Advantages List – Part I

The first thing we do with all of our clients is have them write an Advantages List –a list of all the reasons they want to lose weight.  We then have them start reading their list every single morning. The purpose behind this skill is two-fold. First, it helps them keep in mind exactly why they’re putting in this hard work and exactly what they hope to get as a result of doing so.  Losing weight can be very difficult (although it certainly gets easier over time), which is why it’s critical for dieters to know at all times why it’s worth it to them to work on it.  When dieters face temptation (e.g. it’s 4:00 and the cookies in the break room are calling out to them, or they’re out to dinner and the bread basket smells really good) it is extremely hard for them to remember why it’s worth it to stand firm.  But when they have a physical list of all of these reasons that they read every single day, it helps keep these important things in the forefront of their minds. 

The second thing this skill accomplishes is that it helps dieters begin to build their sense of self-discipline and self-efficacy.  When dieters wake up in the morning, their first thought is probably not, “I can’t wait to read my list!” But, in making themselves do it anyway, they start to prove to themselves that if they say they are going to do it (where diet and weight loss is concerned) it means they’re going to do it.  Whether or not they feel like doing it, they’re going to do it anyway. 

When making an Advantages List, it’s important that the items on the list be as specific and compelling as possible.  An advantage like, “my health will be better,” is probably not as motivating as, “I’ll reduce my risk of Diabetes which runs in my family,” “My blood pressure will go down and I might be able to get off medication,” and, “I’ll reduce my joint pain.”  Similarly, an advantage like, “I’ll have more energy,” is probably not as motivating as, “I’ll be able to run around with my grandchildren without getting too tired,” and, “I’ll be able to go shopping with my daughter without needing to sit down at every opportunity.”  It’s important for dieters to take more general advantages and break them into smaller, more specific ones that paint a clear picture of precisely how their lives will be improved on a daily basis. 

I recently started working with Angie, who is works in finance and is a mother of two teenagers.  During our first session, this is the Advantages List she came up with:  

Advantages List

1. I’ll reduce my risk of Cancer and Diabetes

2. I’ll have less knee and back pain

3. I’ll be able to go hiking with my family and not feel like I’m holding them back

4. I’ll enjoy exercising more (like I used to)

5. I’ll enjoy going shopping and have more options – I won’t have to wear it just because it fits

6. I won’t feel like I have to wear black all the time

7. I’ll prove to myself that I can do this really hard thing

8. I’ll be proud of myself and my family will be proud of me

9. I’ll be setting a good example for my kids of how to have a healthy relationship with food

10. I’ll feel more confident giving presentations at work and not worried about the impression I make on potential clients

11. I’ll fit comfortably in a plane seat and in booths

12. I won’t be embarrassed to run into old friends

13. I won’t be scared scared or mortified of pictures I’m in

14. My clothes and jewelry will fit better

15. I’ll feel better about myself and more in control


In Part II we’ll address how we helped Angie begin to read her list every morning, despite having a hectic schedule.

In Session with Debbie: Mindset Change

In session last week, my client Joe told me about a big conference dinner he would be going to the following week in which there would be passed appetizers, soup, salad, bread, multiple entrees and sides, alcohol, and tables of dessert.  Joe wasn’t sure how he would handle all that excess of food, so in session we made a plan for him to follow. 

When making a plan for this dinner, the first thing we considered was the fact that it will be in the middle of a four day conference during which he’ll be eating lots of meals in restaurants and be out of his regular routine.  Because of this, and the fact that it was Joe’s goal to not gain weight on the trip, we knew that Joe simply couldn’t go overboard and still maintain his weight because he would already have so many other opportunities to take in extra calories.  Bearing this in mind, here are some of the components of Joe’s plan for that dinner:

1.  No appetizers. Joe decided that since there would be so much other food being served, he would rather not use up calories during the cocktail hour when the time could be better spent mingling and networking with other conference attendees.  Joe also knew from past experience that he gets much more satisfaction from food that he eats sitting down as opposed to food he just pops in his mouth standing up (which he’s likely to forget even having eaten by the time he sits down to dinner).

