Standing Firm: Maria

It was Maria’s daughter’s birthday last week, so over the weekend Maria threw a sleepover party for her and her friends.  Maria knew that there would be a lot of tempting food around all evening and night and so she sat down ahead of time and planned out what and how much she would eat (discussed on Day 16 of The Beck Diet Solution).  Maria decided that the best way to approach this situation was to make sure she had lower calorie versions of the regular party food.  For herself she bought fat free hotdogs to eat instead of regular ones, a snack size bag of microwave popcorn instead of a buttery full-size bag, and 100-calorie packs of the same kind of cookies. 

For the most part everything went according to plan during the party.  Maria was able to enjoy her scaled-down version of the party food and didn’t feel deprived because she had prepared for the situation so well (Day 30).  However, there was one snag when Maria came face to face with a big bowl of gummy bears – a food she hadn’t anticipated wanting at all.  She suddenly developed a strong craving to eat them, and all at once the struggle started in her mind.  “It went back and forth,” Maria said, “like an angel and a devil on each shoulder.”  She had thoughts like, “It’s ok to eat the [unplanned] gummy bears because it’s a celebration; I really want it; it will just be one.”  She countered those sabotaging thoughts by telling herself, “It’s not ok to eat unplanned food.  Every time I eat something I’m not supposed to, it reinforces that bad habit.  Every time I resist unplanned food, it reinforces the good habit and increases the chance I will resist in the future.”  (Day 13). 

After a long struggle, Maria finally made the firm decision that she was absolutely not going to eat any gummy bears.  She went immediately to her refrigerator where she had posted her Advantages List (Day 1) and read it to remind herself of just why it was so important to her not to eat unplanned food.  As soon as the decision not to eat was made, Maria said that her craving immediately began to diminish and the urge to eat gummy bears eventually subsided.  This was an incredibly important experience for Maria because it showed her that cravings eventually pass and she doesn’t need to eat to get rid of them, and that she is strong and can be confident in the future of her ability to withstand uncomfortable cravings.

More Birthdays!

birthdayballoons.jpgThree of our dieters – Roxanne, Charlotte, and Diana – had birthdays in the past 2 weeks, and they reported that this birthday was very different from previous ones.  In the past all of our dieters have noted that they used their birthdays (and usually their friends and family’s birthdays, too!) as an excuse to overeat, telling themselves, “It’s ok to eat this because it’s a special occasion; I’m celebrating” (discussed on Day 19 of The Beck Diet Solution).  This year, however, things were very different. 

One of Roxanne’s friends thoughtfully baked her a cake, but knowing that Roxanne is trying to lose weight, she made a light angel food cake, using Splenda instead of sugar.  Roxanne was touched by the gesture, but because she hadn’t planned to eat cake that day, she didn’t allow herself to use her birthday as an excuse to eat unplanned food.  She took the cake home and enjoyed a piece the next day when she was able to work it into her plan.  In spite of her birthday, Roxanne lost a pound this week.

 Charlotte, a professor, had a similar experience.  One of her students baked a cake and brought it in for her department to enjoy.  Knowing that Charlotte was on a diet, the student made the cake healthier using applesauce instead of oil and left a section of it without icing.  Because of this, Charlotte was able to take part in the birthday celebration and still lose weight this week.

Diana, too, had a lot of people who wanted to commemorate her birthday.  However, she told everyone that she didn’t need a cake because she didn’t want to deal with having it around.  But this doesn’t mean that her friends weren’t able to find other ways to celebrate her birthday.  When she got home from work she found out that her coworkers had sent her a big bouquet of flowers – made out of fruit.

Our dieters this week handled their birthdays with ease and confidence.  We’re so proud of them!

Birthday: Diana

Diana’s birthday is on Wednesday and with it comes a multitude of food temptations – meals out, a party, cake, etc.  Diana’s family took her out to dinner on Sunday where they serve huge, family-style portions of food.  In the past Diana would have gone all out at such a meal, with the permission-giving thoughts, “It’s ok to eat this because I’m celebrating; it’s free; everyone else is eating it; I’ll hurt their feelings if I don’t eat a lot.”  This year, however, Diana was able to recognize these for what they really are – sabotaging thoughts that will cause her to stray from her diet (discussed on Day 25 of The Beck Diet Solution).  To counteract them, Diana firmly planned what she would eat before she got to the restaurant, read her Advantages List, and announced to her family in the car that she was not going to overeat (Day 30). 

Diana’s preparations paid off.  When she got to the restaurant, she was tempted by the smell and sight all of the food, but she resolutely stuck to her planned meal.  She passed up almost all of the tempting dishes her family ordered, knowing that she couldn’t eat them and still lose weight.  Diana reported that there were also quite a few birthdays at the restaurant that night, as the waiters were frequently bringing patrons huge slices of cake with candles.  Diana said her family tried to order a slice of birthday cake for her too, but because it wasn’t on her plan she refused the offer and instead had the low calorie desert she had planned when she returned home. 

