What Type of Eater Are You?

The Emotional Eater is one who eats when she feels strong emotions – either negative or positive.  When she feels upset she may think, “I deserve to eat now because I’m very upset,” or “The only way I can calm down is to eat.”   Through these sabotaging thoughts and others, the emotional eater convinces herself that it is okay to eat when she is feeling heightened emotions and that eating is a reasonable way to calm down and feel comforted.  In reality, people do deserve to calm down and receive comfort when they are upset, but they do not need to do this by turning to food, because that will likely just make them feel worse in the end. 

Tips for ending emotional eating:

  1. Emotional eaters need a list of distracting activities that they can immediately start doing when they feel aroused emotionally, which will help them calm down without turning to food.
  2. Emotional eaters should remind themselves that people who have never had a weight problem don’t eat when they are upset. Instead they usually they try to solve the problem, answer back their negative thinking, take deep breaths, go for a walk, call a friend, or get back to a task.
  3. Even if it is a scheduled time to eat or drink, if someone is upset, it is best that she wait until she has calmed down to eat so that she proves to herself that she is able to calm down without eating.

The Deprived Eater is one who tries to eat as little as possible and often attempts to eliminate all foods that he considers “bad.”  The deprived eater may think, “It’s important that I eat as little as possible and never touch sweets or carbs so that I can lose weight as quickly as possible.”  Through these sabotaging thoughts and others, the deprived eater enters a cycle of deprivation and overeating, because eating too little leads his body to eventually rebel and then he goes on to consume way too many calories. In reality, it is important for the deprived eater to eat in a healthy and scheduled way, and not try to cut anything out of his diet permanently, so that he will be able to find a system of eating that works for him that he will be able to keep up for the long term.

Tips for ending the Deprivation/Binge Cycle:

  1. Deprived eaters need to get rid of the idea, “ I should eat as little as I can,” by reminding themselves that eating like that in the past has only caused them to eventually overeat and gain back any weight they may have lost during their period of deprivation.
  2. Deprived eaters need not to eliminate any food from their diet now that they would eventually like to start eating again. Instead, they should learn how to work their favorite foods into a healthy lifestyle from the beginning. Otherwise, they are likely to gain weight back when they try to reintroduce these foods.
  3. Deprived eaters need to treat most days the same and not deprive themselves some days and overeat on other days, so that they can build up their skills and abilities to maintain healthy eating no matter what day it is.

The Stressed Eater is one who does not feel entitled to take the time to sit down and enjoy her meals and instead will often grab something while sitting at the computer or doing other tasks.  The stressed and distracted eater often will end up eating much more than she had planned to later on because she will not notice how much she is eating and will  then feel unsatisfied.   Stressed eaters need to build up their sense of entitlement to take care of themselves and maintain a healthy lifestyle by taking the time to prepare meals and enjoy eating them.

Tips for ending distracted and stressed eating:

  1. Stressed eaters might need to initially do some problem-solving to figure out when and how they will take the time to get and prepare healthy foods and sit down to enjoy them, distraction-free.
  2. Stressed eaters especially need to make sure that they are noticing every bite of what they are eating it and enjoy it, so that they feel satisfied and do not end up overeating later.
  3. Stressed eaters need to remind themselves that they are entitled to take time for themselves and develop a healthy lifestyle, and they will function better once they start doing this on a regular basis.

The Social Eater often will overeat in the presence of family or friends, telling themselves a number of sabotaging thoughts, including “it’s okay to eat this because…everyone else is doing it/it’s a special occasion/I’ll stand out if I don’t eat it/I don’t want to have to eat differently from other people.”  Social eaters need to remind themselves that they can’t have it both ways: they can’t eat everything they want, when they want, and also lose weight and keep it off.  Social eaters have to work toward accepting the fact that they may not be able to eat the same foods or the same portions of food as everyone around them, but they will be able to feel great about being able to lose weight and keep it off.

Tips for ending social eating:

  1. Social Eaters can often eat what people around them are eating, but in smaller quantities.  However, they may be better off eating larger portions of more healthful foods so that they feel more satisfied.
  2. Social Eaters need to remind themselves that just because everyone around them is eating something does not mean it’s okay for them to eat it, because calories other people take in has nothing to do with calories they take in.
  3. Social eaters should remind themselves that while they may be giving up eating as much as everyone around them is eating, they will also get to lose weight and feel good about themselves, which is more important than any momentary pleasure from food.

So we ask:  What type of eater are you?

