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. 

Reaching Maintenance: Carolyn

Week 32 of our diet group and the pounds continue to come off!  Our meeting on Monday was special because we were celebrating that now two of our dieters, Roxanne and Carolyn, have reached maintenance (discussed in Chapter 11 of The Beck Diet Solution). 

Carolyn, 57, had lost 18 pounds before coming to our group.  Since the group has started, she has not only maintained that weight loss but continued on to lose another 13 pounds.  Carolyn says that the reason she has been so successful is due to the fact that she has learned to make permanent changes in her lifestyle in regards to eating and exercising.  She says she doesn’t worry about gaining weight back because she will never go back to the way that she used to be.

Carolyn says that one of the biggest changes she’s made is learning to incorporate at least some exercise into her life each by taking every opportunity to do so (Day 9 of The Beck Diet Solution).  She now always parks her car in a far spot, walks the five flights up to her office, and routinely goes on a lunchtime walk, regardless of the weather. She now also practices much better eating habits, both at home and when eating out. 

buffet.jpgCarolyn went last week to an all-you-can-eat buffet with her family to celebrate a birthday.  “In the past I would have stuffed myself silly,” she says, “but this time was much different.”  Carolyn looked at all of the food options and then picked what she considered to be the best choices based on what was available (Day 30).  She took one plate that had a reasonable amount of food and did not go back for seconds, despite her husband’s urging.  Even though her husband told her she, “wasn’t getting her money’s worth,” Carolyn knew that in fact it was worth money to her not to overeat.  Carolyn left the buffet feeling satisfied and proud, and confident that this is a situation she can repeat in the future. 

Restaurant Eating: Brenda

This week Brenda ate at one of her favorite seafood restaurants.  In the past she would usually order one of the fried fish entrees with the thought, “It’s ok to eat this, I’m at a restaurant.”  Brenda used to have all sorts of permission-giving thoughts like this that allowed her to eat foods that either weren’t on her diet, or in greater quantities than her diet allowed.  Brenda now has learned not to listen to the voice in her head that says, “It’s ok to eat this because I’m celebrating; everyone else is eating it; it’s free; it’s a special occasion,” (a skill learned on Day 19 of The Beck Diet Solution). 

This time when she went to the restaurant, she skipped entirely over the fried fish section, knowing that to stay within her calorie limit for the day she would only be able to eat a small amount.  Instead she opted for a steamed lobster tail.  Even though it was more expensive than the relatively inexpensive fried fish, Brenda knew that she would rather spend a little extra money than eat cheaply and gain weight.

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When her food came, Brenda was a little disappointed because it was smaller than she thought it would be, and momentarily regretted not ordering a big plate of fried food.  However, she stuck to her guns and ate her meal slowly, enjoying every bite.  When she finished, Brenda still felt unsatisfied but held off ordering more food because she knew that it can take up to 20 minutes for her head to register that her stomach is full (discussed on Day 5 of The Beck Diet Solution).  She talked back to the voice urging her to eat more and got in her car and left the restaurant.  Brenda says that about half way home she realized that the desire to eat more had completely vanished and she felt full and satisfied – and incredibly happy that she hadn’t ordered more food.  Brenda lost weight this week.

Give Yourself Credit: Charlotte

Charlotte, a 63 year old researcher, is unlike many of our other dieters. She didn’t start dieting until the age of 49.  Since that time, she has tried many different diets but never really succeeded in losing more than a couple of pounds.   About six months before she joined our group, Charlotte started a new, calorie-restrictive diet, and lost 12 pounds.  She joined our group hoping to lose more. As of this week, she’s lost an additional 9 ½ pounds.

One thing Charlotte really needs to work on is giving herself credit, an essential skill (taught on Day 4 of The Beck Diet Solution).  She has a belief that isn’t very useful. She thinks that she won’t deserve credit until she gets to her weight loss goal. But consciously giving yourself credit is very important. It builds the awareness that you’ve learned new skills and are strong and in control, both of which reinforce your self-confidence.  Having this confidence is crucial because if/when you slip up, you can view these slips ups as just momentary mistakes, not as indications that you are helpless or hopeless.

cookies.jpgFor a cookie exchange (she and several of her coworkers each baked batches of their favorite cookies to trade with one another) Charlotte baked seven-dozen chocolate chip cookies – and she didn’t eat a single one.  She reported this to the group and talked about how discouraging it was that even though she didn’t eat the cookies, she was tempted to.  Once again, Charlotte had not given herself credit!  To make her do this, we had Charlotte list all of the times she didn’t eat cookies, even when she wanted to.  It turns out there were many, many times she had to exert self control and read her Advantages List (Day 1):  While she was making the cookies, so she didn’t taste the batter.  While the cookies were cooling.  When she was packing the cookies into tins.  While the cookies were in her car. And finally, right before she dropped them off.   Viewed in this light, Charlotte realized that she deserved lots of credit because all these were instances in the past when she had eaten cookies.  But this time she stayed strong because she knew she’d rather lose weight than eat lots of cookies.  Losing weight and feeling good about herself were worth more than the momentary pleasure of eating.  

