Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Getting Back on Track

Question: A couple of years ago I lost 22 pounds mostly following the program in the Beck Diet Solution, but about a year ago I went through a really stressful time and ended up gaining back some of the weight I lost. I’ve been trying hard to get myself back on track but I just can’t seem to do it and I’m not sure why.  Every time I try I just get off track again.  What can I do?

 Answer: First of all, you should know that what you’re experiencing is common and you’re certainly not the first person to be in this situation.  Far from it!  Many dieters have the experience of doing really well, then having something out of the ordinary happen, getting off track, and struggling to get themselves back to where they were.  What I can tell you, though, is that the number one mistake dieters in your situation make is that, when they make the decision to get back on track, they inevitably try to do too many things at once.     

 If, before they got off track, every morning dieters were reading an Advantages List and many Response Cards and every night filling out a long checklist of tasks they worked on during the day, usually their instinct is to go back and again try to do all of those things right away.  But what usually ends up happening? They get overwhelmed and frustrated, and find that they are not able to make themselves do everything they were doing before, so they abandon their attempt. 

 The reason that this does not work is simple: they did not initially start out doing all of those things at once; instead they started slowly and built up to it.  They did not initially have 20 Response Cards or a checklist with 12 items on it, and so by the time they worked up to that number, it felt natural and achievable.  Even though you are definitely not starting at square one, it’s a good idea to initially act as if you are and start with the initial dieting tasks. Focus all of your energy only on those things one by one (such as reading an Advantages List every day, eating everything sitting down, eating slowly and mindfully, giving yourself credit) and only read Response Cards that have to do with what you’re currently working on [either ones you had from before, or make new ones that feel relevant to what you’re currently dealing with]. In doing so, you’ll again be able to build up your sense of confidence and self-efficacy by proving to yourself that you can make yourself do what you say you’re going to do.  Give yourself credit every step of the way and add in new dieting skills when you feel confident and ready. And remember: if you’re not able to do things like resist cravings when you first start back, remind yourself that you’re not working on that skill yet, so of course you shouldn’t be able to it but you will be able to soon enough when you work back up to it.

 Eventually you’ll get to the point where you are able to do everything you did before, but you won’t get back there overnight.  Just like it took time initially, it will take time again (although likely not nearly as long), but as long as you start slowly, don’t expect too much of yourself at once, and pace yourself appropriately, you will get back there!

February 29, 2012 – Wednesday Sabotage

Sabotaging Thought: I was so good at dinner that I deserve to treat myself when I get home tonight.

Response: My body doesn’t know or care about all of the food I resisted eating, it only knows what food I did eat. If I eat more food than my body needs, I will gain weight.

February 28, 2012 – Tuesday Reality Check

If every time you buy a bag of potato chips you tell yourself, “I’ll be able to stop at one serving,” and then never do, when you’re next tempted to buy a bag, ask yourself, “What’s the evidence I’ll be able to stop when I know I should? This is always difficult for me so why put myself through that?” and buy a single-sized bag instead.

February 27, 2012 – Monday Motivation

Losing weight will likely affect so many different areas of your life for the better and, as you start losing, you’re undoubtedly discover additional benefits along the way. While dieting can feel hard at times, there’s no end to what you’ll get in return for doing so

February 24, 2012 – Friday Weekend Warm-up

If you think, “I just want to enjoy this weekend and not think about food and dieting,” remind yourself, “Either way I’ll think about it. If I overeat I’ll likely have to think about how bad and guilty I feel, but if I stay in control, I’ll think about how good and proud I feel. Either way it will be on my mind, but at least if I maintain control my thoughts will be positive, not negative.”

February 23, 2012 – Think Thin Thursday Tip

The difference between knowing what you’re supposed to do and getting yourself to do it is figuring out what (sabotaging) thoughts are getting in the way. Once you figure out the thoughts, you can formulate responses, write them down on cards, and practice reading these cards every day. This will enable you to effectively respond to sabotaging thoughts in the moment and not give in.

February 22, 2012 – Wednesday Sabotage

Sabotaging Thought: Because I’m stressed out I need to eat.

Response: No, I may WANT to eat, but I don’t NEED to eat. If I was feeling this way and there was no food available, I would get through it without eating. Just because I want to eat right now doesn’t mean I should.

February 21, 2012 – Tuesday Reality Check

If you eat when you’re feeling stressed, likely once you finish eating you will end up feeling MORE stressed and out of control. Instead, if you focus your energy on calming down (without food) and solving the problem, you will feel better and more in control.

February 20, 2012 – Monday Motivation

If you were walking down a flight of stairs and stumbled down a few, would you then say “Well, I’ve blown it” and throw yourself down the rest? No! You would get back up and resume walking. If you stumbled this weekend, immediately pick yourself back up and start eating healthy again.

February 17, 2012 – Friday Weekend Warm-up

Obvious but important reminder – your body has no idea that it’s the weekend. If you take in too many calories on weekends you WILL gain weight or stop yourself from losing weight. However, if you stay in control during the weekend, you WILL feel great about it and not regret it Monday morning.