I use the skills in the Beck Diet Program for myself as well. After I graduated college I lost weight and more or less kept it off in the ensuing 12 years. On January 30th of this year, I had my daughter, Diana, and things changed. You might think that since this is what I do for a living I’d have an easy time returning to my healthy eating habits – and that’s what I thought, too. But, boy was I wrong!
Recently I had a session with my client, Jenny. Among others skills, Jenny and I are working on her not having dessert before dinner. In session, Jenny told me that she was distressed because although she was able to resist dessert before dinner, on many occasions she was really tempted earlier in the day and wanted to give in. “I shouldn’t be having these thoughts!” she said to me. In a previous session, Jenny had told me that she had committed to going on a run with a friend one day after work. Although she was really tempted to cancel, Jenny ended up going. I reminded Jenny of this during our session and I asked her, “Did you feel really bad about having thoughts about cancelling the run?” Jenny thought about it and said that, no, she didn’t feel bad about it. Read more
When we first start working with new clients, they often report that they have trouble staying on track when they get home from work, and that the hour or two between arriving home and eating dinner is often filled with unplanned eating. We think that there are several reasons why this is such a troublesome area: Read more
Not enough is written about maintaining a weight loss, and this is a problem because for most dieters, that’s where the real work begins. Losing weight is unquestionably difficult but it comes with enormous positive reinforcement – watching the scale go down, fitting into clothes, getting compliments, etc. Weight maintenance has many fewer new and motivating milestones and it becomes about getting ourselves to keep doing what we’re doing, even though most of the excitement has passed. Read more
We believe that eating dessert, and for many dieters (ourselves included) eating a reasonable portion of dessert every day, is an important part of lifetime weight loss and maintenance. When dieters first come to see us, we always ask them to describe a really good eating day and then a really bad eating day. The majority of them describe a good eating day as one that includes no desserts, and a bad eating day as one that includes way too many. The reason for this is because all-or-nothing (meaning, too much dessert or none at all) is really two sides of the same coin; cutting a food out entirely almost always leads to eventually eating way too much of it. While it’s true that eating no dessert, or being too restrictive in other ways, may help dieters lose weight, being overly restrictive just doesn’t work long term because it’s impossible to stick to forever. And once dieters start allowing themselves to eat the foods they were previously forbidding, they go overboard and gain weight.
We hope you’re more open to the idea that eating dessert in reasonable portions is an essential component of lifetime weight loss and maintenance, but of course the question you’re probably asking is, “But how do I do it?” Learning to eat dessert in reasonable portions is a process and it takes time and practice – but it absolutely can be done.
Yesterday I had a session with Jennifer, whom you read about in our previous blog post. One of the main topics of our session this week was rehashing how it went in her first week of enforcing the “no treats from the office kitchen” guideline. In short: She was awesome! Jennifer was able to stick to the guideline the entire week and didn’t eat a bite of unplanned food while at the office. Jennifer also lost two pounds over the past week, although the primary goal was really for her to at least maintain her weight and feel more in control of her eating. The weight loss was a bonus but the real reward was how on track Jennifer felt all week.
Jennifer told me that she learned a few things last week that she now knows will be integral in continuing to stay on track with her eating this December. First, Jennifer has been bringing all the food she’s planning to eat each day to work with her, so that she doesn’t have the excuse of not having a prepared snack as a reason to go and get something from the office kitchen. While bringing all her food is not always 100% necessary most of the year, during December when the office treats are so much more abundant and tempting, it’s a requisite in helping Jennifer to stick to her plan.
Jennifer also found that reading her Response Cards made a huge difference in helping her resist office treats. Whenever the cravings hit (which usually for her was around 11:00am and 3:00pm) she would first go and read her Response Cards and remind herself, over and over again, why it was worth it to stand firm; how proud she would feel when she did; how eating the treat wouldn’t be as enjoyable as she was imagining it would be anyway because she would definitely feel guilty about it. Jennifer told me that some cravings were stronger than others, but generally they would last for about 15 minutes at most, and many of them lasted for a few minutes or less. Just knowing that she was going to have cravings, expecting it to happen, but also knowing that they would pass, helped Jennifer enormously in getting through them. She reminded herself, “I’m only 15 minutes away from success.” Meaning, in 15 minutes (or less!) Jennifer would be exactly where she wanted to be – on track and feeling great.