Because Diana is very active in her church, they too wanted to celebrate her birthday by getting her a big cake.  Diana knew that she would be tempted by the cake and so she told her church that she didn’t want one, and instead they sang to her on Sunday, because “singing doesn’t have any calories.”  So far Diana is handling her birthday obstacles without difficulty; she lost 3 ½ pounds this week.

Slippage: Maria

During the group on Monday, we talked about the notion of “slippage” – letting bad habits infiltrate back into your life.  Setting in place new, helpful behaviors about diet and exercise takes time and energy, and the new habits and skills need to be practiced consistently to make sure the old ones don’t come creeping back (discussed on Day 42 of The Beck Diet Solution).

pretzels.jpgMaria noted that she was at risk for slippage when she was preparing her daughters’ lunches in the evening.  Several days in a row Maria caught herself popping an (unplanned) pretzel into her mouth as she was putting them into bags.  We discussed with Maria that while the number of calories in a pretzel is trivial, the act of absentmindedly eating unplanned food is not.  Today it could be a pretzel while preparing her daughters’ lunches, tomorrow it could be a brownie while talking on the phone (Day 16).  Also, while there are few calories in one pretzel, eating extra unplanned food every day while preparing lunch eventually would add up and could easily lead Maria to stop losing weight or even start gaining. 

Maria recommitted herself to not eating any unplanned food and to being extra alert when she was preparing food for others.  She stopped her slight slippage right at the onset, which will enable her to continue losing weight.

Wasting Food: Brenda

One of the topics we discussed during our group meeting is the importance of throwing outtrashcans1.jpg extra food.  Keeping leftovers hanging around in the refrigerator and cupboards can tempt dieters and threaten to derail their good efforts.  A lot of our dieters initially expressed discomfort at the idea of wasting food.  However, what we like to remind our dieters is that if you eat extra food you don’t need, your body can’t use it and just turns it into fat, i.e. the food is wasted in your body.  So the food is wasted in the trashcan or wasted in your body, but either way it’s wasted (discussed on Day 7 of The Beck Diet Solution). 

Brenda in particular had a lot of trouble throwing out extra food.  Her daughter would often cook big meals and there would be lots of leftovers that she couldn’t bring herself to toss in the trash.  Brenda said the leftovers would hang out in her fridge for a couple of days until she eventually ate them, whether she really wanted to or not.  She also often had half-finished boxes of snack foods in her cupboard that her grandchildren would start and not finish, and even though they were often stale and fairly unappealing, there were times when they sorely tempted Brenda.

Brenda responded really well to the notion, “In the trashcan or in your body, either way it’s wasted,” and with this new mentality it became easier for her to throw out food.  Brenda slowly got in the habit of throwing out all the unwanted leftovers from the meals her daughter cooked, because she knew she’d rather the food be wasted in her trashcan than show up on the scale.  Brenda also now periodically goes through her cupboards and without difficulty throws out all the unfinished, stale snack food.  Learning to throw out food may seem like a simple idea, but it will continually keep Brenda from eating extra food and help her keep the weight off permanently. 

“If I hadn’t joined the group…”

We asked our diet group to complete the sentence, “If I hadn’t joined the group…” Here’s what they have to say about how the group, The Beck Diet Solution, and the techniques of Cognitive Therapy have helped them.

If I hadn’t joined the group…

Maria: “I would most likely have serious health problems and still would have been more than 44lbs heavier than I am today. I was becoming an introvert; I didn’t want anyone to see how fat I had become.”

Diana: “I would have gained 25 pounds.”

Brenda: “I would continue to try other fad diets and ultimately fail because I would not have learned behavior that would enable me to make conscious lifelong changes in my eating habits.”

Linda: “I would probably still be eating cheese steaks and chips and stopping by a fast food drive-thrus.”

Charlotte: “I would have continued putting on ~2 pounds/year for the rest of my life.”

Carolyn: “As a result of your weight loss group I have learned to take an active role in applying the following key words to my life: Decision – I have made a life-time decision to make positive food planning choices; Choice – I have learned that hunger is not an emergency and that I must practice “No Choice” on a daily basis; Lifestyle – Proper eating habits should be practiced as a way of lifefor the rest of my life; Maintain – Maintaining is worth the perpetual outcome it brings.  If I had not attended your weight loss group I really don’t believe that I would have the positive mind set that I have today. The phrase “Mind Set” being key.”

Spreading the Word: Roxanne

Some of our dieters have been noticing an interesting side effect from their own efforts toward healthy eating and exercise: they are having a positive impact on those around them. Roxanne has noticed this happening lately.  Part of the reason she initially gained weight was due to eating eat big, unhealthy lunches with her friends. 

