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!

5 Reasons to Start Your Diet Resolutions Today

Perhaps one of the most commonly heard holiday-related sabotaging thoughts is, “My resolution is to eat healthfully so I’ll start dieting after New Year’s.” In our work with dieters we don’t subscribe to the notion that it’s a good idea, or even a rational idea, to wait until the holidays are over to start eating healthfully. Instead, we work with our dieters to help them build skills and practice them consistently so that they don’t have to struggle to get back on track come January 1st. The reason we do this is because the holiday season happens year, and if dieters decide to throw in the towel during the holidays this year, chances are pretty good they will do the same thing next year, and every year to follow. Here’s why it’s so problematic to wait until the New Year to begin eating healthfully again:

1. If dieters decide that it’s okay to splurge a lot during the holidays and eat whatever they want, it sends themselves the message that it’s okay to make exceptions to dieting and healthy eating. Once dieters start making exceptions in one area, they begin to get tempted to make exceptions in other ways as well, telling themselves, “just this one time won’t matter”. Instead of just knowing that they will stay in control during the weekends, at weddings, functions, dinners out, parties, and other holidays, they may begin to struggle with themselves before and during each one and agonize over whether or not to make an exception. We always remind our dieters that one of the hardest parts of dieting is the struggle, and everything we can do to reduce the struggle is worth it.

2. There is no guarantee that dieters will actually be able to get themselves back on track once the holiday season is over. At the beginning of the holiday season, dieters may firmly believe that no matter what once the New Year hits they will be able to return to healthy eating, but this is not always the case. If dieters eat off track during the holiday season, it is likely that they will end up gaining some, or even a lot, of weight. Gaining weight can be very discouraging, and the more discouraged dieters feel, the harder it will be for them to get back on track. If dieters are feeling discouraged, when the New Year comes they may very well end up telling themselves, “I’ve gained all this weight so what’s the point,” or, “I’ll get back on track tomorrow,” or, “I’ll start my diet next week,” and it may take weeks or even months for dieters to regain control over their eating.

3. Dieters will constantly undo all of their hard work from the rest of the year by gaining weight during the holiday season. Even if they are able to get themselves back on track January 1st, they may not be able to quite lose all the weight they had gained. If this happens, dieters will find that their weight slowly begins to creep up year after year and they may begin to feel helpless to stop it.

4. It often happens with dieters that once they get off track for a number of days, they actually forget how good it feels to be in control of their eating and how much they enjoy all the benefits of losing weight. Especially if dieters have gotten used to giving in to all their cravings, eating whatever they feel like, and not having a plan, it can be very difficult for them to convince themselves to return to healthy eating once the holiday season is over because they don’t remember how much better it feels when they are practicing their skills consistently.

5. Once dieters get off track, it can undermine their confidence that they are capable of dieting successfully and controlling their eating. Not only do they forget how good it feels when they are in control, they may also begin to question their abilities to lose weight and keep it off permanently.

For all of these reasons and more, we find that it is just not worth it to continually splurge during the holiday season and have to count on getting back on track January 1st, because doing so can make almost every part of dieting and maintaining harder and jeopardize future success. Our dieters come to realize that good health, feeling good about themselves, having more self-confidence, being able to move around better, being able to fit into their old clothes, feeling proud of themselves, setting a good example for their kids, and feeling good when they look in the mirror more than makes up for it.  So don’t wait, start your resolution RIGHT NOW and come January 1st you will be so happy you did.

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator

Q: Now that I have lost weight, I’m finding that my motivation to stick to my diet is lessened and my Advantages List and Response Cards don’t have the same strength/power to keep my motivated. Why is this? What can I do?

A: Good question. We find that this sometimes happens to dieters – they are overweight and very unhappy about it. They learn the necessary cognitive and behavioral skills and they lose weight. Their life and health gets better. They keep practicing their skills and eventually they become used to their new look and size. And, most importantly, they (for the most part) really forget the reality of their daily life before they lost weight and the countless ways that being overweight is difficult.