Jennifer and I also discussed that, while there were some hard moments every day in resisting the office treats, most of the time she felt relatively at peace in terms of her food cravings. This is very different from when we first started working together. When Jennifer first came to see me, she was in a self-described state of “mental anguish” most of the time. She was constantly fighting food cravings and feeling badly about what she was eating, feeling out of control, and very worried about her weight. The only periods of relief she had from this was when she was actually eating, but most of the time it was really hard. Now just the opposite is true. Most of the time Jennifer feels good about what she’s doing, punctuated by moments of its feeling really hard when her cravings hit, but the vast majority of hours are ones in which she feels at peace. Jennifer has gained an understanding that those hard moments are the price she pays for feeling calm most of the time, and it is a cost she is 100% willing to pay.
With one really strong week under her belt and additional knowledge and experience to apply to this week, Jennifer is feeling more armed and ready than ever before to take on the office kitchen.
This week I had a session with my client, Jennifer. Jennifer told me about a very troubling email she got from her work a few days ago. The email said that, for the entire month of December, her office was organizing a system in which people would sign up and one person would bring in a treat every single day. Jennifer told me that when she read this email, her heart sank because she knew that all it meant was that there would be so many tempting and potentially sabotaging treats around for an entire month.
I first reassured Jennifer that she absolutely could handle this situation, but what she needed was a really strong plan and some helpful Response Cards. Jennifer and I discussed possible plans for how she would handle this influx of office treats, and she decided that the plan she’d like to work on would be to not have any treats at the office, but if it was something she really wanted, bring a portion of it home and have it after dinner in place of the dessert she usually had. Jennifer thought that this was the best plan because she told me that she passes the office kitchen at least several times a day when she goes to pick up something from the printer, and she didn’t want the burden of, each time she passed, having to decide whether or not to have a treat (and therefore having to work on resisting it).
I reminded Jennifer that the good news was that this plan was entirely doable, as long as she was properly prepared. Eating is not automatic, so it would never be the situation directly that would mean Jennifer didn’t stick to her plan, it would be her thinking about the situation. It wouldn’t be the fact that Jennifer was having a bad day and wanted to treat herself with sugar that automatically meant she gave in and had a treat at the office, it would be her saying to herself, “Because I’m having a bad day, it’s okay to eat a treat at the office to make myself feel better.” I discussed with Jennifer that what we had to do was, as best we could, think through all the situations and accompanying sabotaging thoughts she might have over the next month and come up with responses to them so that she would know exactly what to say to herself when the situation arose.
Here are some of the thoughts and responses that Jennifer and I came up with:
1. I’m having a hard day so I deserve a treat.
2. I’m just going to give in and have this treat.
3. This treat looks so good. Just give in and have it.
4. This treat looks so good; I want to have it.
5. I can’t say no to the person pushing food on me.
6. I’ll just have some now and then I won’t have any dessert after dinner.
As a second part of the plan, Jennifer committed to reading these cards at least twice a day for the next month (first thing in the morning and again after lunch) plus anytime during the day when she felt vulnerable. With a strong plan and strong responses, Jennifer felt much more ready to take on the month of December.
We asked our Facebook Community for their favorite tips and tricks for sticking to their plan during the holiday season. Here are our favorite tips:
- Make Holiday-specific Response Cards (and maybe a Holiday-specific Advantages List detailing why it’s worth it to stay on track during the holidays) and read them multiple time a day, every day.
- Bring healthy alternatives to holiday parties and events and challenge yourself to try new, healthier recipes.
- Remember that the holidays are not just about eating. Work on finding non-food related ways to celebrate the holidays.
- Send guests home with the leftovers and get rid of anything else that’s really tempting (or make a plan for exactly when and how much you’ll have).
- Write out plans for how you’ll handle holiday meals and events. If things don’t go according to plan, take time after to figure out why it happened and what you can do to stay on track the next time.
- Don’t skip meals during the holidays to “save” calories. Doing so means you’ll likely go into holiday meals very hungry and also with the thought, “It’s okay to eat [a lot] extra because I skipped lunch.” When dieters have that thought, they often eat way more calories than they would have if they had a healthy lunch and a reasonable dinner.
- The holidays are a busy time for most people, but also a stressful time. When dieters get busy, they sometimes drop their stress-relieving activities (like exercise, meditation, talking to friends, etc.) and so they’re much more likely to turn to food to alleviate stress. This holiday season, make sure you have built-in stress relievers!