2. Joe will have salad with dressing on the side and no soup.  Knowing how many calories are in salad dressing, Joe decided that he would make sure to request his salad with dressing on the side, so he could be sure of how much he was having. Joe also decided to forgo the soup, knowing that the salad would be enough food before dinner.

3. When Joe’s entrée plate comes, he will immediately decide how much to eat and section off the rest. In doing this, Joe is at much less risk for cleaning his plate because he’ll know from the get-go how much he’s having. Also, if Joe winds up getting involved in conversation, he’s less likely to overeat because even if he eats mindlessly, he still won’t take in more calories than he had initially planned. If Joe is tempted to keep eating after he has finished his allotted portion, Joe will remind himself, “I’ve already had enough to eat. The only reason I want to eat more is because it tastes good, but if I continue to eat, it won’t taste nearly as good as the first part of my dinner because I’ll be feeling guilty as I’m eating it. Guilt tastes bad!”

4. Joe will have one alcoholic beverage, one dessert, and no bread. Joe decided that once he’s actually at the dinner, he’ll decide whether he wants to have a glass of wine during the cocktail hour or with dinner.  He also knew that with everything else he would be eating and drinking, he probably didn’t have enough calories to have bread and dessert, and Joe decided that he would much rather forgo the bread in favor of dessert. If Joe was really tempted by the bread, he would remind himself, “It’s worth not having bread now because I’ll get to have dessert later. Besides, I’ve had bread before, I know what it tastes like, and I’ll definitely have it again.”  If Joe is tempted to have a second dessert, he’ll remind himself, “I definitely will later regret having a second dessert, but once the dinner is over, I definitely won’t regret not having eaten more dessert. Do I want to have regrets or not?”

5. Joe will eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully. Joe knew that this was extra important during this dinner because he’ll likely be eating less than many other people, and therefore he wants to draw out and enjoy what he is eating for as long as possible.

In session with Joe this week, Joe and I discussed how it went and he told me how helpful it was to have a plan because it allowed him to feel in control and confident during the whole dinner.  Joe also told me that even though he knew there would be a lot of food served, he was still somewhat astonished by how much there was and how much everyone else was eating.  Joe said that he looked at all the food and just knew, “No question, of course I’m not going to eat it all.”

I asked Joe how his eating during this dinner was different from how it might have been six months ago, before we started working together. Joe replied, “Oh, I would have eaten everything. No question.”  In saying this, Joe demonstrated a fundamental mindset shift he has made over the past few months. He went from, “No question, of course I’m going to eat all this food,” to, “Of course I’m NOT going to eat all this food. No question!” 


In session with Debbie: In Defense of Dessert

This week I had a session with my client, Mark. It was Mark’s birthday last week, and when I asked him how he handled birthday treats, he proudly told me that on his birthday he didn’t eat anything “bad” or “wrong,” and he hadn’t had any “transgressions” because he didn’t eat any of the cupcakes that someone had brought in to work that day.  He told me that he had been thinking about having a cupcake ever since, but so far he was able to hold out.

In hearing this, there were a few things that immediately concerned me.  First, when I asked Mark about eating dessert on his birthday, I called it a treat.  Mark, on the other hand, called treats “bad” and “wrong,” and noted that eating one would be a “transgression.”  It was clear to me that Mark had fallen into some all-or-nothing thinking about dessert and had started to view having any treat as a slip-up.  This type of thinking can be extremely problematic for dieters in the long run because at some point they’re going to give in and have dessert, and if they have the thought, “I shouldn’t ever be eating this,” then they’re going to go way overboard because they’ll also be thinking, “I don’t know when I’ll allow myself to eat dessert again, so I might as well load up on it now.”  And thus they enter into a pattern of deprivation and over-indulging. 

We work with our clients to teach them to be moderate about dessert and incorporate treats into their diets in a one portion, one time per day way.  When a dieter has finished eating his ice cream bar and wants another one, he’s able to say to himself, “I don’t need to have a second one now because I know I can have another one tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.”  Therefore, the dieter doesn’t have that sense of urgency to load up where and when he can.

