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.

Eating with Distractions

Since getting back on track, one of the hardest things for Jamie has been to try to eat things without too many distractions.  She has a very busy professional life and (especially during lunch time) she does not want to take a break from what she is doing to eat and will often try to work and eat simultaneously.  In session Jamie told me that the day before she was reading a research article while she was eating her prepared soup and sandwich.   Since the article was somewhat hard to understand and took a lot of concentration, most of Jamie’s focus was going towards that. 

After about three minutes Jamie tuned back into what she was eating and realized that she had eaten just over half her lunch and had barely noticed or tasted it at all.  Jamie immediately became annoyed and chastised herself, saying “You should know better than this.  I can’t believe you just ate half your lunch without paying any attention to it.”  However, Jamie told me that as soon as she noticed what she was saying to herself, she thought about to things we had discussed in other sessions and reminded herself that beating herself up for mistakes will serve no positive function at all. She knew that the only thing it would do would be to make her feel worse and erode her confidence, which might then make it harder to get back and stay on track the rest of the day because it would cause her to doubt whether or not she was capable of it.

Jamie told me that she realized that what she had to do was take a moment to re-group and get over the fact that half her lunch was now gone, learn from the experience, and do things differently next time.  Jamie then turned off her computer monitor and made sure that she ate the rest of her lunch slowly, while noticing and enjoying every bite.  Jamie was once again reminded how crucial it is to enjoy ever y bite because she ended up feeling satisfied at  the end of her lunch, but knew that she would not be feeling this way if she had continued to mindlessly eat while reading the article.

In session I gave Jamie a LOT of credit for being able to make a mistake and then recover from it right away.  We discussed the fact that even successful dieters and maintainers make mistakes (because no one is perfect), but the difference is that they are able to recover from them immediately.  Jamie and I also discussed how much confidence this situation gave her because she proved to herself that she could make a mistake, identify and respond to her sabotaging thinking, and get right back on track.  I pointed out to Jamie that this situation is also interesting because it started out as something that could have made her feel bad and guilty – eating half her lunch without noticing or enjoying it – and because she was able to recover right away it actually ended up making her feel really good about herself.

Jamie and I also did some problem-solving and she decided that until she was able to split her focus better, for the time being she would work on not doing anything distracting while eating lunch and would instead focus on enjoying her eating.  I helped Jamie formulate responses to some sabotaging thinking we predicted she might have about taking time away from work to eat so that she would be able to strongly remind herself just why it was worth it to turn off her computer monitor and take time to ensure that her lunch gave her both physical and psychological satisfaction.

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator

Q: How do I get myself back on track after I slipped up on my diet and not just give up? This is something I have really struggled with over the years and has stopped me from keeping off any weight that I lose.

A: You’ve hit the nail on the head because being able to recover from mistakes right away is one of the most important skills needed for permanent weight loss.  Our most successful dieters are not those who never make mistakes (because, let’s be real, we’re all human and we all make mistakes), but those who can get themselves back on track right after.  How do we teach our dieters to do this?

One of the first things we do is help dieters identify and respond to their sabotaging thinking about making mistakes.  Usually after they slip up they are having thoughts in one of two categories.  Either they’re thinking something along the lines of “Oh I’ve really screwed up this time, I guess it means I can’t do this,” and having a lot of defeatist thinking, or they’re tell themselves “Since I made a mistake today I might as well just continue eating and get started back on my diet tomorrow,” and are having a lot of ‘fooling themselves’ thinking.

For those in the first category, we remind our dieters that one mistake does not mean that they’re a total failure but it would be a failure if they used that as an excuse to give up completely.  We help dieters to see that if they were learning a different skill, like how to play the piano, they would not think that hitting one wrong key meant they should give it up completely because they wouldn’t have the expectation of being perfect; rather they would most likely just take it as a sign that they need to practice the piece more to get it right and learn from their mistakes.

Often dieters have years and years of failed dieting attempts behind them so it makes sense that they would catastrophize about a mistake because in the past it might very well have derailed them.  We help dieters learn to forgive themselves for making a mistake, which then allows them to be able to look at the situation more objectively so we can learn from it.  Frequently dieters make mistakes because they weren’t properly prepared ahead of time and weren’t able to respond effectively enough to sabotaging thinking in the moment.  We help dieters figure out how they can be more prepared for similar situations in the future and what new responses they need to formulate and practice.  The truth of the matter is that mistakes can be extremely useful because we can learn invaluable things from them which helps prepare the dieter for future successes.  So, no, one mistake never means total failure unless dieters allow it to become that way and they are a natural and unavoidable part of the learning process.

