Making Time: April

One of our dieters, April, was having trouble this week finding time to get to all of her shopping-cart.jpgdiet activities: sitting down to a proper breakfast, preparing lunch to take to work, cooking dinner, and going to the supermarket. April’s sabotaging thoughts kept getting in the way: “I’ll go to the supermarket tomorrow;” “I’d rather read the newspaper than fix a lunch to go,” “If I grab some fast food on the way home, I’ll have more time to email my friends tonight.” April hadn’t truly accepted the necessity of making time for dieting. We stressed the importance of prioritizing her time, of fitting the rest of her life around dieting activities (Day 8 of The Beck Diet Solution), not vice versa. We discussed doing her dieting activities first, then using reading, gardening, and watching television as rewards.

For now, April has to put all of her dieting activities at the very top of her priority list, and not do anything that’s lower on the list until she’s completed them.  That means no reading the newspaper in the morning until she’s prepared her breakfast and lunch, no gardening on the weekends until she’s made her weekly trip to the supermarket, and no watching television at night until she’s completed her food plan for the next day.  We also discussed that these dieting activities will soon become second nature; if April pushes herself now to respond to her sabotaging thoughts and change her habits, dieting will get easier and easier.

Giving the Beck Diet Solution

bds2.jpgHow do you suggest to someone that s/he give the program in the Beck Diet Solution a try? We don’t know. Earlier we had posted a blog about this topic, which we’ve since taken down because we think we made a mistake. A number of people told us that our proposal of writing even a loving letter would just make things worse. So we withdraw the suggestion. If anyone has an idea, please let us know!

Always Have a Plan

fair-food.jpgA few months ago, our dieter Jennifer attended a local festival in her town.  Before she went, she wrote down her plan. She had no trouble resisting all sorts of fried foods and local goodies and she was able to stay in control.  However, Jennifer brought food home for her family to sample and ended up eating some unplanned treats.  Because Jennifer had been working with us, though, she knew exactly what to say to herself to get back on track immediately (discussed on Day 20 of The Beck Diet Solution).

Jennifer has plans to attend a similar festival this weekend. When we asked her what her plan was, she related a sabotaging thought that was, “I’ve gotten so good at getting back on track, that I’m not going to make a plan in advance.” We went over the importance of always having a plan, even if it’s a special occasion. For example, Jennifer could plan in advance to eat four hundred calories more than usual. But we didn’t want her to go without a plan and end up eating thousands of extra calories.

Jennifer seemed unconvinced, so we decided to make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of making a plan for the festival.  Looking at them in black and white convinced her that she did indeed want to have a plan. One of the most compelling advantages was that she would be able to enjoy her splurge thoroughly and not feel guilty and out of control. Jennifer concluded that she will definitely go to the festival with a clear plan in mind. 

Emotional Eating

Our dieter Rose has a very stressful situation coming up this week and so we spent a lot of today discussing emotional eating and strategies for not falling prey to it. Lots of dieters are like Rose. They feel entitled to eat when they’re distressed. “If I’m upset, I should be able to eat.” Often, they feel as if they don’t have a choice. “If I’m upset, I have to eat.” It’s important for them to recognize that people without a weight problem usually do not turn to food when they’re upset. They try to solve the problem, turn to others for support, distract themselves, or simply tolerate the feeling.

These are the strategies that Rose needs to learn. But first, she needs to label her experience. “I’m not hungry. I just want to eat because I’m upset. But if I eat, it will only be a temporary ‘fix.’ I’ll feel so much worse afterwards.”

Ultimately, we want Rose to learn that she doesn’t have to do anything when she’s upset. Negative emotions won’t harm her and they’ll subside even if she does nothing. But as an intermediate step, we advised Rose to make a long list of things she can do to comfort or distract herself, such as taking a walk, checking her email, calling her best friend, writing in a journal, listening to a relaxation tape, and taking a hot bath.  We asked Rose to try at least five things every time she feels upset. We told her she needed to have about 20 experiences in a row of not eating for emotional reasons in order to really feel confident that she has broken the habit of turning to food for comfort. 

What are some of the things you do, other than eating, when you’re upset and have an uncomfortable urge to eat?