Another advantage of eating one dessert per day is that it allows dieters to eat it without guilt because they know it’s part of their overall healthy eating plan. Dieters are able to sit down and enjoy the treat that they’re having, instead of trying to get it down quickly without really noticing it, as dieters tend to do when they’re eating something they consider to be a bad food.  In this way, even though dieters are having less dessert, they often end up feeling more satisfied because they have truly noticed and enjoyed every bite of what they eat.  The point is, if dieters like dessert, then they’re eventually going to eat dessert, and if they don’t know how to handle it, they’ll go overboard and gain weight.  Incorporating treats into their diets in a moderate way allows dieters to not be all-or-nothing about them, to really get enjoyment from them, and to still lose weight.

In session with Mark, I reminded him that eating dessert was an important part of rest-of-your-life eating, and that cutting out all desserts in the past (which he had tried to do many times) has never helped him to lose weight and keep it off.  Mark and I discussed the fact that the longer he waits to have a cupcake, the more and more it will feel like he was committing a transgression by having one, and therefore the more likely he’ll be to say to himself, “Since I’m finally allowing myself to have one, I might as well go all out and have as many as I want, since I won’t have them again any time soon.”  Mark decided that he would stop by a bakery on the way home and buy a cupcake and eat it that night – and he would eat it guilt-free and enjoy every bite of it. And if he was tempted to get more, Mark would remind himself:

I just ate one cupcake and I really enjoyed it. If I eat a second, I won’t enjoy it as much anyway because I’ll feel guilty about eating it.  Besides, I don’t need to eat another cupcake now because I can have another one tomorrow if I want.

In Session with Debbie: Exceptions to the Rule

Over the past few weeks, my dieter, Jennifer, has been working hard on all of her initial skills, like reading her Advantages List every morning (and often right before dinner, too), eating everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully, and giving herself credit.  She has also been working on limiting junk food to just one portion per day, after dinner, and adding more fruits and vegetables to her diet. 

In session this week, Jennifer told me that she is going on vacation with her family next week and one of their traditions is to get ice cream in the afternoon and walk around while they eat it.  Jennifer really loves to do this with her family, but she was concerned because it would mean eating standing up.  Jennifer and I discussed this and we agreed that, while she was on her trip, it was perfectly fine to eat ice cream standing up before dinner as long as she planned to do so in advance.  I pointed out to Jennifer that wanting in the moment to eat something standing up and telling herself, “It’s okay to have just this one thing standing up, it won’t matter,” is very different from deciding in advance when and where specifically she would eat something standing up.  In the first case, it would mean exercising her giving-in muscle and listening to sabotaging thoughts.  In the second case, it wouldn’t be exercising her giving-in muscle at all because it would just be part of her plan. 

Similarly, it’s fine for Jennifer to plan to have junk food before dinner while on vacation because she’ll be deciding to do so in advance.  Again, this won’t be a case of Jennifer seeing a junk food that she really wants to eat and spontaneously deciding to have it before dinner, which would definitely strengthen her giving-in muscle.  Rather, it will be a deliberate and thought-out exception to her rule.  

Jennifer also decided that, once she was back from her trip, she would go right back to not having junk food before dinner and wouldn’t let exceptions filter into her everyday life.  If Jennifer started eating junk food before dinner on a normal day, it would become so much harder to resist (as it was when she first started working on this skill) and every time she saw junk food she would once again enter into the painful and exhausting struggle of, “Should I have some? No, you know you shouldn’t. But it looks really good. But you don’t have it before dinner. But I had it yesterday before dinner and it was okay, so maybe now it’s okay, too, etc. etc. etc.”

So you can see that, at times, it can be 100% fine to make exceptions to your rules, as long as you decide to do so in advance and don’t give in to momentary sabotaging thoughts. But, like Jennifer, if you do decide to make an exception, it’s important to set parameters (like only having junk food before dinner on vacation) so that you’re not tempted to make an exception (and have to struggle about whether or not to) every time it comes up.

In Session with Debbie: Easter

Last week, my dieter, Kim, and I spent time in session coming up with a strong Easter plan.  This week, Kim reported that not only was she able to follow through with her Easter plan, but she felt great about it, and she lost weight this week – something that would have been unheard of in years past.  What did Kim do that made her Easter so successful?