When this happens to dieters, especially if they tell us their Advantages List is not really helping, the first thing we have them do is sit down and do a visualization. We ask them to think back to a time before they started losing weight and see themselves going through a typical day. We ask them to think about:

• What are you wearing?

• What do you wish you could be wearing?

• How easily or not easily are you moving around?

• Are you able to exercise comfortably and without being self-conscious?

• Do you have any sharper aches and pains?

• How is your health? Are you at higher risk for any illnesses or diseases?

• What are you eating?

• Are you feeling good about what you’re eating, or does eating certain foods cause you guilt?

• Do you feel in control of your eating?

• Are you often engaging in the uncomfortable “should I/shouldn’t I” struggle about eating things?

• How do other people look at you?

• How do you feel about yourself?

• Do you have a sense of pride in your appearance?

• Do you feel comfortable interacting with other people, either professionally or personally, who are a smaller size than you are?

• Are you setting a good example for your children?

• Do you feel comfortable being intimate with your partner?

• Are there things you are doing that day that you don’t have to do now?

• Are there things you do now that you weren’t able to do that day?

If dieters are able to do this effectively, it should help remind them of all of the small and big reasons it has been worth it to keep working on implementing their skills consistently. When we ask dieters if they would rather stop implementing their skills and return to how things used to be, 100% of the time we hear a resounding “NO!”

We also discuss with dieters the fact that, in the beginning, dieting was likely very hard for them because they were learning all of these skills for the first time. Eventually it got a lot easier and they were able to implement them consistently. But the truth of the matter is, from time to time dieting gets more difficult, which then causes motivation to lag, which then causes dieting to get even harder. We remind dieters that harder periods are completely normal and they happen to everyone. The biggest shame of all would be if dieters gave into a harder time and used it as a reason to give up, telling themselves, “This is too hard, I don’t want to do it anymore.” What dieters need to know is that as long as they keep working at it, dieting will get easier again. It always does.

So what can they do in the meantime to help make this difficult period go by faster?

1. Make a new Advantages List. By this point you’ve probably stopped reading it every day, and that’s fine. But as soon as dieting gets more difficult it’s important to start reading one every day for a period of time. Likely your old Advantages List will not be as compelling anymore because you’ve been living those advantages for a while. Use the visualization technique we mentioned to think about some new advantages you haven’t been paying attention to lately (maybe you forgot how you used to hate it when people looked at what you bought at the supermarket, or how you didn’t like to eat in social situations where everyone was of a smaller size than you, or how you used to worry that you were setting a poor example for your kids).

2. Make new Response Cards. Take time to identify what sabotaging thoughts you are having in regards to continuing to practice your dieting skills and write down strong responses to them on cards. Read these cards every day until dieting gets easier again.

3. Visualize. For a few days, take a little bit of time and again think about how your life was different before you lost weight. Ask yourself how it would feel to get back there and whether or not practicing your skills, while not always fun, are actually less of a burden than being overweight.

4. Remember. There are a few things that dieters often lose sight of once dieting gets tougher. One of the biggest ones being that when they were eating whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, often they were doing so without a sense of complete control and it did not feel good. Making healthy choices and feeling control of your eating feels so much better than constantly feeling bad about what you’re eating. Remember how it used to be and then remember how it is now.

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator

Q: I see that there are three books: The Beck Diet Solution, The Complete Beck Diet for Life, and the workbook. Which book should I start off using?

A: The answer is that there is no right answer, and you will be fine starting off with any of them.  Through feedback we have learned that some people initially find the third book, The Complete Beck Diet for Life, to be a little more complicated to follow than The Beck Diet Solution (which we often call the “pink book”) or the workbook. Often dieters read The Beck Diet Solution first, and follow along with each skill in the program, and then later enhance their efforts with new ideas from the second book.  But as a general rule, figure out what seems easier for you to follow and makes the most sense because that is ultimately what will be most effective for you.

Q: I read the Beck Diet Solution book a while ago and I lost weight, but then my life got really stressful and I ended up gaining it back.  Do you know of dieters who had to do the program more than once and ultimately found success?  How did they do this, by going back and starting the program again?