After coming to our group, Roxanne started monitoring her calorie intake and realized that she was spending way too many on lunch (discussed on Day 15 of The Beck Diet Solution).  She also became more aware of what she was eating and started to make healthier food choices so she could get the most satisfaction from the more limited amount she was eating (Day 16). fastfood.jpg 

Roxanne says that after she stopped ordering big hoagies and fast food for lunch, her friends in the office followed suit and instead started opting for healthier lunches (with more protein).  Now they turn to Roxanne to be the model for healthy eating, and she is only too willing to share her knowledge.  Roxanne says that her family, too, has started eating more nutritiously with her, and she is thrilled with the unexpected spillover effect her healthy diet is having on those around her.

Breakfast in Bed: Maria

bacon-eggs-pic4.jpgMaria had an interesting experience on Valentine’s Day: her young daughter woke her up by bringing her breakfast in bed.  In the past she would have immediately eaten everything her daughter brought both because she was pleased by her daughter’s efforts and because she viewed it as a celebration.  However, Maria is now so much more conscious of every bite that she takes (discussed on Day 3 of The Beck Diet Solution) that she didn’t immediately reach for the food. This situation presented an interesting problem for Maria: the breakfast of toast, bacon, and scrambled eggs her daughter brought her was certainly much more caloric than the light breakfast she had planned.  On the other hand, her daughter had gone through a lot of trouble to prepare it for her, and Maria didn’t want to discourage her. 

In general, we teach our dieters to learn to assertively say no to food pushers (Day 29), who usually come in the form of coworkers or family members urging treats.  In most cases, the cost of not eating the food (potentially minor disappointment to the food pusher) is far outweighed by the cost of eating it (dieters feel weak and controlled; they go off their plan; they may gain weight). 

Maria, who no longer has trouble resisting adults who urge food on her, realized that this truly was a special case.  So she employed the best strategy that she could – she mentally replanned her food for the day to include more calories for breakfast and fewer for lunch.  She then ate about half of what her daughter had prepared for her, which was enough to properly show her daughter her gratitude.  Maria followed her new plan for the rest of the day and as a result her higher calorie breakfast in bed did not affect her weight at all.

Overcoming Cravings: Diana

vendingmachine012.gifThis afternoon Diana had a really strong craving for something sweet.  She knew it was a craving and not hunger because she had just finished eating her usual lunch (discussed on Day 11 of The Beck Diet Solution).  Labeling this strong urge as a “craving” helped Diana to realize that she didn’t need to eat, and that in fact it was important for her not to eat so she could prove to herself that she didn’t have to give in to cravings (Day 13). 

The first thing Diana did was to eliminate the struggle over whether or not she would go to the vending machine and buy some candy.  She firmly told herself, “NO CHOICE, I am not going to eat.”  She imagined what it would feel like five minutes later if she did give in.  She pictured herself feeling guilty and weak, and saw herself stepping on the scale and gaining weight.  She then thought about how she would feel five minutes later if she didn’t give in – and she saw herself feeling happy and in control, and losing weight this week.  To ensure that the latter happened, Diana also pulled out her card that listed all of the reasons she wanted to lose weight (Day 1). She realized that getting all the benefits of weight loss that were listed on the card was much more important to her than the momentary pleasure of eating something sweet.  She then immediately immersed herself in work and after several minutes, she realized that the craving had passed.

We discussed with Diana how great it was that she had this craving and didn’t give into it.  Because she was able to stand firm, Diana proved to herself that while cravings can be uncomfortable, they certainly won’t kill her and she doesn’t need to eat to get rid of them.  Diana is extremely proud that she didn’t give in and realizes that each time she withstands cravings, it will become easier and easier to do so next time.

Dealing with a Plateau: Diana

Diana’s weight loss had reached a plateau for quite a while. We discussed with Diana the fact that this often happens to dieters as they’re losing weight. Initially they are able to lose a certain amount given the number of calories they are taking in versus the number they are expending.  But as they lose weight, their bodies require fewer calories. Many dieters, if they do not continue to decrease their calorie consumption (or increase their exercise), find that their weight loss stagnates (discussed on Day 38 of The Beck Diet Solution).  When this happens, it’s very easy for them to become discouraged (Day 24) and blame themselves, thinking they just can’t lose weight.

Diana recently decided to cut her calories a little and increase her exercise a little to see what happens. She recognized that enough time has gone by—and her weight hadn’t budged. She sees that it’s wishful thinking to expect that she’ll suddenly begin to lose weight again without doing anything differently. She’s disappointed that she has to eat less, but she’s realistic. If she wants her weight loss to continue, she has to make some changes.  Diana has since decreased her number of calories and is making an effort to take lunchtime walks.  She reports that her pants already feel looser.