If you go out to eat this weekend and think, “I need to get my money’s worth by eating everything on my plate,” remind yourself that cost of doing so (weight gain, not fitting into clothes, reinforcing bad habits, feeling overly full, getting off track, etc.) is MUCH greater than the cost of leaving food behind.
For many people, eating is a powerful coping mechanism for negative emotions because they give it power. They tell themselves, “Eating will help me feel better,” and then it does (in the short term). Instead, remind yourself that eating will ultimately ALWAYS make you feel worse, and then try giving something else power, like drinking hot tea or taking a walk.
This week, we received the following letter from Carol, who explains her struggle with weight loss and her ultimate triumph:
From birth I seemed destined to have a weight problem. My mother and grandmother were obese and I was taught every tough situation in life was handled by eating massive quantities of food. I swore I would never be like them and embarked on a life of yo-yo dieting for 47 years.
First it was 10lbs, Oh my goodness my clothes don’t fit-diet time! But then it became 20lbs, then 30lbs. Over and over and over, up and down, up and down.
Why? Because I dieted, lost weight, and then went back to eating as I had before.
Finally I decided that this was it!!! I’d hit my all-time high and was facing losing 50 lbs!!! My closet had clothes from size 8 to size 14 in it; I was always ready for whatever weight I was! But I was busting out of the 14’s and knew I needed help. Buying a size 16 wardrobe was not an option.
I lost 20lbs and then joined a weight loss program, and achieved goal in December 1998. But I really hadn’t learned how to stay thin. Now I was on a 3-5lb roller coaster to make goal every month. This cycle continued for eight years. Never once did I weigh in more than 2 lbs over my goal weight (the cutoff at which point I had to pay a fee), but sometimes it felt torturous to get there.
My thinking hadn’t changed, just the weight at which I needed to kick back into being strictly on plan.
Six years ago I found the weight loss program’s online boards. It was depressing: maintainers regaining, battling etc. But there was mention of a book, The Beck Diet Solution.
Off I went to the bookstore and perused a copy. Oh my goodness, I felt like this author was talking to me!!! I felt excitement and wondered, “Is this the answer I’ve searched 56 years for?”
My problems were that I had all these sabotaging thoughts, didn’t know the difference between hunger and a desire to eat, didn’t know that hunger wasn’t an emergency (so I’d didn’t need to fill up on very low calorie foods). I didn’t know how to realistically deal with special occasions and stressful situations without resorting to feeding myself, or give myself credit when I did things right.
My body was a smaller size but my brain had never caught up! I didn’t know how to motivate myself effectively, or recognize my thinking mistakes and respond effectively to sabotaging thoughts.
I embraced The Beck Diet Solution program and did every single exercise, not moving on until I had mastered a lesson. Six months later I had learned to think like a thin person and lost another 15lbs as I went along.
Now I’ve gracefully been at a comfortable size for 5.5 years. I can go for months mentally tracking and planning, with the occasional sabotaging thought that I automatically respond to with no effort. I don’t even need to weigh myself during these periods, I know I haven’t gained more than a pound. Every month I go to weight loss program for my monthly weigh in and I’ve never been wrong. Up a pound or down a pound, that is it.
When I go through a tough time like illness, death in the family, holidays, extreme stress etc., I pull out all the Beck tools I constructed over the years (responses for just about every sabotaging thought I’ve ever had), start planning my meals in advance, tracking, and doing the Beck Daily Worksheets every day until the difficult time is over.
I am confident, liberated and know I will never regain weight because I have retrained my brain. It was hard work but the results have been amazing!
Thank you, Dr. Judy Beck for showing me the way and credit to me for putting in the hard work to apply Beck Diet Solution to my life. It has indeed truly changed my life!!!
Carol, thank you so much for sharing your story with us! Here are some important points we want to highlight:
Carol mentions that she did every exercise in the program and took the time to master each skill before moving on to the next one. These things are essential!! It’s critical to do the whole program, and it’s critical to master each skill before moving on. When dieters don’t take the time to master each skill, they only wind up getting get pretty good at them. Being ‘pretty good’ probably works for a while, but once something hard or stressful happens in dieters’ lives, if they haven’t mastered the skills, they fly right out the window.
Carol also notes that, on a daily basis, she moves along pretty smoothly. But, whenever she goes through a tougher time, she makes sure to pull out all of her materials and starts using every tool in her arsenal. She makes a deliberate effort to put more attention and work into her eating so that she is able to stay in control, even during harder times. Carol prepares herself for difficult times and therefore is able to get through them unscathed.
Lastly, Carol gives herself credit on a daily basis! She recognizes all of the changes she has made and how great they make her feel. She makes sure to point out to herself what she’s doing right, which gives her confidence to know that she can keep moving forward. Carol, we’re giving you a huge amount of credit, too!