For dieters in the second category, we help them realize that the thought “I’ll start again tomorrow” makes no sense because it’s not like at a certain point the calories stop adding up.  One mistake, like eating a piece of unplanned cake, will probably not show up on the scale at the end of the week.  However, one piece of cake, a bag of chips, a donut, and a piece of pizza probably will.  And one piece of cake, a bag of chips, a donut, a piece of pizza, some candy, ice cream, chocolate, etc etc definitely will so the sooner they can get themselves back under control the better.  We always tell dieters that there’s no such thing as blowing it for the day because at ANY point they can decide to draw the line and get back on track.

We discuss with dieters the fact that there are very few (if any) other areas in life where people think it makes sense to compound one mistake with another.  We give dieters the red light analogy: imagine you are driving in your car, run a red light, and get pulled over by a cop who then gives you a ticket.  You wouldn’t think, “Well I’ve messed up today, I might as well run red lights for the rest of the day and then start driving carefully again tomorrow.” No! You would stop at the very next red light and get on with your day.  Dieting is the same thing – one mistake never justifies continuing to make more.  Another analogy I like is reminding dieters that if they fell down a few stairs, they wouldn’t say “screw it” and then throw themselves down the rest of the flight of stairs.  Of course what they would do is pick themselves back up and walk down the rest of the way. Continuing to eat off track once dieters make a mistake is like continuing to run red lights or throwing themselves down the rest of the stairs – completely irrational.

We also help dieters realized that the thought “I’ve messed up so I might as well just give it up for the day,” is a classic example of all-or-nothing thinking.  All or nothing thinkers see situations as completely one way or the other, not realizing how much middle ground there is in between.  All-or-nothing dieters think that they are either completely perfect on their diet, or they are totally off of it, not realizing that dieting is never black or white because everybody makes mistakes.  We examine with dieters the costs and benefits of continuing to hold onto this all or nothing thinking, and help them make cognitive shifts away from it.

Lastly, we remind dieters that thinking they’ll just start again tomorrow has NEVER helped them to lose weight in the past and keep it off.  And a lot of times it doesn’t work that way and it may take dieters several days or months to get themselves back on track.  The sooner they can recover from mistakes the better and they never have to wait until the next day/month/year to do it. Dieters often need many, many experiences of getting themselves right back on track to prove to themselves that they can do it effectively.  And the more times they successfully get back on track, the more confident they become and the easier it is to do the next time.  As I said in the beginning, ALL successful dieters and maintainers make mistakes, they just recover from them right away.

Ice Cream and Regrets

Jamie came into session today and reported that she had a significant experience over the weekend at an ice cream parlor.  She explained to me that she had planned in advance to go and have a small size ice cream so that she could still have a drink with dinner.  However, when Jamie and her friend were waiting in line at the ice cream counter, they discussed what they were going to have and her friend said he was going to have a medium-sized cup. Immediately Jamie’s sabotaging thoughts started kicking in – “If he’s having a medium, then so can I; It’s not fair that I should have to get a smaller size; I’ll enjoy it more if I get the bigger size; I know I planned to have a small but it won’t really matter if I get a medium” and so on and so on. 

Jamie reported that she did not at that moment take the time to identify what thoughts she was having and come up with responses to them, and so she ended up ordering a medium despite her initial plan to get a small. I asked Jamie how she felt after finishing her ice cream and she said that she felt bad about herself and guilty because she went off plan.  Jamie also believes she would have actually been happier ordering the smaller size because then she would have been able to enjoy each bite knowing she had planned for it, instead of feeling guilty about the extra ice cream she was consuming.  And because Jamie continued to feel bad about the situation and let her sabotaging thoughts go unchecked, she also ended up eating more at dinner than she had planned.

Jamie and I discussed this situation in depth during her session to see what we could learn from it.  First I asked Jamie if she had done any preparing before she went out for ice cream, such as reading her Advantages List or Response Cards which would remind her how and why to not give in to cravings.  Jamie told me that she thought about the ideas but didn’t actually read the cards, assuming the messages were well-enough engrained.  I explained to Jamie we’ve found this to be true for the majority of the dieters we work with – that just thinking about the response cards is not good enough; something about actually reading them seems to enter the brain in a different and more substantial way. 

Jamie and I also discussed the paradox that she thought she would be happier with the larger size, and then ended up enjoying it less because she felt guilty about going off her plan.  I reminded Jamie of her previous experience with the french fries and how good it felt to eat a smaller, planned portion, and how much she enjoyed each one.  I asked Jamie if she regretted not eating more fries on that day and Jamie realized that while she did not regret not eating more fries, she did regret eating more ice cream.

Lastly, Jamie and talked about how this one experience of giving in to sabotaging thinking led her then to give in to more sabotaging thoughts later in the day.  I reminded Jamie that this experience wasn’t only significant because she took in extra ice cream calories, it was also important because this one time of giving in led her to give in again later that day.  Jamie agreed, saying that if she had stuck with the small ice cream, she thinks it would have been easier for her to stay on plan the rest of the day because she would be feeling good about herself and her eating and would already have experiences from that day of not giving in.

