Advising Food Pushers on Television

Yesterday I went to New York to tape a segment for the Dr. Oz Show. He interviewed a family who likes to eat—a lot. The mother had not realized the extent to which she is a food pusher, constantly urging her children and husband to eat more and more. She also had not realized the potential health consequences of her family being overweight and potentially obese.

I made several points to the mother: 

  1. She had learned as a child from her own family to push food, and now her kids are learning how to be food pushers from her—and she needs to break the cycle now.
  2. Food does not equal love, and especially, extra food certainly doesn’t equal love. Helping your kids become as healthy as they can, listening to them, talking with them, hanging out with them, having fun with them—these are ways to express love.
  3. When she feels as if she’s depriving her kids of extra food, she should redefine her idea of deprivation. Either she’ll deprive her kids of some food, some time—or she’ll deprive them of optimum health. She needs to pick which goal is more important to her. Either they can eat whatever they want, in whatever quantity they want, whenever they want—or they can be thinner and healthier. They can’t have it both ways.
  4. When she herself feels as if others are pushing food on her, she needs to become a broken record, saying, “No, thank you,” “No, thank you” “No, thank you.” If she worries about hurting the food pusher’s feelings, she needs to remember that the food pusher will probably be mildly disappointed (in fact, quite little compared to other disappointments in his or her life) and that the disappointment is likely to be fleeting. She needs to feel entitled to stick up for her health and the health of her family.

I hope my brief contact with this wonderful family will have some impact!

10 Tips To Stick To Your Diet

I was recently asked for 10 tips for sticking to your diet. I quickly made the following list but I didn’t necessarily include the 10 most important tips, especially because each dieter is different. Which tips (on or off the list) have been most important to you?

  1. Don’t even try to change your eating until you have learned important skills, such as how to motivate yourself every day, how to get yourself to use good eating habits, how to withstand hunger and craving, and how to get yourself back on track immediately when you make a mistake.
  2. Motivate yourself every day by reading a long list of reasons that you want to lose weight every morning. Pull out this list at vulnerable times of the day, as well.
  3. Eat everything sitting down, slowly, and enjoy every bite–whether or not you feel like it. It’s much more difficult to allow yourself to eat off plan, eat mindlessly, or binge if you are doing this.
  4. Stay accountable. Report (whether or not you have used good eating habits and followed your eating plan) to another person–daily–through email, texting, or voice messages. Stay accountable to yourself by weighing yourself every day.
  5. Stop looking for the perfect diet or the perfect combination of foods. Eat in a very healthy way but allow yourself to have one favorite food, in moderation, every single day. If you’re tempted to eat more of this food or go on to other foods you hadn’t planned to eat, then consume it shortly before bedtime, brush your teeth, and get in bed.
  6. Change your mindset about food and eating. Recognize that you can eat whatever you want whenever you want OR you can be thinner. You can’t have it both ways.
  7. Prove to yourself that hunger is never an emergency (if you don’t have a serious medical condition). Skip lunch and snacks one day. You’ll find that hunger is only mildly uncomfortable, compared to real discomfort such as you might have experienced after surgery or after breaking a bone; that hunger comes and goes, lasting no more than 5-10 minutes at a time, usually; that hunger is certainly tolerable.
  8. Teach yourself the difference between hunger (that empty feeling in your stomach when you haven’t eaten for a few hours) and craving or the desire to eat (which you will feel in your mouth or throat). Ultimately, you want to just label what you’re feeling (hunger, craving, tiredness, boredom, or a negative emotion) and tolerate it without eating. In the short-run, have a list of powerful distractions to turn your attention away from food.
  9. Regularize your eating with a set plan of meals and snacks. Some people do well with no snacks, some with a snack after each meal, some with two snacks after dinner. Eat only when it’s time to eat; not when you feel like eating.
  10. Tell yourself that every time matters. It’s not necessarily the calories (after all, cookie crumbs are not very fattening); it’s the HABIT. Every time you eat something you weren’t supposed to, you strengthen your giving in muscle, which makes it more likely that the next time you’ll give in and the time after that and the time after that. Every time you stick to your plan when you’re tempted to eat something else, you strengthen your resistance muscle, which makes it more likely that the next time you’ll resist, and the time after that and the time after that.

Time to Get Serious

Okay, it’s 2010. Time to get serious about your health and lose weight for the last time. Do you really want to find yourself in January 2011 heavier than is healthy for you?

If you don’t, then you will need to tell yourself, every morning and every time you’re tempted to eat something you shouldn’t, that it matters. Yes, it matters if you eat something you haven’t planned: having an extra potato chip, finishing the crumbs left in the bag of cookies, eating off your kids’ plates, or going beyond your limit at a party or restaurant. It matters if you grab food on the run instead of sitting down and enjoying it properly, if you skip exercising, if you substitute a higher calorie meal because you didn’t make the time to go to the supermarket. EVERY TIME MATTERS. Every time you eat something you shouldn’t, you strengthen your giving in muscle, your tendency to give in–which makes it likely that the next time, you’ll give in and the time after that, and the time after that. Every time you stick to your plan, though, you strengthen your resistance muscle, your tendency to resist food you hadn’t planned to eat–which makes it more likely that the next time, you’ll resist and the time after that, and the time after that.

So every time matters. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it doesn’t. After all, how has allowing yourself to make exceptions worked for you in the past? Just think, if you had never said to yourself, “It’s okay. This one time won’t matter,” you probably wouldn’t have a weight problem today.

Eventually, as I describe in The Complete Beck Diet for Life, it will be important for you to learn how to make exceptions. But first you have to develop a powerful resistance muscle so when you do make exceptions, they will be reasonable and will still allow you to lose weight or maintain your weight loss.

 2010! You can make a fresh start if you’ve been struggling. (Actually, you should make a fresh start any moment you need to, throughout the year. There’s never a good reason to wait–if you do, your giving in muscle will get stronger and stronger.) Go back to the beginning of the program and make sure you have mastered every skill before you move on to the next one. Don’t pick and choose. If you really want permanent weight loss, there are no short cuts. You have to do it all. But remind yourself–the rewards will be great!       

I’m rooting for you!