In Session with Debbie: Slipping

This week I had a session with my dieter, Rachel, whom I previously hadn’t seen in about eight months because she no longer needed weekly sessions.  Rachel got in touch with me because she noticed that her weight had gone up a few pounds and so we agreed that we would have a session or two to help her get completely back on track. 

In session, the first thing I did was give Rachel lots of credit because she was able to recognize that she was slipping in places (which was causing her to gain weight) and she faced the problem head-on, instead of waiting a few weeks or months or more (which could easily have turned a 5 pound weight gain into a 15 pound or more weight gain). 

Rachel and I then discussed what things she had led slide lately and what old habits had been slowly creeping back.  Here are the areas that Rachel identified as needing work:

1.  Eating standing up.  Instead of really being aware of everything that she was eating and making it a priority to eat sitting down, Rachel realized that she had lapsed back into eating while she was cooking, while she was clearing the dishes, and while she was making her kids’ lunches. While it wasn’t a whole lot of extra food, it certainly did start to add up at the end of the day/week.    

2. Snacking with her kids.  Before we began working together, Rachel would always snack with her kids and eat whatever they were having, without really thinking about it. One of the changes we had instituted was that Rachel had specific snack times during the day when she would have healthy snacks, not the crackers and snacky foods her kids ate.  Rachel realized that she had slowly started getting away from deliberate snack times and had again started to eat whatever and whenever her kids did.  

3. Eating whenever she felt hungry or just wanted to eat.  Another change that Rachel and I had worked on was helping her overcome her fear of hunger and eat at specific times, to ensure that she didn’t overeat during the day (which was a risk because she worked from home).  Rachel told me that she had started to do things like go into the kitchen whenever she felt like eating and having something, instead of waiting until her next meal or snack.

4. Keeping serving bowls on the table at dinner.  Rachel had also decided a while ago that it was best to not keep big serving dishes on the table during meals because the extra food would tempt her and she would often end up having seconds, even though she didn’t need them.  Removing the serving bowls enabled Rachel to just concentrate on what was on her plate and not constantly fight against the temptation to have more.  Rachel realized that over the past few months, serving dishes had reappeared on the dinner table, which meant that Rachel sometimes took and ate more food than she needed. 

Rachel and I then discussed exactly how she would get herself to correct these old habits and fortify her new, helpful habits.  We also reviewed Rachel’s Advantages List and all of the wonderful benefits she has already experienced from losing weight, so that Rachel would remember exactly why it was worth it to her to get herself back in line and how much better she would feel as a result of doing so.

Keep Your Weight Loss Resolutions

Have you made a resolution to eat more healthfully and/or lose weight this year? Have you started to lose motivation on that resolution? Many, many dieters make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and keep it off. And very likely, many of these dieters have made this same resolution in previous years and ultimately haven’t been successful.  One of the biggest stumbling blocks that dieters face is what happens once they get off track. One of the most common sabotaging thoughts that we hear from dieters is, “I’ve made a mistake. I’ve really blown it for the day so I might as well keep eating whatever I want and get back on track tomorrow.”  Of course the danger with this is that tomorrow may never come, or it may end up being next week, month, or even year.  And if getting back on track takes that long, likely by the time the dieter has been able to do so, she’s already gained back any weight she was able to lose before she got off track.

We always remind dieters that the most successful dieters and maintainers are not those who never make mistakes (because we’re all human and we all make mistakes). Rather, they are those who make mistakes and immediately get right back on track so the mistake is very minor.  In order for dieters to be successful, and in order for this year to finally be the year they follow through with their weight loss resolutions, dieters need to learn to recover right away from mistakes. Otherwise, one mistake will continue to be their undoing, as opposed to a very normal and minor part of their day.