Planned Indulgences: Lori

Lori, a 44 year old attorney, started dieting at the age of 14.  She says that she has attempted to lose weight, “too many times to count,” and has tried at least 5 different diets throughout the years.  In the past she’s lost as much as 35 pounds but started gaining it back within the year.  Lori has currently lost 32 pounds and is still going strong.  In general Lori says that she does not have a very big sweet tooth – almost always if she wanted a snack she would go for something salty, not sweet.  However, the one exception to this rule is a special chocolate cake she gets once a year at a retreat in January. 

One of the main things we try to teach our dieters is the importance of being able to work planned indulgences into their diets.  Deprivation diets and diets that are overly restrictive are just not sustainable over a long period of time because eventually life circumstances will intrude (birthdays, holidays, celebrations, etc).  If your diet does not allow for these types of occasions, chances are eventually you won’t be able to stick to it.  We want our dieters to become accustomed now to eating in a way they can maintain for the rest of their lives. cake.jpg

The retreat was last weekend, and even though Lori is currently on a diet and trying to lose weight, she did not have to forgo the chocolate cake she loves so much.  Instead, Lori decided that she would plan in advance to have a slice of cake, knowing it may slow down her weight loss for that week.  If she didn’t plan ahead of time to eat the cake, Lori knew that when she saw it she would really want it and would feel either very deprived, or would give in, eat it, and feel guilty.  Planning to have the cake allowed Lori to eat a reasonable amount and not feel deprived. 

At the meeting on Monday, Lori reported that she ate exactly what she had planned, that the chocolate cake was just as delicious as she remembered, and she enjoyed every bite.

Tolerating Hunger: Susan

Susan returned last night from her 10 day business trip and after weighing in today, was so pleased to see that she lost weight.   After a week and a half of eating out for two meals each day and having very little control over her food choices, Susan could very easily have gained several pounds, so the fact that she actually lost is a real triumph. 

Susan says that the most important thing she learned during her trip was that it’s ok to feel hungry (discussed on Day 12 of The Beck Diet Solution).  Dieters often think that they should never be hungry, and that feeling hungry is somehow bad or wrong.  Many dieters doubt their ability to tolerate hunger and so do things to avoid it, such as overeat at meals to ensure they don’t feel hungry before the next one, eat too many times throughout the day, or bulk up on food that are considered “free” on their diets.  Susan herself used to do many of these things; in particular, she would snack throughout the day, thinking she would be unbearably hungry if she didn’t.   

bizmtg2.jpgHowever, while she was on the trip, Susan found herself in meetings all day long.  For most of the time, she either wasn’t given snacks, or when they were provided they were foods not on her plan so she couldn’t eat them.  Susan often felt hungry between meals and for the first time gave herself no choice but to put up with it.  This was a very important experience for her to have because she now realizes that it’s ok to feel hungry sometimes and that she most certainly can tolerate it.  If Susan had given in to her hunger between meals, she would have eaten whatever snack they provided and most likely would have ended up gaining weight this week.  She is happy that she lost weight and more importantly that she learned not to fear hunger.  It’s a skill that will help her continue to lose weight and keep it off permanently. 

Movie Theater Popcorn: Brenda

popcorn.gifBrenda loves going to the movies, partly because she loves movie theater popcorn.  In the past, she would get a large tub of popcorn every time she went – even when she was trying to diet.  Brenda would say to herself,  “It’s ok to eat this because I’m at the movies. Everyone is eating popcorn.”  Just as people give themselves permission to overeat at parties or on special occasions (“It’s ok to eat this. Everyone else is, and besides, I’m celebrating”), Brenda was fooling herself in thinking it was ok to eat popcorn just because she was at the movies (discussed on Day 19 of The Beck Diet Solution).  After she joined our group, Brenda realized that she had just been fooling herself and that there doesn’t have to be a connection between the movie theater and eating popcorn (Day 26).  

A few weeks after Brenda started carefully planning and monitoring her eating (Day 15), she went again to the movies but didn’t plan to eat any popcorn. However, when she got there, she found herself overwhelmed by the smell and the sound of people eating one of her favorite foods, so she gave into her craving and bought popcorn.  We looked at this experience to see what Brenda could learn from it and decided that next time she went to the movies, she would plan in advance to have popcorn, knowing that when she got there she would really want it (Day 16). 

Brenda went to the movies again and she indeed had planned in advance to have some popcorn.  But because it is so caloric, she didn’t get to eat as much as she wanted and still felt vaguely unsatisfied.  Brenda realized that she either had to come to terms with the limited amount she could eat, or give it up.  Brenda decided on the latter, knowing she’d rather spend her calories on something more satisfying.  The next time Brenda went to the movies, she read her Advantages List (Day 1) and although she was tempted by the smell, once she firmly told herself “NO CHOICE” (Day 13) the craving for popcorn passed and Brenda watched the movie in peace. 

