent of women in America.

Where are the other 95 percent?

In this struggle, every woman is made to feel a failure in her attempts to perfect her body and face. No matter what her successes in other areas of life, she falls short. She feels her body is constantly on display and being judged unfavorably. When girls and women are treated as objects, in advertising, television, men’s magazines, and pornography, and at the same time rendered weak, dependent, and self-critical – they are especially vulnerable.

In semi-starvation mode
A New York radio talk show host named Brian called me one day, to talk about why women are so obsessed with their bodies.

“When I hang out with chicks, sometimes all they want to talk about is how they should take fat off their thighs or waist, they shouldn’t eat this or that, and gotta lose some weight. They look just fine to me.” It’s boring, he said.

“And when you take them out to dinner they just pick at their food, right?” I countered.

He was astonished I could guess what went on during his dinner dates. “That’s right! And afterward I pay this huge bill, and nearly all the food is left on their plates.”

The sad thing is that half a continent away, I know all too much about Brian’s girlfriends and what’s uppermost on their minds — their weight, their body, and how to avoid eating in spite of gnawing hunger. Its how undernourished women act. This is living in semi-starvation mode.

Interestingly, well‑nourished women can’t be stereotyped, but half-starved women are all alike. During weight loss or food restriction three things happen. . .

Enjoy family meals
Eating well means tuning in to inner signals of hunger and fullness, taking pleasure in eating meals with family and friends, and enjoying balance, variety and moderation in food choices. Eating well means integrating all this with active living, which ensures that appetite mechanisms and other body functions are activated in a natural body rhythm.

Family meals, with the television off, are an important time for sharing. Eating mindfully allows your family to feel relaxed, comfortable, and in touch with their internal cues of hunger, appetite and satiety. Women need to be aware that the way they relate to food, eating, weight and body issues affects everyone around them. This has been ignored in the past 20 years of focusing on dieting, as if each woman stood alone and affected no one with her chaotic eating. Now we find there were always little eyes and ears paying close attention. .

Food is not our enemy, but our friend. Enjoy it for taste, texture, good health and the pleasure of eating with family and friends.

Evidence for larger, stable weight
There’s much evidence that keeping a stable weight through adult life is healthy for women and men of all sizes, and that large people can be very healthy, of course.

What does this mean for perfectly healthy large people who are continually being told by our health authorities that they are at risk? Do they start to believe it and make it a self-fulfilling prophecy? There is no justification whatever for this treatment. It’s barbaric, false, and needs to end.

Research confirms the wisdom of this new approach. Good health is associated with a positive attitude, optimism, healthy lifestyle and fitness, rather than weight loss, so-called “ideal” weight, and worry. . . . Optimism and feeling good about ourselves seems to guard our immune system. . . . Optimists expect good things to happen, and they usually do.

Size diversity needed in role models
Larger women must not sit back and allow prejudice to discourage them. They are needed in leadership roles, not just as the wonderful community volunteers they have always been, but in political, social and entertainment arenas. They are desperately needed as successful role models for young girls in a world that seeks to constrict their ambitions to narrow appearance standards.

Diversity is natural, normal
Beauty, health and strength come in all sizes. Real beauty is being strong, with healthy attitudes, being generous, loving and compassionate, and accepting yourself just as you are — goals that every woman can achieve. . . .

We need to move on from size prejudice to a society that refuses to suppress liberty, or withhold the promise of happiness from anyone on the basis of size or other criteria. To a society that is more respectful, more accepting of the many ways women differ.

Don’t allow anyone to hound you about the health risks of your weight. It may well be your healthiest weight at this time in life. It’s not true that thin people are healthier — studies show fit and well-nourished people are healthier at every size. And remember that good health is more than numbers on the scale. It’s feeling good, having plenty of energy, knowing you can depend on your body to do the things you want to do. It’s being comfortable with yourself and your natural body size. It’s even wearing clothes you like that fit well now.

Carol Johnson tells a story about her husband once asking why he had never seen her wear many of the clothes hanging in her closet (some still with price tags). When she explained these were for six months later when she would weigh 60 pounds less, he proposed that she go out and buy some clothes that fit. She did, and “It didn’t take me long to realize that this was infinitely more fun.”

Fear of fat

Why do modern women in the most affluent countries in the world live like starving people in a primitive land? Why do they choose to be weak, apathetic and unable to fully contribute to their families, their careers, and their communities? It’s simple. They are terrified of being fat. Women today are afraid to eat . . . afraid their bodies will be unacceptable in a society obsessed by thinness. It’s a fear that consumes, shatters lives, even kills. . . . The number one wish of brilliant, ambitious young women is not to save the rain forests or succeed in a career, but to lose weight.