Out to Dinner

Jamie came into session today and told me about a great experience she had with eating out the night before.  She reported that she deliberately did several important things in preparation of going out to eat, which greatly contributed to her feeling of success.  First, Jamie asked her friend if they could pick the restaurant ahead of time so that she would be able to look at the menu online and make preemptive food decisions.  While she was looking at the menu earlier in the day, Jamie knew that she wanted to incorporate a reasonable portion french fries into her dinner because she loved them at this particular restaurant.  Because of this choice, Jamie also definitively decided not to take anything from the bread basket when it was served although she knew that, in the moment, this wouldn’t be easy.  Another thing Jamie did was make sure she got to the restaurant a few minutes early and used that time to read her Advantages List and also a response card that she had made about saying no to the bread basket.  By doing this, Jamie ensured that  it would be front and center in her mind why it was worth it to her to stay on track during dinner.

Jamie told me that at the restaurant she didn’t even bother looking at the menu because she didn’t want to be tempted into ording something she hadn’t planned for. Jamie ordered what she had previously decided to, and then when the bread basket came out she was able to remind herself of why she wasn’t going to have any.  Jamie told me that she was surprised to find it wasn’t very difficult for her to stay away from the bread, but that she thought deciding ahead of time not to have any really did make it easier.  Not so easy was when Jamie’s food came and she looked at the huge pile of french fries on her plate, knowing that she could not stick to her diet and eat them all.  Jamie  said that her sabotaging thoughts immediately began popping up urging her to jump in and eat them [this one time won’t matter; I’m having dinner out, I can treat myself; I did so well turning down the bread that I deserve more fries; I won’t be able to enjoy myself unless I eat all of them].  Jamie reminded herself strongly that it was worth it to her to not eat the whole portion because not only would she feel sick and mad at herself after, but she would also be giving into her resistance muscle and making it more likely that she would do the same thing in the future.  Jamie also told herself that it was imperative that she prove to herself that she could eat fries and stay in control and she had NO CHOICE about not eating them all.

Throughout dinner Jamie was careful to divide her attention between talking with her friend and eating her food. Jamie knew that if she did not pay attention to her food she would wind up eating more than she had planned and she wouldn’t be able to enjoy what she did eat nearly as much.  Jamie was also cognizant of the condiments she used with dinner and did not fool herself into thinking that these things did not contribute to the calorie count of her meal. 

Because Jamie had thoroughly prepared herself ahead of time, she was able to stick to a very reasonable portion of fries and she was able to notice and enjoy every single one that she did eat, which enabled her to not feel deprived.  Jamie and I discussed this situation in session and listed all of the many things that she deserved credit for.  I asked Jamie if, looking back, she regretted not eating all of her fries or not taking from the bread basket and Jamie answered that she absolutely did not regret it; rather she felt incredibly proud of herself that she was able to stay in control and enjoy everything she ate.  Jamie and I discussed this paradox – that dieters think they’ll be happy if they can eat any food they want in whatever quantity they want, when in reality most find that the exact opposite is true. This certainly was true for Jamie because actually restricting her bread and french fry intake allowed her to enjoy her meal more, knowing that she was staying in control and would still feel good about it later.

Amy’s Business Trip

Amy came in this week feeling quite defeated. Although she had previously been doing quite well with making food plans and sticking to them, she had been on a business trip earlier this week and hadn’t been able to write down her food. She viewed the trip as a complete “failure,” which left her feeling demoralized and unmotivated. As soon as I heard this, I realized very quickly that Amy was probably catastrophizing the trip, and viewing it as much worse than it actually was. I asked Amy what she had done right on the trip, and initially she couldn’t think of anything.  I then asked her if she had practiced any of her other skills during the trip. After thinking about it, Amy admitted that she was still very conscious of eating everything slowly, sitting down, and while enjoying every bite. Even though she ate at restaurants for every meal, Amy said that she always worked hard to make smart food decisions and never finished the whole portion she was served.  She also consistently resisted the cookies and muffins that were served throughout the day as snacks, and she always chose fresh fruit for dessert instead.  And because of all these things she was doing right, Amy didn’t gain a single pound on her trip.

It can be hard to believe that in light of all these things, Amy could have viewed this trip as a complete failure, but this happens often to dieters. They tend to focus only on the things they are doing wrong, or not as well, and completely discount all of the many, many things they are doing right. I asked Amy to take another, more objective look at her trip. When squarely faced with a list of all the things she deserved credit for, Amy was able to realize that the trip wasn’t a failure even a little bit – in fact, for the most part it was actually a huge success. Once she stopped catastrophizing and put the trip in perspective, Amy immediately felt better and even more confident about her ability to handle trips in the future.

Calorie Counts on Menus

Earlier this year, Philadelphia joined New York in requiring that chain restaurants print calorie counts on their menus. Even I was astounded, when I ate out a few days ago. I was fascinated by how high the calorie counts were for almost every item.