1. Kim made it a priority to read her plan and Response cards before she left for the day.  In session last week, Kim and I had written out a plan for how she would handle Easter.  Usually coming up with a mental plan doesn’t work as well because it’s much easier to erase and cross out things in your mind than it is when it is actually written out. Not only did we write down the plan, but Kim made sure to review it in the days leading up to Easter (so it would be etched more firmly in her brain), and right before she left to go to her sister’s house that day.  She also read Response Cards about cravings, holidays, and reminding herself how she’ll feel if she stays in control.

2. Kim looked at all of the food being served before deciding what to have.  Although Kim had a pretty good idea of what was being served (she had contacted her sister ahead of time and asked what the menu would be), when it came time to eat, Kim made sure to survey all the dishes and decide deliberately what she would have.  This way, she didn’t end up eating a full plate and then see something else she really wanted to have, and end up overeating.

3.  Kim was also careful about how much food she served herself.  Kim and I had discussed how important it would be for her to only put on her plate what she intended to eat.  In doing so, she could eat everything that was on her plate and feel satisfied, and not have to question whether or not she was eating too much or whether or not she should go back for more.

5. Kim had no candy and only one portion of dessert.  Deciding how much, if any, candy and desserts Kim would have on Easter was a big part of the plan. Kim is a self-proclaimed chocoholic and loves any and all Easter candy and desserts. Kim told me that in Easters past, she would go overboard on sweets and end up snacking on candy all day long. Kim and I decided that, for her, the best course of action would be to have no candy on Easter and one portion of whatever baked good she wanted. We decided on this plan because we knew that if Kim got started snacking on Easter candy, it would make it very easy for her to continue going back for more and more.  The baked goods being served (mainly cupcakes) were already portion-controlled, and not as easy to keep dipping into.  This way, Kim wouldn’t have to struggle against whether or not to have more candy and instead she could focus on enjoying her cupcake. Because Kim really likes candy, we also decided that she didn’t have to deprive herself of all candy – she just wouldn’t have any on that day because she was eating so many other delicious things. We also planned that post-Easter she would buy her favorite Easter candy (on sale!) and she enjoyed it even more the day after, when she could really appreciate it.   When Kim was tempted by the candy on Easter, she was able to tell herself, “I don’t need to have this now, I’m going to have some tomorrow, instead. Besides, I’m having a cupcake today.”

6. Kim made sure to eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully.  By doing so, Kim told me that she was able feel very satisfied (even though she was eating less than previous years) because she really took time to savor and enjoy every bite that she ate. She also didn’t feel guilty about what she was eating, which made the food taste better.

7. Kim didn’t take home any leftovers.  Kim knew that it might be difficult for her to control herself if she had lots of Easter leftovers lurking in her refrigerator, so she decided that his year she just wouldn’t take any home, thus eliminating the potential struggle altogether.  Kim reminded herself that if there was something there she really liked, she could either wait until next year to have it again, OR make it for herself at some point in the near future.   It wasn’t as if she either had to have it right then, or she’d never get it again.

To sum up her day, this is what Kim told me:  “At the end of the day, I felt great. I didn’t feel deprived about what I didn’t eat, because I did get to enjoy good food, and instead I really did feel proud and happy about staying in control and following my plan. I was surprised that I also didn’t struggle much because I just knew, ‘If it’s not on my plan, I’m not having it.’  It made the day so much better.”

In Session with Debbie: Slipping

This week I had a session with my dieter, Rachel, whom I previously hadn’t seen in about eight months because she no longer needed weekly sessions.  Rachel got in touch with me because she noticed that her weight had gone up a few pounds and so we agreed that we would have a session or two to help her get completely back on track. 

In session, the first thing I did was give Rachel lots of credit because she was able to recognize that she was slipping in places (which was causing her to gain weight) and she faced the problem head-on, instead of waiting a few weeks or months or more (which could easily have turned a 5 pound weight gain into a 15 pound or more weight gain). 

Rachel and I then discussed what things she had led slide lately and what old habits had been slowly creeping back.  Here are the areas that Rachel identified as needing work:

1.  Eating standing up.  Instead of really being aware of everything that she was eating and making it a priority to eat sitting down, Rachel realized that she had lapsed back into eating while she was cooking, while she was clearing the dishes, and while she was making her kids’ lunches. While it wasn’t a whole lot of extra food, it certainly did start to add up at the end of the day/week.    