I’m especially concerned about what is going on in our colleges today. Young women learn that appearance is all-important, more critical than the careers they had planned. Female bodies must be perfect and extremely thin. Young men are taught to demand thinness of women, to revere muscles and to scorn fat.

University professors tell me how often they see malnourished and undernourished female students who sit with blank faces in their classes, unable to concentrate on school work because they feel dizzy, weak, nauseated, depressed, and are consumed with thoughts of food, hunger, weight and body image. Many of these women are in health and physical science field.

Diets for vulnerable customers
If this industry made cars, no one would buy them, and if they did, consumer groups would force a recall. If it offered any other health service, it would be required to prove safety and effectiveness before its products could be prescribed to millions of unsuspecting consumers — as were both the disastrous very low calorie diets and fen-phen/Redux pills in the last decade. It would be held accountable for the many deaths and injuries it causes. But no agency even bothers to keep track...

Because these victims are vulnerable and desperate, shameless exploitation is allowed. And they are vulnerable and desperate in part because of fears whipped up by the very companies and agencies who exploit them.

This industry alone among health care providers is allowed to parade pitifully weak studies without challenge at national and international conferences — meetings it often finances. I’ve often been disappointed at the silence of knowledgeable scientists who feel this is the only way to guard their careers. . . .

Without a doubt, sonographer Pam Ruff, of Fargo, N.D., is the unsung hero of America’s unfortunate flirtation with fen-phen and Redux diet pills. Ruff noticed it first in December 1994: an abnormal heart valve coated with a glistening white substance that prevented it from closing fully, unlike anything she had seen in more than 10 years as an ultrasound technician.

Support in health care

Health providers who are committed to providing quality health care at every size know that people who feel good about themselves, and are supported by the health care system are more empowered to make healthy changes in their lives. They recognize that much harm has been done by health providers in harassing and shaming of obese patients, and by prescribing weight loss treatments that were neither safe nor effective.

Ideally physicians diagnose and treat large patients as they do any others, offering the same testing and treatment when appropriate. They recognize that large people may have special health needs, while not assuming this. They help large patients feel comfortable by treating them with sensitivity, giving them a better understanding of their health and medical conditions, and offering them the best care possible.






PART I: Today's Weight-Obsessed World

Fear of food, fear of fat

Our culture fails to nurture women
Dysfunctional eating disrupts normal life
Eating disorders shatter women's lives
Weights continue to rise
Prejudice punishes large women
Living in starvation mode
The risks of losing weight
Food and activity choices intensify problems
How the diet industry exerts control
PART II: Breaking free, living free

Health at Any Size

It's about you

The joy of active living

Eating well

Celebrating size diversity

Creating a more nurturing culture
Prevention and treatment
Call to action









Book Listing Information


Women Afraid to Eat

Breaking Free in Today's Weight-Obsessed World


Frances M. Berg, MS, LN


Healthy Weight Network
Hettinger, ND


0-918532-63-9 softcover $19.95

0-918532-70-1 hardcover $27.95



6 x 9,     384 pages

Publication Date:

2000, Second Edition; 2001 First Edition




Charts, graphs

Target Audience:

Parents, teachers, health professionals

Distributed by:

Independent Publishers Group, Baker & Taylor, Midwest Library Service, Healthy Weight Network; Available in bookstores everywhere and online book stores including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Women Afraid to Eat, by Frances
M. Berg, examines the crisis in women’s eating, weight, and body image in today’s world. It challenges the pressures to be thin and documents the profound mental and physical effects on women. Four major weight and eating problems — eating disorders, dysfunctional eating, size prejudice and overweight, all intensifying in today’s world — are described, and shown to be closely interrelated. The second part of the book delivers the tools needed for “breaking free,” and gives clear and specific guidelines on how women and those who work with women can bring about meaningful change to improve health and well-being.














352 pages


Also accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.

If ordering more than 4 books, call for shipping costs.




352 pages



Also accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.

If ordering more than 4 books, call for shipping costs.




496 pages



Also accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.

If ordering more than 4 books, call for shipping costs.




Copyright 2009-1994 by Frances M. Berg, Healthy Weight Network, Hettinger, North Dakota
All rights reserved. www.healthyweight.net