Here’s one technique we use: We first remind dieters that in almost no other area of life do we think that making one mistake is a valid reason to continue making mistakes.  Dieters tend to believe the sabotaging thought that, “since I’ve made one dieting mistake, I’ve blown it for the day and I might as well keep making mistakes and get back on track tomorrow.”  We give them the following analogies: If you were walking down a flight of stairs and stumbled down a few, would you think, “Well, I’ve really blown it now!” and then throw yourself down the rest? No, you’d get up right where you were and walk down the rest. If you were washing your fine china and dropped a plate, would you think, “I’ve really blown it now!” and throw the rest of your plates on the floor? No, you’d continue washing and treat the rest of your dishes more carefully.  If you were driving on the highway and missed your exit, would you think, “Well, that’s it, it’s over, I’ve blown it!” and continue to drive five more hours in the wrong direction? No, you’d get off at the very next exit and turn yourself around.  We help dieters see that once they make one eating mistake, continuing to make more is like throwing yourself down the rest of the steps, smashing the rest of your plates, and driving further in the wrong direction.  It makes no sense!

We also remind dieters that, if they’re off track, any point along the way they get themselves back on track puts them in a better position. It’s not as if your body stops adding up calories for the day and once you take in certain amount of extra calories, you might as well keep taking in more because your body won’t process them.  Of course, that’s not how it works. Your body will continue to process every additional bite that you take, so getting back on track after 500 extra calories is much better than getting back on track after 800 calories, 1,000 calories, 2,000 calories or more. 

Additionally, we teach dieters to, once they’ve made a mistake, immediately get problem-solving oriented and not beat themselves up. If a dieter makes a mistake and says to himself, “This is so terrible! I’m such a weak person, I can’t believe I let this happened,” the only thing it will do is demoralize him further and make it harder for him to get back on track.  We help dieters view every mistake as an important learning experience and remind them that we learn just as much from challenges as we do from successes. When dieters make mistakes, we teach them to ask themselves three important questions: What happened?  What were the sabotaging thoughts I had that I wasn’t able to respond to? What can I do differently the next time? In this way, dieters are actually able to learn from mistakes and decrease the likelihood they’ll make the same ones again.

Once dieters are able to accept that mistakes are a part of life and learn to recover from them right away, they’re able to lose weight and keep it off because they don’t constantly undo all their hard work.

The Year In Review

Over the past year on the Beck Diet Solution Blog, we’ve written about many topics dealing with everything related to dieting/healthy eating, losing weight, and keeping weight off.  In case you missed any of them, or if you’re dealing with some issue in particular and want a quick reference of articles to read on that topic, we’ve broken down some of the posts we’ve written from the past year into separate categories.

Cravings
In Session with Deborah: Do Cravings Really Go Away?
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Sugar Cravings
A Peek Inside a Diet Session: Cravings

Getting Back on Track
In Session with Deborah: Green Days
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Getting Back on Track Today
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Getting Back on Track

Dealing with treats
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Office Treats
In Session with Deborah: I Deserve a Treat
In Session with Deborah: Tempting Treats

Response Cards
In Session with Deborah: Reviewing Response Cards
How to Write Response Cards

Getting through Hard Times
5 Strategies to Get Through Hard Times
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator

Eating Out
In Session with Deborah: The French Fry Plan
In Session with Deborah: The Hangover Effect

Motivation
In Session with Deborah: Regaining Focus
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Staying Motivated

Making a plan
Components of a Thanksgiving Plan
In Session with Deborah: Making a Food Plan
In Session with Deborah: Birthday Plan

Going on Vacation
In Session with Deborah: Vacation Goals
A Peek Inside a Diet Session: Going on Vacation

If you have any questions or topics you’d like to see covered on our blog, please email us: dietprogram@beckinstitute.org.  Stay tuned for more in 2013!

In Session with Deborah: Green Days

Two weeks ago I had a session with my dieter, Jennifer, who has devised for herself a rating system to catalog her eating days. Good eating days are green, okay eating days are yellow, and days when she gets off track are red.  At the moment Jennifer is going through a difficult dieting time and is struggling to get herself consistently back on track, and she has been having a number of yellow and yellow/red eating days.   Just a few weeks ago, and for many weeks before that, Jennifer had been doing very well and had been consistently having green days (which were still interspersed with the occasional yellow day).  Jennifer told me that she really wanted to get back to where she was before and again have consistent and consecutive green eating days, but she feels like it’s too hard and right now she can’t imagine being able to have so many perfect eating days in a row. 