I asked Jamie to think about what she would away from this discussion and she listed:

1. It’s important to actually READ her Advantages List and Response Cards before going into a challenging situation

2. Make a new Response Card reminding her that when she sticks to her planned portion of food, she feels much better about it, is able to enjoy it more, and absolutely does not regret not eating more

3. Remember that every time does matter, and going off her plan earlier in the day strengthened her giving-in muscle and triggered her to eat off track later in the day.

I ended by giving Jamie a whole lot of credit for not allowing herself to continue eating out of hand the next day and for getting back on track.  I reminded her that even experiences where she doesn’t do as well are extremely important because we can learn as much from them (and sometimes more) as from successful ones.

5 Ways to Gain Weight When You Don’t Want To

How often have you noticed that formerly normal weight people have gradually gained weight throughout the years? Or dieters who have lost a significant amount of weight and then gained it back quickly? Should people even try to lose weight at all? The answer is yes, if they are already having weight-related health problems or if they are putting on extra weight every year and so are likely to have health problems in the future. On the other hand, studies that have examined how much weight people are able to lose and how much they are able to keep off long term are fairly dismal. Most people gain weight back. Here is a sure fire formula for gaining weight:

  1. Lose weight quickly.
  2. Go back to your old way of eating when you lose weight.
  3. Continue to eat and exercise exactly as you have been as you get older.
  4. Eat in the way “everyone else” is.
  5. Make excuses for why it’s okay to eat when you shouldn’t.

Each of these items is explained below.

  1. Lose weight quickly: One of the best ways to gain weight quickly is to drastically cut your calories. Research shows that the faster people lose weight, the faster they tend to regain it.
  2. Go back to your old way of eating when you lose weight: It’s plain biology. If you lose weight on 1200 calories a day, for example, and then your weight plateaus, you will start to gain weight back once you go up to 1300 calories a day. That’s the equivalent of one good sized apple or four crackers. And if you return to eating 2,000 or 3,000 calories, as perhaps you did before, of course your weight will increase.
  3. Continue to eat and exercise exactly as you have been as you get older: It seems unfair, but it’s true. Metabolism tends to decrease with age. If you don’t start eating less and/or exercising more, you’ll gain weight. Now it’s reasonable to gain a little weight, especially if you’re eating in a healthy way, but those pounds can really add up as the decades go by.
  4. Eat in the same way you assume everyone else is: It’s possible that you know the rare person who can consume a great number of calories a day and not gain weight. But it’s more likely that the people you know (especially if they’re over 40), are either restricting their eating in some way or are themselves gaining weight each year. In any case, it’s irrelevant. If you don’t want to gain weight, you’ll need to figure out what’s right for you to eat—which isn’t necessarily right for another person.
  5. Make excuses for why it’s okay to eat when you shouldn’t: Your body processes calories in exactly the same way, regardless of circumstances. It doesn’t care if you’re stressed, tired, or celebrating; if it’s a special occasion; if no one is watching you eat; or if the food is free. It may be reasonable to plan in advance to eat a little more in some circumstances but understand that if you don’t compensate by exercising more or cutting an equivalent number of calories another time, you will gain weight.

It seems unfair. It’s so hard to lose weight and so easy to gain it back. But once you learn the cognitive (thinking) and behavioral skills you need, the process of losing and maintaining a weight loss (it’s the same process!) becomes much easier.

Slippery Slope

I hadn’t seen Ellie for several months. At our last appointment, she had been doing quite well, having lost 30 pounds in 7 months. She called me up one Monday, several weeks ago, because she had gained weight after a weekend of eating more than usual.

When we analyzed what had happened, it became apparent that Ellie had not only overeaten over the weekend, but that she had also gradually returned to some of her previous unhelpful eating behaviors. She had been on a slippery slope for about a month. For example, she was nibbling on food leftover from her family’s dinner plates. She was eating snacks standing up at the cabinet or refrigerator, instead of setting one portion on the table and sitting down to eat it. She hadn’t read her list of reasons to lose weight for a couple of months. No wonder she was having trouble!

Together we developed a plan of action. Ellie committed to reading a new Response Card (pages 20-21 of The Complete Beck Diet for Life) every morning. It said:

“I can nibble on leftover food and eat standing up OR I can continue to lose weight. I’m much happier with myself when I don’t do those things.”

Ellie also decided to go back to filling out a Success Skills Sheet (pages 274-275) every night for two weeks.

When Ellie called me this week, she was happy to report that she was once again easily using good eating habits and following her eating plan, and that she was continuing to lose weight. Now she knows precisely what to do in the future to get back on track.