A: YES, we have come in contact with many dieters who did not ultimately end up keeping all the weight off after their first attempt.  Frequently big life changes or stressors get in the way, and this is when dieters start to loosen the reins and stop practicing their skills.  Dieters need to be able to take a step back and view the situation objectively: which skills are they doing less consistently or not at all?  What part of the day is hardest for them? What do they have to do to make dieting a priority again?  Once dieters can figure out what is going on, they can then begin to formulate a plan to get back on track.

As you suggested, we recommend that dieter go back (maybe to even the first skill) and take time to ensure that they have fully MASTERED each skill before moving on to the next one. If dieters have not really mastered a skill the first time around, as soon as life circumstances become more challenging, practicing that skill will be much more difficult.  Often dieters initially think it’s okay to move on to the next skill once they are pretty good at the previous one, but we’ve found that “pretty good” is usually just not good enough. Taking time to master each skill can make the difference between temporary and lasting success.

Q: I know you say to eat without distractions. I have a bad habit of eating in front of the TV — the snacks are planned for within my meal plan — but sometimes, I’m setting myself up for failure. Any tips? Thanks!

A: You’re right, learning to eat slowly and mindfully are important parts of the program because we have found (over and over and over again) that dieters simply are not able to feel satisfied – physically and psychologically – if they do not take time to notice and enjoy what they’re eating.  While it may seem that as long as dieters are eating what they had planned to eat then it doesn’t matter how they eat it, we have found that this is not really the case.  Yes, dieters will continue to lose weight if they continue to follow their plan. But if they are not getting the most from what they are eating, then dieting will likely be much more of a struggle because they will feel less satisfied and more tempted to eat things not on their plan. When the struggle goes down, dieting gets so much easier and we want to help dieters make things as painless as possible.

If you are tempted to zone out while eating your (planned) snack, remind yourself why it’s worth it to you to momentarily turn off the TV and really focus on enjoying what you’re eating.  We find that dieters can be just as happy eating one cookie as they would be eating three, if they really take time to enjoy that one cookie instead of mindlessly eating and not tasting three.  And let’s face it – you deserve the pleasure of getting to relax watching TV AND the pleasure of getting to enjoy your food, so why not take time to do both and not deny yourself one.

You can also practice splitting your focus while watching TV and experiment with doing both at the same time, but be very deliberate about it.  If you notice that you are starting to eat mindlessly, refocus yourself and/or turn off the TV.  Some dieters are better at this than others, and some find that they really appreciate taking the time to enjoy their food and feel good about what they’re eating.

Angry Eating

When Jamie came in my office this week, she reported feeling disappointed.  Jamie thought she had kicked her emotional eating habits because, through lots of practice, she became adept at not eating when she was feeling sad or stressed.  This was something that Jamie had struggled with a lot at first because initially she thought she would not be able to handle feeling sad or stressed without turning to food.  Through our work together, Jamie learned that negative emotions are not going to kill her and she can do other things to comfort herself which will not have the end result of jeopardizing her diet and ultimately making her feel worse.  Jamie always gave herself a lot of credit for being able to handle these negative emotions without turning to food by using a multitude of other distracting techniques, like calling her sister or a friend, going for a walk, taking a shower, painting her nails, or listening to relaxing music. 

Yesterday evening, however, Jamie was out with a friend for dinner and midway through she got a phone call from her mother who made her angry and they ended up getting into a fight.  Jamie hung up the phone, still feeling mad.  Even though she’d almost finished the amount of food she had carefully portioned off from her plate that she would eat at dinner (and was planning to bring the rest home for lunch the next day), Jamie told me that she then proceeded to eat almost everything that was left on her plate, seemingly without noticing what she was doing.  It wasn’t until Jamie looked down at her near-empty plate that she realized she had just engaged in emotional eating, but this time it was in response to anger, not sadness or stress and felt discouraged.  I asked Jamie what she did after she realized this and Jamie reported that she left the restaurant, took a walk with her friend, and then called her mother to work the situation out.  I then asked Jamie if she had proceeded to order dessert at the restaurant or had gone home and eaten whatever was in her house.  In an almost puzzled fashion, Jamie answered, “of course not.”  I recognized what was going on here –Jamie was only focusing on the one mistake she had made that night and was not seeing all the multitude of great things she had done immediately after. 

