Regaining Weight

Many dieters and maintainers are mystified when the scale starts to go up. “But I’m doing everything the same!” they usually proclaim. That’s when I ask them a series of questions to try to figure out what has changed:

  • Are you taking any new medication?
  • Are you eating all your food sitting down, slowly, and enjoying every bite?
  • Are you eating at others’ houses or in restaurants more often—or doing take-out?
  • Have you been traveling or going to special events that involve food?
  • Have your portions slowly become larger?
  • Have you added more food to your daily intake? For example, are you having an extra snack? Have you added an extra side dish to a meal?
  • Are you drinking more alcohol or caloric beverages?
  • Are you getting less exercise?

What often happens is that dieters/maintainers either start to eat out more or get a little looser, or both. They allow themselves to make changes, such as eating grapes straight from the refrigerator or adding more ingredients to a salad, without reducing their intake elsewhere. They “get away” with these changes for a short period of time—the scale may not go up initially and they start to think, “I guess I can eat a little more.” Then they slowly increase their food intake in other ways. But biology always catches up with them. Take in more calories than you expend and you WILL gain weight. 

There is always a reason why the scale has gone up, even if we can’t figure it out. But if it goes up and stays up, dieters/maintainers need to go back to carefully monitoring everything they eat (and they need to monitor their exercise, too). They may decide that they like being able to eat a little more and are willing to maintain at a higher weight. This is a perfectly reasonable decision, if they are in good health. But they should make a conscious decision to do so, and not let a lack of vigilance lead to continuing weight gain.

Dr. Judith Beck to Appear on the Dr. Oz Show— Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dr. Beck will appear on the Dr. Oz show  tomorrow, Thursday, February 18th, advising a family whose health will likely become compromised if they don’t change the way they eat. Dr. Oz shows a video of their family meal, illustrating an overabundance of food and the way in which family members are urged to eat more. 

See Dr. Beck’s blog, Advising Food Pushers on TV,  from January 28, 2010 for more details.  

 For local times and listings visit

Fear of Food

Marie avoided eating potato chips, French fries, onion rings, and crackers. Although she loved these foods, they would trigger cravings and once she started eating them, she found it quite difficult to stop. Marie actually developed a fear of these foods. She was sure she would lose control if she ate them.

I told Marie that I wanted her to start planning to eat one these foods a day (perhaps a couple of times a week), so she could learn how to stop. I explained that I didn’t think it was reasonable for her to avoid them for life, especially if she really liked them.

We made a plan. Marie would read her reasons for losing weight just before dinner and her other response cards. She would alert her husband about the plan. At the restaurant, she would order French fries (and a small plate) along with her healthy dinner. When the fries arrived, she would immediately put the extra fries on the small plate and ask the waiter to take them away.

Marie was a little hesitant. What would the waiter think? We agreed he probably would think, “This customer is on a diet.” Then he would turn his attention to his next task.

Marie tried it. It was much easier than she thought. She didn’t lose control. She did want more when she was finished but she told herself she would have more again within the next couple of days. She’s still a little fearful about eating some of her other trigger foods, but we’ll work on them together.

Fast Food Dieting

A recent article in the New York Times asks, “Can fast food help you lose weight?” I applaud the restaurant industry for offering healthier food choices. But for the consumer, it’s buyer beware. Of course fast food can help you lose weight–if you take in fewer calories than you expend. Any change you make in your eating that reduces caloric intake will lead to weight loss. But the moment you return to your previous way of eating, you gain the weight right back. There is no sense in making changes in your eating that you can’t keep up for life.

Think of it this way: Let’s say you cut your calories to 1800 a day, lose weight, and then plateau for a period of time. The moment you start eating 1900 calories a day is the moment you start to gain weight back.

Short-term changes in eating only lead to short-term changes in weight.

Peanuts and Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum

Carly was really proud of herself—and deservedly so. She, her husband, and kids went for a short road trip for a few days and she was able to stick to her plan, almost completely. On previous trips, she and her kids would have “perpetual snacks” in the car. On this trip, Carly ate only at her regularly scheduled snack and meal times. She occasionally reminded herself, “It’s not time to eat now. I’ll eat when I’m supposed to.”

One of their stops was at Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum near Harrisburg, PA. The family bought roasted peanuts for a snack, setting the stage for Carly to learn something really important. On the first afternoon, she ate peanuts from the sack. She didn’t decide beforehand how many to have. She felt a little out of control and had difficulty stopping after consuming about 20 or 25—but she did stop. She found she didn’t enjoy the peanuts as much as she could have. Eating without having an end point in mind made her feel guilty and bad.

Carly realized that she needed to make a change. So the next morning, she put 15 peanuts in a Ziploc bag for her snack. She didn’t think she would be satisfied with that amount, but she knew it wouldn’t be reasonable to eat more. When she ate the peanuts later that afternoon, she was surprised. She did enjoy the snack. She ate the peanuts slowly—and guilt-free. She didn’t want more.

Carly now wants to make sure that she always has a food limit in mind. It reduces her anxiety about eating and she never feels guilty, so she is able to enjoy eating her food much more. Occasionally she’d like, for a few moments at least, to take extra, but now she knows the impulse always goes away and that she’s always glad when she sticks to her plan.