If you want to lose weight and keep it off, weekends can’t be an excuse to overeat. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not all-or-nothing: it’s not as if you can eat everything you want or nothing you want. You can still enjoy reasonable portions AND get all of the advantages of weight loss.
It is difficult for many dieters to tell whether or not they are actually hungry because they tend to confuse hunger with countless other sensations, like having a craving or feeling tired, bored, stressed, thirsty, sad, happy, etc. Eating according to a schedule can be helpful for dieters because it means they don’t have to rely on their sometimes faulty sense of hunger to know whether or not to eat.
We recently received the following letter from Mary, a dieter using The Beck Diet Solution program. Like many dieters, she went through the program more than once and in doing so was fully able to absorb all of the different ideas, techniques, and skills. Also, like many dieters, Mary found that there were one or two particular concepts and responses that were particularly resonant and helpful to her, which she then successfully applied to both dieting and her life in general. We certainly found Mary’s letter inspiring and we hope you do as well. Way to go, Mary, and thank you so much for the letter!
Dear Dr. Beck:
I am using the Beck Diet Solution for the second time and I want to share the idea that has most changed my thinking and attitude. It’s the idea of “Oh well”. I practiced it the first time around but, for whatever reason, it didn’t sink in. It has now. There may be many ways of interpreting this idea but this is how it worked for me.
I think about my diet, my food plan, what I ate yesterday, what I didn’t eat yesterday, what I overate yesterday, what I’ll eat today, tomorrow, forever…etc. etc. ALL THE TIME! I have been doing it for years. Whether I am dieting or not, I constantly think about my weight and what I eat. It’s not as if I’m giving my brain a break when I am not on a diet…..I think about all this stuff anyway. And when I’m not watching my diet, I feel pretty disappointed in myself.
I finally got it through my head that if I am going to think about all of this anyway, every day, whether I am dieting or not, I have a choice. I can either think about it and be disappointed or think about it and be satisfied. Sheesh!!….I might as well feel satisfied. I finally faced the fact that I will be thinking about what I eat every day for the rest of my life and this is what I have to do in order to maintain my weight loss. Oh well.
I created a Response Card and read it daily. I just wanted you to know how much it has helped me, along with the many other valuable ideas in your book.
Sabotaging Thought: I don’t want to exercise.
Response: I shouldn’t go by whether or not I want to exercise. If I want to lose weight and keep it off, and have good health, I need to exercise. Besides, I might be making this into a much bigger deal that it really is. I can do this.
At the most recent Beck Diet Solution Workshop, Dr. Judith Beck explains the problems dieters have sticking to low calorie diets for life. Instead, the Beck Diet Solution teaches people how to gradually reduce total calorie intake to a level that can be maintained for a lifetime, so weight loss will be maintained. Individuals who work with dieters can attend a special workshop at Beck Institute April 27,2012. Click here for more information about this special workshop. To receive articles and future workshop updates join the Beck Diet Solution Newsletter Mailing List.
Tuesday Reality Check: If you make a dieting mistake during the day, remind yourself, “I haven’t blown it. It’s not the end of the world. Start following my plan again RIGHT NOW and stop it at one mistake, don’t turn it into more. It’s a million times better to stop now than to allow myself to eat more.”
So often we hear from dieters: I want to lose weight so I can finally stop thinking about it. However, the truth is that for dieters who are losing and maintaining their weight loss, their weight will probably still be on their minds – BUT it will be in a really positive and contented way, instead of a negative and frustrated way.
To help stay in control, consider making a weekend-specific Response Card, such as, “My body doesn’t know or care it’s a weekend, it processes calories the same and if I eat too much I’ll gain weight. If I stay in control of my eating, I will have a BETTER weekend because I will feel good about myself, not bad. It’s worth it!”
When dieting, look out for sabotaging thoughts that start with the phrase, “I’m entitled to eat this because…” (I'm sad, stressed, bored, upset, etc.). If you have to justify to yourself why it’s okay to eat something, it often means you probably shouldn’t.
My dieter, Jeff, is a police officer and after a long shift he usually feels exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Because of this, whenever he gets home from work he usually ends up eating a huge meal (of unhealthy foods) because he feels a lot of self-pity and stress and has the sabotaging thought that he “deserves” to eat to feel better. Jeff told me that the thought of coming home and not eating a big meal makes him feel deprived and more self-pitying. Although Jeff knows that this is something that was sabotaging his weight loss efforts, he couldn’t figure out how to break the cycle.
Jeff and I discussed this situation in depth during our last diet session. The first thing I did was ask Jeff how he felt after he got home and ate a big meal and whether or not it achieved his goal of feeling better. Jeff reported that while he did temporarily feel better while he was eating because he was distracted from thinking about his long shift, towards the end of his meal, or almost immediately after, he started feeling a lot of guilt, regret, and self-recrimination. When he thought about it, Jeff admitted that he actually ended up feeling worse than he did before he started eating.
I pointed out to Jeff that this was good news: it’s a good thing that eating didn’t ultimately satisfy his goal because that would give him extra motivation to work on making changes and figuring out what would actually make him feel better, both in the short term and in the long term.
Jeff and I discussed the fact that after a hard work shift, he certainly does deserve to relax and he certainly does deserve to calm down and de-stress, but he certainly doesn’t deserve to go off his diet, feel even worse, and maintain his unhealthy weight. Jeff and I discussed a number of strategies that he could use when he gets home which would help him relax and shed the burden of his job without turning to food. We also came up with a number of Response Cards for Jeff to read while he was still in his car, before he even walked into his house. Here are some of Jeff’s Response Cards:
When I think I deserve to eat something that will make me feel good, remember: THIS WILL ACTUALLY MAKE ME FEEL BAD. And it will cause MORE self-pity because then I’ll also feel bad about myself, guilty about my eating, and weak.
When I’m feeling stress/self-pity and I’m tempted to eat, ask myself: Do I want to feel better or do I want to feel worse?
Eating when I’m feeling stressed is effective – but ONLY IN THE SHORT TERM. It has 100% negative consequences in the long term – I’ll gain weight, I’ll stay overweight, I’ll reinforce the tendency to give in, I’ll feel bad about myself, I’ll feel guilty about what I ate, it may cause me to continue having a bad eating day, etc.
If I feel “deprived” because I can’t eat everything I want when I’m stressed, remind myself: either way I’m deprived. Either I’m deprived of EVERYTHING on my Advantages List, or I’m deprived of some food, some of the time. Which would be the bigger deprivation?
Jeff and I also discussed the fact that when he maintains control over his eating, regardless of the situation, he feels great about himself. Because of this, we knew that if Jeff stayed in control of his eating after a long shift at work, this in and of itself would help him feel better because he would at least be able to feel good about his eating.
The Beck Diet Program was developed by Dr. Judith S. Beck with Deborah Beck Busis, LCSW.
Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a leading international source for training, therapy, and resources in CBT.
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