The first thing I did was remind Jennifer of something very important: Just because she previously had green day after green day, doesn’t mean that all of her eating days were perfect. I reminded Jennifer of mistakes that she had made on some of those days, like giving in to a craving at her son’s school, eating a second helping at dinner, and eating standing up while she was putting away leftovers.  However, none of these mistakes meant she didn’t end up having a great day because she was able to immediately recover from them.  Jennifer and I then discussed the fact that green days don’t equal flawless days; instead, they are days in which when Jennifer made mistakes, she immediately got back on track and didn’t lose her sense of control, so the mistakes turned out to be very minor (and didn’t lead to more and more mistakes). 

Since Jennifer has been going through a harder time recently and kept finding that one mistake would snowball into more, she had started to castrophize mistakes and view them as something she would need to avoid altogether in order to return to having consistently green days.  Jennifer lost sight of the fact that just a few weeks ago, mistakes were a part of her daily life and her daily green days.  It was critical for Jennifer to remember this because it helped make the prospect of having green days again not seem so daunting.  In response to this conversation, Jennifer made the following Response Card:

 

Jennifer and I then discussed some specific strategies she could use to get through this hard time and make it pass more quickly.  Here are some of the things we did:

1. We took a look at Jennifer’s Advantages List and revitalized it so it felt fresh and resonant to her.  Since she’s going through a hard time, it’s especially important for Jennifer to read her list so that she can remember exactly why it’s worth it to her to keep going.

2. We did a visualization exercise in which Jennifer visualized exactly what a day was like a few weeks ago when she was doing really well.  We discussed how good she felt about being in control, the fact that, on the whole, it wasn’t that hard for her to stay on track, and what she was doing differently that she could start implementing again (like making her kids’ lunches the night before so that she had easier mornings, doing a weekly shopping on Sunday, planning meals for the whole week, not just day-by-day, etc.).

3. We decided that for the next week, Jennifer would spend most of her energy working on the basics of dieting, like reading her Advantages List, reading her Response Cards, eating everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully, and giving herself credit.  In addition to the basics, Jennifer decided that the one other thing that would be extremely helpful for her to continue working on is making meal plans for her family and sticking to them.  We decided that Jennifer would focus on just these things for a week (or until she felt more in control), and after that we would discuss adding back in other skills.  This way Jennifer had very specific things to concentrate on, knew exactly what was expected of her, and also had evidence from past weeks that she is capable of doing all these things. 

When I saw Jennifer during our next session, she reported that she had just had three green days in a row, and was starting to build back up her momentum. Jennifer told me that what was most helpful for her was remembering that green days don’t have to be perfect days and that she can be totally on track while still making mistakes. Jennifer said that once she took the pressure of being perfect off of herself, she was once again able to ger herself to do what she needed to do because she didn’t live in fear of making a mistake.

Between Sessions with Deborah: Language

Earlier this week I received an e-mail from my dieter, Rachel.  In this email, Rachel described how she got off track during the day because she had gone to a party that afternoon and was highly tempted by the desserts they had.  Despite initially planning to have no desserts, Rachel gave in to temptation, telling herself that, “Just this one time won’t matter.”  However, Rachel quickly figured out that that time really did matter because it caused her to feel very guilty about her eating and lose confidence, which then led her to continue overeating for the rest of the day.  In her email to me, Rachel said that she very much wanted to get back on track but she felt like she was in a “deep rut.”  Here is part of the email I sent back to Rachel:

As we’ve discussed before, what language we use with ourselves is really important. When I first read your e-mail, my initial thought was, “What?! Rachel’s only been off track for one afternoon/evening, which is in NO WAY a deep rut!  A deep rut is maybe a week or a month off track.”  As we know, you have the tendency to be all-or-nothing about mistakes (like the time you made one mistake in a day and said, “I thought I was doing well but I guess I wasn’t” – when in fact you were doing well. One mistake never indicates that you’re not doing well; it indicates that you’re human!) and this seems to be another example of that.  I wonder about the psychological impact of telling yourself you’re in a deep rut and if doing so may make it harder to get back on track, because it may convince you that you’re more deeply rooted in the mistakes than you actually are.  Telling yourself, “I’m off track, but it’s only one day, it’s not the end of the world,” may make it easier to get back on track than when you say, “I’m in a deep rut.”  What do you think about that?

