Always Have a Plan

fair-food.jpgA few months ago, our dieter Jennifer attended a local festival in her town.  Before she went, she wrote down her plan. She had no trouble resisting all sorts of fried foods and local goodies and she was able to stay in control.  However, Jennifer brought food home for her family to sample and ended up eating some unplanned treats.  Because Jennifer had been working with us, though, she knew exactly what to say to herself to get back on track immediately (discussed on Day 20 of The Beck Diet Solution).

Jennifer has plans to attend a similar festival this weekend. When we asked her what her plan was, she related a sabotaging thought that was, “I’ve gotten so good at getting back on track, that I’m not going to make a plan in advance.” We went over the importance of always having a plan, even if it’s a special occasion. For example, Jennifer could plan in advance to eat four hundred calories more than usual. But we didn’t want her to go without a plan and end up eating thousands of extra calories.

Jennifer seemed unconvinced, so we decided to make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of making a plan for the festival.  Looking at them in black and white convinced her that she did indeed want to have a plan. One of the most compelling advantages was that she would be able to enjoy her splurge thoroughly and not feel guilty and out of control. Jennifer concluded that she will definitely go to the festival with a clear plan in mind. 

Expect the Tough Times

One of our dieters, Rose, has lately been having a tougher time sticking to her diet and exercise plan.  She’s about 2 ½ months into her diet and for the first time is really starting to struggle.  For the first two months things were relatively easy for Rose – her motivation was high, she was losing weight, and generally nothing was too difficult.  But a couple of months in and her motivation started to flag, her rate of weight loss slowed down slightly, and Rose suddenly found herself having to exert a lot more effort to stick to her plan.  Rose was extremely worried that things would continue to be really difficult and was having strong doubts as to whether or not she could really keep this up.

The first thing we did for Rose was to normalize her situation and tell her that this is exactly what happens to everyone.  No one, not a single dieter that we’ve worked with, has had a consistently steady and easy weight loss.  Every single one has experienced exactly what is now happening to Rose – in the beginning it’s easy, and then at a certain point things get harder for a period of time. But the good news is, they always get easier again.  And although hard times will continue to crop up, they do become fewer and farther between as dieters go along.  But dieters really need to know ahead of time that the high motivation and ease of loss that they experience in the beginning of a diet won’t last, that they will definitely encounter a harder time, and that the hard time will also pass.  If dieters aren’t prepared in advance for these hard times then when they come up they’re likely to get very discouraged and are at risk for abandoning their diet altogether.  

We discussed with Rose the fact that she needs to think about the bigger picture.  Things were easier for a while, then they became harder, but they will absolutely get easier again.  We also helped her put her week in perspective.  Rose initially said that she had a “really tough” week.  We asked her if every hour of every day was difficult, and she said no.  We then asked her if even most hours most days were difficult, and again she said no. On further reflection, Rose realized that all in all, she probably had struggled, at most, for a couple of hours several days, but had let the tougher times tinge her memory of the whole week.  Once she was able to put her situation in perspective, Rose realized that a momentary struggle was definitely not a good reason to abandon her diet, and like everyone else who is ultimately successful, she just has to plow through until the difficulty lifts.  We also reminded her that this is not the last hard time she will encounter, but Rose now feels much more confident that she can deal with the next one when it arises.

Going back to Planning: Roxanne

About five months ago, Roxanne made the decision to stop losing weight and start maintaining.  Since making that decision, Roxanne has been able to stop writing down a formal food plan each night and instead just has a general sense of what/how much she’s going to eat each day.  Like most successful maintainers, this has been fairly easy for Roxanne because she finds herself eating basically the same type of things for breakfast and lunch each day, with the only big variations being at dinner time. 

Although Roxanne is no longer trying to lose weight, she still employs many of the same techniques and strategies she did while she was on the way down.  She still consistently reads her Advantages List (discussed on Day 1 of The Beck Diet Solution) and Response Cards almost every day, and certainly whenever she’s going into a high-risk situation like a party or a reception.  She still continues to weigh herself each morning and consistently makes a conscience effort to eat everything slowly, while sitting down, and to enjoy every bite (Days 3, 5, and 21). 

scale21.jpgBecause she weighs herself every morning, Roxanne has noticed that for the past two weeks her weight has been up a little bit.  Rather than ignore the weight gain and hope that it goes away, Roxanne had decided to take steps to get herself firmly back on track so a small weight gain doesn’t turn into a thirty pound gain.  For the next couple of weeks, Roxanne is going to go back to making a written a food plan each evening for the next day, so she’ll know exactly how many calories she’s taking in.  With this strategy in hand, Roxanne is 100% confident that she will get back down to her Lowest Maintainable Weight (Chapter 11). 

This is precisely what will enable Roxanne maintain her weight loss for the rest of her life.  Whenever the scale is up by three pounds, she’ll just go back to writing down a plan and sticking to it – a skill she learned how to do well while following the Beck Diet Solution program.  Because she weighs herself each morning, Roxanne never has to worry about gaining back a lot of weight because she will always know when a small weight gain has occurred and the steps she needs to take to correct the imbalance. 

Get Back on Track: Roxanne

Our dieters are doing well despite all of the added pressures of the holiday season.  This week, almost everyone lost weight.  In our group, we discussed how they had eaten differently during previous Christmases. One dieter, Roxanne, summed up the group’s general sentiment best, saying she used to: “Eat until I bust!”

Roxanne, 47, has been struggling with dieting since the age of 25.  At one point, she lost 25 pounds and kept it off for about 2 years. Historically Roxanne’s biggest problem has been giving into cravings.  When she felt a strong urge to eat something, she usually did, telling herself “It’s ok to eat this because… I really want it; I’ll eat it eventually; I’ll have just a little; this one time won’t matter.”  Overcoming cravings and sticking to her food plans (a skill learned on Day 13 of The Beck Diet Solution) has helped Roxanne lose a total of 33 ½ pounds so far!

chicksalad.gifRoxanne is also becoming deft at making smart food choices.  She knew that last week she would be shopping and eating out a lot more than usual and had to be extra vigilant about not taking in too many calories (Day 30).  She made a rule for herself for this holiday season:  to order a salad whenever she ate lunch out. This rule eliminated a struggle about what she would and wouldn’t allow herself to eat. She stuck fast to this rule. One day, without thinking about it, she ordered breaded, fried chicken on her salad instead of grilled chicken.  But she didn’t criticize herself. She didn’t decide that she had blown her diet and therefore should eat out of control for the rest of the day.  Instead, she was able to get back on track immediately (Day 20).  She viewed the fried chicken as a momentary slip up and continued to eat normally for the rest of day, knowing that one minor mistake would not affect her weight at the end of the week.

Despite the holiday season, Roxanne lost 2 pounds this week.