I asked Jamie what she might have done a few years ago when she felt angry or worked up like that and she reported that she probably would have gone on to eat a lot more food to soothe herself.  I also asked Jamie what she would have done  in a situation in which she made an eating mistake and Jamie acknowledged that she probably would have gone on to eat a lot more the rest of the night, thinking she had blown it.  Jamie and I discussed how very differently she handled this situation and all of the important things that she deserved credit for.  Jamie was able to see that she deserved credit for:

  1. Once she realized she had eaten more than she planned, she did not catastrophize and continue to eat out of hand the rest of the night
  2. After dinner she took a walk to calm herself down instead of turning to more food
  3. She got problem-solving oriented and called her mom to work out the problem
  4. She was able to identify what was going on – that she was eating because she was angry – and respond to sabotaging thoughts that were urging her to keep eating
  5. She was ready to learn from the situation and would be more aware of all forms of emotional eating in the future

I pointed out to Jamie what I point out to all of my dieters: that ALL dieters and maintainers make mistakes, they are just able to recover from them right away.  Jamie and I discussed the fact that, without even realizing it, this is exactly what Jamie did because as soon as she realized she had eaten more than she planned, she put the brakes on eating right away.  We also talked about the fact that instead of feeling good about this situation and how she had proved to herself that she can recover right away, Jamie was actually making herself feel worse by only focusing on the one thing she did wrong, instead of the 20 positive things she did right after.  Jamie and I decided that as part of her homework this week, she would start focusing more on giving herself credit for all the positive things she did, both big and small.

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator

We received a lot of great questions after the latest issue of our newsletter went out which is wonderful because it helps us know what you would like to hear about on the blog and in future editions of our newsletter.  Today I’m responding to a question that many dieters submitted to us in one form or another.

Q: Right now I eat in a pretty controlled and healthy way for meals but in between meals I’m struggling a lot to get my eating under control. I eat way too much for snacks, especially in the late afternoons, and it is very hard for me to control it. How can I overcome this?

A:  Sometimes we find that if our dieters are eating too much for snacks, it means that they did not eat enough during meals and/or they didn’t eat enough lean protein and healthy fats to keep them feeling full.  The first thing we suggest is that you look at the content of your meals – are you eating a healthy enough balance of foods?  Yes, vegetables are VERY healthy but if that is all you’re eating for a meal, then no wonder you will want to eat a short time after.

Another thing that could be going on is that you’re not actually hungry, you’re experiencing the desire to eat. This could be for any number of reasons – you’re craving something, you’re stressed, you’re emotional, you’re tired, etc., and there are two very effective tools that you can use to combat this desire to eat.  First, try eating according to a schedule.  You don’t necessarily (right now, anyway) have to decide in advance what you’re going to eat, but decide in advance when you’re going to eat, including snacks between meals.  This way if you’re having a strong craving to eat at 3:00, you can remind yourself that you have a snack coming at 4:00 and you only have to hold out 60 more minutes.

Second, spend some time identifying your sabotaging thoughts and coming up with strong responses to them.  If you’re thinking, “Just this one little snack won’t make a difference,” remind yourself that it absolutely DOES make a difference and that every single unplanned snack counts because it helps reinforce old, unhelpful habits. Try writing these responses on 3×5 cards (we call them Response Cards) and read them every morning with your Advantages List so that they are fresh in your mind when you need to call upon them.  When our dieters have identified a problem time, like in the afternoon or after dinner, we always have them prepare themselves in advance for that time by reading their Advantages List and Response Cards right before so it is most clear in their mind just why it’s worth it to them to resist.

And most importantly – don’t give up!  Dieting is hard work and it takes practice, but the more you do it the easier it gets.   Each and every time you stand firm and don’t eat unplanned food in the afternoon, you increase your chances of resisting the next time, and the time after that, and the time after that.