 As you see here, what dieters say to themselves can make a really big difference, particularly where mistakes are concerned.  If a dieter makes a mistake and says to herself, “This is so terrible! I can’t believe I did that, I’ve really screwed up,” she may have a hard time getting herself right back on track.  By contrast, if a dieter makes a mistake but this time says to herself, “Ok, I made a mistake. I’m human, it happens, and it’s not the end of the world. The rest of the day will be fine,” then she’ll probably have a much, much easier time getting back on track.  In the situation with Rachel, my concern was that by telling herself she was in a “deep rut,” it may make it harder to get back on track because getting out of a deep rut likely seems so much harder than just needing to bounce back from one off-track day.

Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction:  If my weight is up one day, it means what I’m doing isn’t working.

Fiction.  On any given day, your weight might be temporarily up for a myriad of different reasons: hormones, water retention, biological factors, etc.  It’s important to remember that even if you are following your diet perfectly, your weight won’t go down every day, or even every week. All dieters have days and weeks where their weight temporarily goes up or stays the same – it’s just part of the process. Because of this, it’s important to not put too much stock on any one weigh-in.  As long as you keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing, your weight will go down again. 

Fact or Fiction: Calories don’t count on holidays, like Labor Day.

Fiction. Unfortunately your body has no idea that it’s Labor Day, or that it’s Thanksgiving, your birthday, or Christmas. Your body processes all calories the same, 365 days a year.  However, it is perfectly reasonable to plan in advance to have an extra treat on certain days – but make sure you do so in a controlled manner so that you don’t end up taking in way too many calories. 

Fact or Fiction: If I can’t follow my diet right away, it means I just can’t do it.

Fiction. Learning to diet successfully is like learning to play the piano. Nobody would expect to sit down at a piano for the very first time and play a difficult piece of music flawlessly.  Of course not! They would know that they need to learn to read music, start out with scales, then move on to easy pieces of music, practice them until they get better, and eventually move on to more complicated pieces. They would also expect to hit wrong notes and make mistakes along the way, and wouldn’t think that one mistake means they should give up. Dieting is the same. You need to learn certain skills, practice them over and over again, move on to harder skills, practice them, and eventually you’ll get better and better. You’ll make mistakes along the way – but that just means you need more practice, not that you can’t do it. 

Fact or Fiction: “Just this one time” is a legitimate excuse to eat something.

Fiction.  Every single time counts because every time you eat something you’re not supposed to, you reinforce your tendency to give in, and make it more likely you’ll give in the next time, and the time after that.  Every single time you resist unplanned food, you reinforce your tendency to stand firm and you make it more likely you’ll be able to do it the next time, and the time after that.  There is never a time when you’re not reinforcing one of these two tendencies, which is why every time matters. 

Fact or Fiction: If I’ve made an eating mistake, I’ve blown it for the day and might as well just start again tomorrow.

Fiction. There’s no such thing as blowing it for the day.  It’s not as if you reach a certain point and your body will stop processing any additional calories. The more you continue to eat on any given day, the more weight you may gain.  It’s never too late to turn a day around and start having a good eating day, because guaranteed you’ll take in fewer calories than if you keep eating out of control.  And remember, being in control of your eating feels so much better than being out of control, so the moment you get yourself back on track is the moment you start feeling better.

5 Strategies to Get Through Hard Times

In our work with dieters, one of the first things we let them know is this: When they start out, dieting may be fairly easy because they are highly motivated, and then as they practice their skills more and more, dieting gets easier. But at some point, dieting will get more difficult.  This is normal and inevitable and it happens to everyone.  We also let dieters know that when this happens, it doesn’t mean that they are doing anything wrong, and if they keep pushing through dieting will get easier again, 100% of the time.  The problem is that most dieters don’t know that dieting is supposed to get hard at some point and when this happens they panic, thinking that something has gone wrong, it will continue to be this hard, and it’s just not worth it.  And then what happens? They give up.  But this giving up is entirely unnecessary because dieting will get easier again if they keep doing what they’re doing.