2. Snacking with her kids.  Before we began working together, Rachel would always snack with her kids and eat whatever they were having, without really thinking about it. One of the changes we had instituted was that Rachel had specific snack times during the day when she would have healthy snacks, not the crackers and snacky foods her kids ate.  Rachel realized that she had slowly started getting away from deliberate snack times and had again started to eat whatever and whenever her kids did.  

3. Eating whenever she felt hungry or just wanted to eat.  Another change that Rachel and I had worked on was helping her overcome her fear of hunger and eat at specific times, to ensure that she didn’t overeat during the day (which was a risk because she worked from home).  Rachel told me that she had started to do things like go into the kitchen whenever she felt like eating and having something, instead of waiting until her next meal or snack.

4. Keeping serving bowls on the table at dinner.  Rachel had also decided a while ago that it was best to not keep big serving dishes on the table during meals because the extra food would tempt her and she would often end up having seconds, even though she didn’t need them.  Removing the serving bowls enabled Rachel to just concentrate on what was on her plate and not constantly fight against the temptation to have more.  Rachel realized that over the past few months, serving dishes had reappeared on the dinner table, which meant that Rachel sometimes took and ate more food than she needed. 

Rachel and I then discussed exactly how she would get herself to correct these old habits and fortify her new, helpful habits.  We also reviewed Rachel’s Advantages List and all of the wonderful benefits she has already experienced from losing weight, so that Rachel would remember exactly why it was worth it to her to get herself back in line and how much better she would feel as a result of doing so.

In Session with Debbie: Planning for Travel, Part 2

Last week I had a session with Edie, who was leaving the next day to go on vacation with her husband for a week.  We spent most of our time formulating a strong vacation plan so that she would be feel comfortable and confident on the trip. 

One of the main challenges Edie faced was that all of her meals would be served in the restaurant of the mountain lodge where they would be staying.  Edie knew ahead of time that breakfast would be a buffet, and lunch and dinner would be menu service.  Edie also told me that her main goal for this trip would be to maintain her weight, and so we talked about what she would need to do to make that happen.

Edie and I first discussed breakfast buffet strategies, and decided that she would:

1. On the first day, look at all of the options before deliberately deciding what to have that morning.

2. Remind herself that she didn’t need to eat everything she wanted all at once because she would have many other opportunities to do so.  If, for example, she wanted an omelet, oatmeal, and yogurt with granola, she could have one option each day. She didn’t need to have all three in one day.

3. Make sure to eat every bite sitting down, slowly, and mindfully, instead of snacking while she was going through the buffet line.

4. Not put more on her plate than she was planning to eat.

Then Edie and I talked about how she would handle lunch and dinner each day, and came up with following strategies:

1. It’s important for Edie to remember that almost every restaurant meal is too big and contains too many calories, and if she wants to maintain her weight on this trip, she probably can’t ever finish everything that is served to her. She’ll likely need to leave food behind during every single lunch and dinner, and so it’s necessary for her to go in with the expectation that she just won’t clean her plate. 

2. Edit decided that she would do her best to make healthy food decisions and, whenever possible, order food that she knew she would find satisfying and filling, even if it wasn’t what she most felt like eating at that time.

3. Edie and I also discussed that she shouldn’t be afraid to ask for special requests, such as sauces on the side or vegetables steamed without oil. I reminded Edie that one of her major reasons to lose weight had to do with her health, and it was perfectly legitimate to ask for what she needed to ensure her good health.

Edie also decided that she would bring some healthy snacks with her so that she wouldn’t have to rely on less healthy options, and that she would make sure to take advantage of available activity/exercise options, like going snow shoeing and light hiking.

Edie came back to see me this week and reported that not only did she have a great time on her trip, she also didn’t gain a pound. Edie told me that one of the things that most helped her was going in with the expectation that she wouldn’t clear her plate at lunch and dinner, which made leaving food behind so much easier.  Edie and I also discussed the fact that she felt great about her eating both during the trip and after, especially when she didn’t have to struggle to get back on track once the trip was over. I asked Edie if it was worth it to her to continue working on healthy eating during future trips, and she told me, “Absolutely, 100% YES!”