Sabotaging Thought: “It’s okay to eat whatever I want because I’m sick.”
Response: My body doesn’t know or care that I’m sick, it will process all calories the same. There are comfort foods that I can eat when I’m not feeling well that are healthy, like soup. Besides, if I eat unhealthy foods to feel better when I’m sick, when I’m healthy again I won’t feel good because I’ll feel badly about having gone off my diet and gaining weight.
Remember, while working on healthy eating is hard some of the time, being overweight is hard ALL of the time, and in so many more ways.
Feeling comfortable in your own body, being able to move around more easily and do more things, and significantly improving your health are just 3 of some of the life-altering benefits that can come as a result of weight loss. Yes, it can be hard, but the payoff can also be enormous and profound.
If you think, “I worked hard all week, I just want to relax,” remind yourself that if your goal is to lose weight and keep it off, then you can’t use food as a means to relax. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other ways to treat yourself and relaxing things to do this weekend!
Remember, it’s a combination of all of the “little” things – like not eating a cookie from the cafeteria, making it a priority to eat sitting down, walking by the candy dish and not dipping in– that will make you lose weight. It’s all the daily things that lead up to BIG weight loss!
Question: I have read the book, re-read parts, and implemented the techniques but the scale is not budging. I have stayed within the same 2 pounds for at least 3 months – even with exercising 5-6 days per week and cutting my calories. I am afraid the answer may be to accept this weight and call it maintenance because I cannot see adding more exercise or decreasing calories as I am already doing what I think is the most I can. BUT- I am not totally comfortable at this weight and I only have about 10 pounds to lose to be at my ideal weight. Any feedback would be appreciated.
Answer: I first want to tell you about our concept of ‘ideal weight’ – it’s the weight that you get down to when you’re eating and exercising in a healthy way that you can maintain. Now this weight may not the weight of your thinnest friend, it may not be the weight you were at in college, and it almost definitely isn’t the weight of the celebrities we see on television. In our minds, your ideal weight is the weight that you can get down to and stay at, not the weight that you can get down to, then gain some weight back, then work on losing it again, then gaining it back again. We just don’t believe that it’s worth getting down to a weight that you ultimately can’t maintain (by either exercising or eating in a way that is not sustainable) because you’ll just gain it back and then feel very discouraged.
It’s also important to know that most people, when they lose weight, get down to what we call their lowest achievable weight. However, most people don’t stay there! They eventually end up relaxing their habits just a bit and gaining a few pounds back and end up leveling off at we call their lowest maintainable weight. Their lowest achievable weight is probably not their lowest maintainable weight because it would require intense focus on their eating and exercise.
Without knowing the specifics of your situation, it sounds like you likely are right around your ideal weight (in the way we define it), and at either your lowest achievable or lowest maintainable weight – it’s hard to tell at this point. Remember, losing weight is basically a matter of calories in and calories out. So could you lose more weight? Of course you could if you cut your calories really low and/or exercised an abnormally high amount. But those things are never maintainable, so it’s not worth it because the only thing that will happen is you’ll get down to a weight that you can’t maintain.
All this being said, it doesn’t mean you have to be at all unhappy with where you are now. In fact, you should be extremely proud of yourself for the weight you did lose and for all of the hard work and dedication you put into it. Instead of focusing on the 10 pounds you didn’t lose, think instead about all of the weight you did lose. Even if you’re not quite at the weight you wanted to get down to starting out, think about what life was like at your higher weight and before you really gained control over your eating. My guess is that life is different and better now in so many ways. Do you feel better about yourself? Are you fitting into more clothes? Are you happier with what you see in the mirror? Can you do more activities and/or do them more easily? Are you less self-conscious? Do you have fewer aches and pains? Is your health at all improved? Do you feel less at the mercy of hunger and cravings? Do you no longer fear going into situations in which there will be a lot of tempting food? Do you feel better about your ability to exercise?
Likely you’ve already experienced many benefits of losing weight, and it’s important to recognize them. You can also ask yourself: How would my life really be different if I lost another 10 pounds? Would the differences be so significant? Is it possible that I’m already experiencing many of the things I wanted to achieve, even though the number on the scale isn’t what I initially had in mind? It sounds like it may be worth working on changing your concept of your own ideal weight, feeling proud about where you are, and move forward appreciating all the wonderful changes that have come about as a result of losing weight.
Sabotaging Thought: I don’t want to work on healthy eating right now because I just don’t feel like thinking about it.
Response: Either way I’m going to think about it. When I’m off track, I spend time thinking about needing to get back on track and feeling guilty about my eating. There’s no such thing as ‘not thinking about it.’
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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