What dieters can do when the dieting gets hard:

1. Make sure that their Advantages Lists are not feeling stale.   During hard times it’s usually more difficult for dieters to remember just why it’s worth it to them to put in the necessary time and energy, so it’s important that they frequently remind themselves by reading their Advantages List However, not only is it important for dieters to read their list, it is also important for these lists to resonate with them and to feel fresh and inspiring.  If dieters have been reading the same list over and over again, it may start to feel rote.  To help with this, dieters try strategies like reword their list, add new items, read just the top three each day, take a few minute to really visualize some of the items, etc. 

2. Think about past experiences. When dieters are going through a harder time, they often forget how good it feels when they’re in control of their eating. If dieters take time to really think about a recent experience when they stayed in control and remember not only how good it felt, but also simply the fact that they were able to do it in the first place, it can help remind them that dieting is not always so difficult and that, most of the time, it feels worth it.

3. Focus on the basics. When dieting gets rough, it can be helpful for dieters to take a few steps back and concentrate just on some of the most essential dieting skills, like reading their Advantages List, reading Response Cards, eating everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully, and giving themselves credit. Doing so can help dieters regain their focus and also feel more confident about what they’re doing because they already know they can do these things.

4. Respond to Sabotaging Thinking.  Often when dieters are going through a hard time, they have lots of sabotaging thoughts like, “This is so hard, I just can’t do it,” and, “It’s not worth it to me to continue trying to lose weight.”  If left unanswered, these thoughts can lead dieters to give up so it’s critical that they take time to identify what sabotaging thoughts they are having, make Response Cards, and practice reading them every day.    For example, dieters can remind themselves:

The things on my Advantages List are worth fighting for so just because it’s hard doesn’t mean I should give up. I’ve worked hard and accomplished other things in my life that weren’t immediately easy, and I can do this, too.

Hard times always pass. This is temporary and as long as I keep doing what I’m doing, it will get easier again.  Just keep working!

5. Make sure they are giving themselves credit.  Sometimes when dieting gets difficult dieters forget to give themselves credit for all of the good things they are still doing.  This is particularly likely to happen if they are only focusing on how hard or bad things feel.  When going through a hard time, it’s critically important for dieters to give themselves credit because they often begin to lose their confidence and sense of self-efficacy and question whether or not they can really do everything.  By recognizing the things that they are still doing, and doing well, they can fight against this and regain (or maintain) a sense of pride and achievement.

In Session with Deborah: Regaining Focus

When my dieter, Janine, came in to session this week she told me that she had a hard time getting her dieting tasks done over the past week.  Her three kids had all been away at summer camp and returned home last week, and Janine suddenly found herself in a whirlwind of doctors’ appointments, preseason sports practice, and end of summer get-togethers.  Janine told me that with so much suddenly going on, she found that her dieting skills just seemed to fall by the wayside because she didn’t have enough time to get them done.

One of the first things I did with Janine was bring out the checklist she fills out every night with the dieting skills she’s working on that week.  We went through the checklist, item by item, and discussed how long, in general, each one takes.  Janine realized that nothing on her checklist takes all that much time, and, in fact, many of them take almost no time (like eating everything sitting down, giving herself credit, reading her Advantages List, limiting junk food to one time per day, etc.) In doing this, Janine was able to see that it wasn’t really a lack of time that kept her from practicing her dieting skills; rather it was a lack of focus.  With so much else going on, Janine was not able to make dieting one of her top priorities and therefore did not have the energy or focus to commit to it. Janine and I had the following conversation:

Janine: I don’t know, this week was so busy, I’m just not sure I’ll be able to find the time and energy to focus on it this coming week, too.

Debbie: If you remember, when we first starting working together it was hard for you then, too, to prioritize dieting because you had a lot going on. But we sat down and figured out how you could make it a top priority, which you then did because it was worth it to you to do so at the time. Is it worth it to you now to make this a top priority?

Janine: Yes, definitely.

Debbie: Why is it worth it?

Janine: Because I’m tired of not liking the way I look. I’m tired of not having enough energy, of not wanting to get dressed because I don’t like my clothes, of feeling heavy in my body, of worrying about my health. 

Debbie: So, with those things in mind, is it worth it to you to make a commitment to focus on your dieting skills this week?

Janine: Well, yes and no.

Debbie: What’s the “no”?