Brenda was extremely proud of herself for resisting popcorn and gave herself lots of credit for her ability to withstand the craving (Day 4).  She has now been to the movies three more times and has easily passed on popcorn each time. 

Prepare for Travel: Susan

suitcase1.jpgIn a few days Susan is leaving for a business trip.  Knowing that eating and dieting can be much trickier when traveling, we sat down with Susan to devise an eating strategy for her trip (a skill discussed on Day 32 of The Beck Diet Solution).   Eating at conferences can be difficult because mainly Susan will have to eat what they serve her.  However, there are some small but crucial measures she can take to ensure that she stays within her diet. 

First, we discussed with Susan her need and entitlement to make demands about how her food is prepared (Day 8).  If she were diabetic or had serious health problems, she would not think twice about asking for her food to be prepared to her specifications.  We reminded Susan that she truly is on a “medical diet” – indeed her doctor did tell her she needs to lose weight to be healthy – so she should not hesitate to speak up. One important modification Susan should make is to ask for her vegetables to be steamed, not sautéed in oil or butter.  Another small change is make sure she gets her protein (fish, chicken, etc) grilled or broiled and with whatever sauce it is served with on the side.  That way she can choose how much, if any, she wants to use.  A third is for when she eats salad, ask for the dressing on the side, and always request a low-fat (or fat free) alternative.  Because she is actually trying to lose weight and not maintain, Susan also decided that she will forgo desserts because she will not be able to accurately figure out the calorie-count.  Instead, she can ask for fruit. (Day 30)

We also helped Susan devise several rules for herself that she will strictly follow while she is traveling.  Setting rules is an important way to make dieting easier because it eliminates the struggle about whether or not you should or shouldn’t eat something (Day 16).  Susan’s rules are:

1. Absolutely no dessert (except for fruit)

2. No Bread at dinner

3. No heavy sauces (on protein, salad, etc)

4. Only drink black coffee

5. No alcohol, including wine and mixed drinks.

We made Susan copies of her Rules so she can read them several times a day in preparation for travel, and while she is actually at the conference as well.  Lastly, we talked about what to do if she slips up on her diet and engages in unplanned eating.  If this happens, Susan needs to get back on track immediately, and not compound the problem by continuing to eat more (Day 20).  With her eating strategy in place, Susan now feels confident that she can travel and stay on her plan.

Put Yourself First: Susan

Week 28 and our dieters continue to lose weight! 

One of our dieters, Susan, initially lost 7 pounds.  During the holiday season, however, she gained a few pounds back and then her weight stagnated – she didn’t gain anymore, but she didn’t then continue to lose either.  Susan said that she spent all weekend deciding whether or not she really wanted to lose weight, and whether or not she was ready to fully commit herself to the endeavor. She made a new Advantages List (discussed on Day 1 of The Beck Diet Solution) and thought about the value of each item on the list and how important they all were to her. 

Susan came to the realization that she had been consistently putting others first – her family, friends, and clients.  She hadn’t been making dieting a priority, making sure she had enough time and energy to do what she needed to do (Day 8), such as buying the necessary food at the supermarket, cooking meals, taking time to eat slowly and while sitting down (Days 3 and 5), and exercising (Day 9).  Susan also realized, though, that in order to be able to fully help everyone in her life, she had to first make sure that she was in good health – physically and emotionally.  She came to the decision that she was going to put herself first and make dieting her #1 priority, because her health and sense of well-being depend on it. 

Getting Through Hard Times: Maria

Week 27 of our Diet Group and our dieters are finally returning to a normal schedule and putting the holiday season firmly behind them.  In our meeting on Monday we talked about the importance of preparing for the hard times.  Most of the time dieting is pretty easy and doesn’t take much effort.  But every once in a while it can get very difficult, due to a particularly strong craving (discussed in Day 13 of The Beck Diet Solution), a situation in which you can’t control the food, such as while traveling (Day 32), or being surrounded by tempting food, such as at a party or restaurant (Day 30).  It is for such times we are trying to prepare our dieters, so that they can be in these situations and handle them with relative ease.

cheese.jpgMaria had a very hard week.  Her daughter was ill and so Maria has been up many nights tending to her. In addition to the stress of a sick child, Maria has also been very sleep-deprived.  Consequently, she found herself again having cravings for foods like cheese (a problem food for her in the past), which she hasn’t craved in a quite a while (Day 33).  “The cheese was literally calling out to me,” Maria says.  But did she answer the calling? “No, I knew it was just a craving and that I didn’t have to give into it,” Maria answered.  By labeling it a “craving” and differentiating it from actual hunger, Maria, even stressed and tired, was able to see that her desire wasn’t an emergency and she didn’t have to give into it (Day 11).  Maria reports that she held firm and didn’t eat any cheese, and is so happy that she kept her eating under control even in these stressful circumstances.  Maria lost 3 pounds this week.