In Session with Deborah: Valentine’s Day Candy Success

In session this week my dieter, Amy, told me about a major triumph she had during a long and stressful work meeting the day before.  Midway through the meeting, someone started passing out a big bowl full of Valentine’s Day candy, and everyone started digging in.  When the bowl was passed to Amy, Amy looked down at the treats and thought about how much she wanted one. But instead of taking one (or many) treats and eating them, Amy did something different – she didn’t take any and passed the bowl onto the next person. 

I asked Amy what she said to herself that enabled her to resist the Valentine’s Day candy.  Amy told me that although she really wanted the candy, not only because everyone else was eating it but also because she was feeling really stressed, she reminded herself of the following ideas:

If I give in, I’ll enjoy this for a few moments but then I’ll feel guilty about it the rest of the meeting, and probably afterwards.

This meeting is already stressful and I’m going through a stressful time at work. If I eat this, I’ll just feel even more stressed because I’ll worry about gaining weight.

Just because everyone else is eating it doesn’t mean I can. My body doesn’t know or care what they’re eating. It only knows what I eat.

I asked Amy if, looking back, she regretted not having eaten the candy and she told me that she absolutely didn’t regret it and, in fact, she hadn’t really thought about it again until our session that day.  I also asked Amy if she was actually feeling good about not having eaten the candy and Amy said that she really did because she felt proud of herself.  Amy and I then discussed some important things for her to remember based on this experience:

  1. She now was proven to herself that she can resist eating something, even when the situation is really difficult.  Amy has also now made it easier for her to resist the next time because she has made her resistance muscle stronger.
  2. Once Amy did resist, she didn’t spend the rest of the day regretting it. In fact, she didn’t even think about it once the situation had passed.  It wasn’t as if she spend the rest of the hour/day/week thinking, “I really wish I had eaten that candy.”  It just didn’t come up again.
  3. Not only did Amy not regret resisting the candy, but she actually felt good about it because she gave herself a lot of credit for doing so.  Although Amy continued to feel stress about her work situation, she didn’t add to that stress by also feeling guilty about her eating.

What I did with Amy is important for you, yourself, to also do. Whenever you have a success, ask yourself:

1. What was the situation and what were my sabotaging thoughts?

2. What did I say to myself that enabled me to stand firm?  How did I feel when I did so?  How am I feeling now about doing so?

3. What do I need to remember about this situation for next time?

In Session with Deborah: The French Fry Plan

This week I had a session with my dieter, Sarah.  Although in recent weeks Sarah has been doing well with her dieting skills, she told me that one food in particular keeps tripping her up: french fries.  Sarah has two young children and she and her family often go out to eat. Sarah told me that she usually goes into meals with the plan of not having any french fries, but more often than not ends up eating some off of her kids’ plates.  Sarah told me that most children’s meals in restaurants come with french fries, and since her kids never finish what’s on their plates, the fries call out to Sarah until she eventually gives in and eats some.

When Sarah came to see me she was feeling distressed because, although she knew continually overeating fries was a problem, she didn’t know how to control herself around them.  The first thing I discussed with Sarah is that she needs a French Fry Plan – she needs to plan in advance whether or not she’s going to have fries each time she eats out.  I reminded Sarah that since she really likes fries, it’s not reasonable to expect that she’ll never eat any.  The goal isn’t to never eat fries; rather it’s to plan in advance when she’s going to have them and when she’s not so she’s able to stay in control. This way, she doesn’t have to sit through meals looking at fries and struggling about whether or not to give in and have some, because the decision will already be made.

I also discussed with Sarah that during the meals when she plans to have fries, it’s crucial to order her own fries separately. Even if the meal she orders doesn’t come with fries and her kids’ meals do, she still needs to get her own side order. The reason for this is so that Sarah can start sending herself the message that it’s never okay to eat fries off her kids’ plates. If she’s going to eat fries, it means that she eats her own fries.  This is important because if Sarah some of the time allows herself to eat her kids’ fries (and there leaves the possibility of doing so open), then they will continue to call out to her, even during meals when she’s planned to not have any.  If Sarah has the rule, “I never eat fries off my kids’ plates,” then it will be much easier to resist every time they eat out because she won’t have to even consider (and therefore struggle about) whether or not to have some of theirs.  Sarah and I discussed the fact that, while this may end up costing her a few extra dollars, it’s 100% worth it because it will drastically reduce her french fry struggle (not to mention helping Sarah reach her enormously important weight loss goals).