- Portion control, portion control, portion control. Put forth the time and effort to really savor everything you’re eating and you’ll get so much more enjoyment from less food.
- If you’re feeling deprived, remind yourself that it’s likely because you’re focusing on what you’re not getting – extra food, not on what you are getting – all the benefits of staying on track. If you feel deprived, change your focus.
- Don’t stop weighing yourself, even if you’re afraid you’ve gained weight. Avoiding the scale will allow you to continue to avoid doing what you know you should do. Taking accountability will make it easier and more likely that you’ll be able to get back and stay on track.
One of the biggest challenges that makes staying on track with healthy eating difficult during the holidays is what dieters find when they walk into their office kitchens. The fact of the matter is, it often seems like there is extra (tempting) food everywhere during the holidays, but the office kitchen is definitely one of the biggest culprits. We’re not going to sugar-coat this (no pun intended): managing the office kitchen during the holidays is difficult but it absolutely can be done with three key elements:
- A really good plan
- Strategies to put that plan into action
- Extra determination
The first part of managing the office kitchen is having a plan. For most dieters, it almost never works to just “wing it” (meaning, go into a situation without a firm plan and with the thought that they’ll just figure it out when the time comes) but this is especially true during the holidays. When there are so many extra temptations around, having a clear plan is critical. When making a plan for treats at the office, it’s important that your plan is both reasonable and realistic. If your plan is too restrictive or unreasonable, then ultimately you won’t be able to follow it anyway and will likely end up throwing it out the window and eating way more than you would have, had you made a more reasonable plan that you were able to stick with.
Some of our clients have plans such as: one reasonable treat a day from the office kitchen; one treat every Friday; one treat every other day; etc. A plan that we, ourselves, use and that many of our clients have since adopted is this: no treats from the office kitchen ever (unless it’s an office party). If there’s something in there we really want, we take a portion home and have it after dinner. This plan works so beautifully for us. It makes it so much easier to resist treats at work because we’re able to remind ourselves, “It’s not that I’m not having this food, I’m just not having it right now. But I absolutely can have it later, and when I do, I’ll be able to really enjoy it fully without guilt.” It also works well because we only bring home one portion at a time so even if we really want more when we’ve finished, there’s no more to be had!
Once you have your plan, you then need strategies to help you stick to it. One extremely helpful strategy is to make Response Cards for any sabotaging thoughts you think you’re likely to have about sticking to your plan. Here are some sample sabotaging thoughts and Response Cards.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay just this one time to not stick to my office holiday treats plan.
Sabotaging Thought: I’m going to eat this unplanned treat because I just don’t care.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s too hard to stick to my plan.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat [this unplanned treat] because everyone else is.
Just making Response Cards and looking at them every once in a while is probably not good enough during the holidays. Once you have your cards, it’s important to start reading them every day, at least once a day, as a matter of course. Doing so will start cementing these helpful thoughts in your head. In addition to reading them once a day, consider reading them again during difficult moments at work. If, for example, you know that 4:00 is a vulnerable time for you, set an alarm on your phone and read your cards again every day at 3:45. Or if you know going into the office kitchen to get your lunch puts you in direct contact with tempting treats, read your cards right before venturing into the kitchen.
Another strategy that can be helpful in dealing with office treat cravings is to have distractions at the ready. Remember that cravings really are like itches in that the more you pay attention to them, the worse they get. The moment you get really distracted is the moment the craving goes away. Having a list of distracting activities to try when a craving strikes can help you even more quickly turn your attention to something else. Some potential distractions are: take a walk, go talk to a co-worker, call a friend or family member, write an email to someone, check news or sports headlines, look at social media, do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku puzzle, read your Response Cards, read a blog post, online shop, and so on.
You may also want to pay attention to how long your cravings actually last. Most of the dieters we work with tell us that their cravings usually last somewhere between three to fifteen minutes. Even if your craving lasts a full fifteen minutes, it will eventually go away. Seeing how long they last can help you remind yourself that the discomfort is temporary, and that you’re only x minutes away from success.
We know that office treats are tough to handle, but the more you work on it, the better you will get. Make a plan, make Response Cards, and have distractions ready. Then you’ll be ready to do battle and win!
The Beck Diet Program was developed by Dr. Judith S. Beck with Deborah Beck Busis, LCSW.
Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a leading international source for training, therapy, and resources in CBT.
One Belmont Avenue, Suite 700
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004-1610