Janine: Well, I really do have a lot of other things going on that need my attention.  And I don’t always feel like working on this. And I like eating a lot of junk food.

Debbie: And what’s the “yes”?

Janine: The yes is everything I just said – wanting to look better, feel better, have better health, and so many other things.

Debbie: So this is an important question and the answer is entirely up to you:  which is more important to you – the reasons to make a commitment to focus on dieting or the reasons not to make a commitment.

Janine: Well, when you put it like that, the reasons to do it are more important. No question.  I have to do it.

Debbie: Okay, so I’m going to ask you again: Is it worth it to you to make a commitment to focus on your dieting skills this week?

Janine: Yes, it’s worth it.

Debbie: Are you sure?

Janine: Yes!

This conversation was important for us to have because when Janine’s life got busy, she lost the focus necessary to accomplish her dieting skills and she wasn’t thinking about why it was worth it to her to regain it.  I knew that in order for Janine to have a better week, she needed to be sure of her commitment to dieting, which would then make it much easier for her to focus on prioritizing and accomplishing her diet tasks and skills.  Janine made the following Response Card to read this week:

 

 

 

 

 

Similar to what I did with Janine, whenever dieters lose focus, it’s important for them to ask themselves:

  • Why do I want to regain my focus?
  •  What are the advantages and disadvantages? 
  • With the advantages and disadvantages in mind, which are more important to me?

If dieters decide that the advantages of regaining focus (and, therefore, of continuing to lose or maintain weight) outweigh the disadvantages, then it becomes easier for them to recommit to doing what they need to do because it helps them realize that the reasons not to do it are just not as important.

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Getting Back on Track Today

Q: One of my main problems is that I always say, “I will eat what I want today, then I will start tomorrow.” Then tomorrow, I say the very same thing. Seems like tomorrow never comes. What I can do to stop this destructive behavior and thinking?

A: Good question! We think that “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” is one of the more common sabotaging thoughts (up there with, “I’ve blown it for the day, I might as well continue eating whatever I want,” and “Just this one time won’t matter”). One of the reasons dieters tell themselves that they’ll start dieting tomorrow is because it helps reduce their tension about dieting. Often when dieters are off track, are feeling bad about their eating, and are acknowledging that they need to do something about it, they feel a level of tension: What am I going to do about this? When am I going to do it? By telling themselves, “I’ll start tomorrow,” that tension goes away because it means they have a plan; their questions have been answered. However, the problem with this is that the plan doesn’t usually pan out and more often than not, dieters don’t end up starting the next day.

Because dieters can’t rely on starting tomorrow, it’s important to come up with helpful responses to that sabotaging thought so that they don’t continue giving in to it. One thing that we ask dieters is, “When has ‘starting tomorrow’ ever helped you to reach your weight loss goals?” We discuss with dieters the fact that every time they have the thought, “I’ll start dieting tomorrow,” and give in to it, they make it harder for themselves to actually start dieting because they make it more likely they’ll put it off again the next day, and the day after that. Every single time they’re tempted to start tomorrow but instead force themselves to get back on track that moment, they make it more likely (and easier for themselves) to do so the next time. We also remind dieters that if yesterday they told themselves they would start tomorrow, then tomorrow is today, and it’s time to start!

We have dieters make Response Cards with these ideas on them, which they read every time they have this type of sabotaging thought. Here are some sample Response Cards:

When has ‘starting tomorrow’ ever helped me to reach my goals? Starting tomorrow just doesn’t work so I have to start today, right this moment. A week from now, a month from now, a year from now, I will be so happy I did.

Today is yesterday’s tomorrow so it’s time to start right now.

I can’t wait until tomorrow to start dieting again because if I do, it will be even harder to start. Just get back on track right now and guaranteed I won’t regret it.

It’s important to remember that getting yourself back on track right away and not waiting for tomorrow is a skill, and the more you practice it, the easier it will become. Right now your tendency to give in to that thought is probably pretty strong, so it’s easy to keep giving in. But the more and more you reinforce the habit of not giving in to that thought and of just doing what you need to do in the moment, the easier and easier it will be to do so. So remind yourself why it’s worth it to not wait for tomorrow and start practicing today!

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!