I then asked Sarah what sabotaging thoughts she is likely to have during the meals when she hasn’t planned to have fries but is tempted to do so. Sarah said that some of the thoughts she may have are, “I’ll just have one. One won’t matter,” and “I really like fries and I just want to eat them.”

In response to these sabotaging thoughts, Sarah made the following Response Cards:

French Fry 1RC french fries 2

By the end of session, Sarah had a very clear plan of how to deal with her french fry troubles.  Here are the steps of her plan:

1.  Always plan in advance whether or not to eat fries at any given meal.

2. When I am going to have fries, make sure to order my own.

3. Remember – the fries on my kids’ plates are completely off limits. I just never eat them.

4. Read my French Fry Response Cards before meals when I haven’t planned to have fries.

5. Enjoy meals out even more because I’ll no longer be struggling about whether or not to eat the fries on my kids’ plates.

4 Reasons to Begin Dieting During the Holidays

I recently started working with a new dieter named Kelly.  One of Kelly’s major concerns was that the holiday season would be a difficult time to begin the Beck Diet Solution program.  We’ve heard from many dieters who are nervous about their ability to either start working or continue working on healthy eating during the holiday season.  I discussed with Kelly that while this time may be a more challenging time to begin the program, it’s certainly not an impossible time. And, in fact, there are advantages of beginning a healthy eating program right now:

1. When dieters begin working on healthy eating during the holiday season, they will likely face difficulties early on, which will allow them to immediately begin figuring out which situations are particularly difficult for them and what areas will need the most work.  If a dieter goes to a party and decides he won’t have any treats, and then winds up having one, it’s important for him to evaluate the experience and figure out what happened, why, and what he can do differently the next time (such as reading certain Response Cards before he goes). It’s also possible that his plan was too strict and that next time it would be more reasonable to plan to have one portion of dessert, instead of not having any.  Because dieters will experience many similar situations during the holiday season, they can start to gain a sense of what sabotaging thoughts they’re likely to have, how they can respond to them, and what type of plan works best in various circumstances.  It may take much longer to figure these things out at other times during the year because they likely won’t have such a concentrated period of parties and events.

2. Working on healthy eating during the holidays can help mitigate weight gain.  Someone who is working on healthy eating during the holidays, even if she struggles with it, is much more likely to gain less weight than if she just throws in the towel—deciding to eat whatever she wants, and telling herself, “I’ll get back on track after the New Year.”  Any amount of work and effort during this time is likely to pay off in the form of fewer calories consumed, even if it’s still more calories than she originally planned.

3. The holidays are a great time to start working on accepting and recovering from mistakes, since mistakes tend to occur more frequently during this time.  I always remind dieters that we learn just as much from challenges as we do from successes, and dieters can right away begin to use their holiday mistakes as important learning experiences. Since no one is perfect and since everyone makes mistakes, it’s vitally important for dieters to gain confidence and grasp the fact that when they make mistakes (not if they make mistakes), they can get right back on track – and in doing so, mistakes turn into minor problems, not major lapses.  Dieters will continue to make eating mistakes for the rest of their lives, and the earlier they learn to recover from them right away, the better off they are. 

4. Sometimes when dieters begin this program, they enter what we call the “Honeymoon Phase,” a time when their motivation is very high and dieting is fairly easy. Unfortunately, once the Honeymoon Phase passes (as it does for everyone) dieting usually becomes more difficult for a period of time. If dieters don’t understand that this is a normal occurrence, they are at greater risk for sabotaging thoughts (“I just can’t do it;” “This is too hard;” “This isn’t working anymore”) and giving up.  When dieters begin the Beck Diet Solution program during the holiday season, they are likely to be challenged from the get-go and don’t get lulled into a false sense of ease or security.  Instead, they are provided right away with ample opportunities to begin working through difficult situations and gaining real confidence in their ability to maintain control in the face of challenging circumstances.