The calorie counts didn’t change what I had planned to order. They just reinforced my choices. Even before I got to the restaurant (my first time at this chain), I knew I’d most likely skip the appetizers, caloric drinks, and dessert, and have some kind of protein (with minimal sauce), a vegetable, a starch, and a piece of bread. I knew I’d have to ask for my food without added butter or oil. And I also knew that I would probably eat about 2/3 of the protein, all the vegetable, and part of the starch. That’s what I did.

I knew I could have ordered anything on the menu but I would have had to eat much smaller portions and possibly tolerate hunger and cravings later on. I WISH I could have chosen different food and eaten larger portions, but I know that this is what I have to do to maintain my weight. And it’s worth it.

If I ate out at restaurants more often, I would have to eat even smaller portions. Restaurant food is simply significantly more caloric than the food I eat at home.

Or, if I ate at restaurants more often, or consumed more when I dined out, I’d have to accept the fact that my weight would be higher. I think the latter option is fine for dieters and maintainers to choose (as long as they can maintain a healthy weight).

What is not fine is for dieters to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that restaurant meals are lower calorie than they really are. I’m continually amazed by dieters who consume a couple of very caloric dinners per week and are then surprised when they don’t lose weight. I hope that more restaurants will include calorie counts so dieters can make informed (and better) decisions.

Fear of Food

Marie avoided eating potato chips, French fries, onion rings, and crackers. Although she loved these foods, they would trigger cravings and once she started eating them, she found it quite difficult to stop. Marie actually developed a fear of these foods. She was sure she would lose control if she ate them.

I told Marie that I wanted her to start planning to eat one these foods a day (perhaps a couple of times a week), so she could learn how to stop. I explained that I didn’t think it was reasonable for her to avoid them for life, especially if she really liked them.

We made a plan. Marie would read her reasons for losing weight just before dinner and her other response cards. She would alert her husband about the plan. At the restaurant, she would order French fries (and a small plate) along with her healthy dinner. When the fries arrived, she would immediately put the extra fries on the small plate and ask the waiter to take them away.

Marie was a little hesitant. What would the waiter think? We agreed he probably would think, “This customer is on a diet.” Then he would turn his attention to his next task.

Marie tried it. It was much easier than she thought. She didn’t lose control. She did want more when she was finished but she told herself she would have more again within the next couple of days. She’s still a little fearful about eating some of her other trigger foods, but we’ll work on them together.

Back From Our Travels

You may have noticed that we took a hiatus from the blog for two weeks. In addition to attending Thanksgiving and a family wedding in Tampa, we gave a series of workshops in California. Altogether, we were gone for 12 days in a row. It’s difficult to maintain your weight during holidays and special events and when you’re constantly hopping on and off airplanes and staying in a different hotel every night for 7 nights. But we did.

How did we manage? We’re committed to eating pretty much the same way 365 days a year. An important study by the National Weight Control Registry showed that successful maintainers are consistent eaters. Did we want to overindulge at Thanksgiving and the wedding? You bet we did. Did we want to pick higher calorie (and sometimes less healthy) meals at airports, hotels, and restaurants? Of course. But we didn’t, because we kept reminding ourselves that we wanted to be thinner and healthier. Was the restriction worth it? Absolutely. We felt good after every single meal and we felt great when we finally got home and stepped on the scale.

Now what works for us doesn’t work for everyone. Some dieters and maintainers do better if they plan in advance (Day 32) to have 300 or so extra calories a day at these times, but not more than that. They may gain a little weight, but that’s okay, as long as they eliminate those extra daily calories as soon as they return home. They have to be careful, though, that they don’t have too many special occasions at which they consume extra calories. And they have to be careful to plan to eat more, not just slip into eating more, since the latter strengthens their giving in muscle and weakens their resistance muscle (Day 11).

Anyway, it’s good to be back and we’ll continue to blog and let you know what’s going on.

Traveling and TBDS

We received this letter from a Beck Diet Solution reader and frequent traveler:

My concerns are that I travel nearly every week for work.  I have been on the program at home so far which is easy.  How will I be able to manage this when I am traveling?  I think for those of us who are road warriors, we often find ourselves hungry, stressed, tired, and without many choices as far as what we can eat.  I have been stuck in airports where there is little healthy food or stuck in airports when all shops are closed so that my dinner must come from a vending machine or I will not eat at all.  This is true with hotels too.  Sometimes I end up in a hotel which does not have room service so if I don’t eat before I get there, then I don’t eat! Here are some of my ideas: 

-Continue to eat slowly while seated.
-Remember that it is okay to be hungry–I won’t die from it!
Don’t get the key to the mini bar!
Really watch portions and always get a salad.
Avoid alcohol.
Ask for crudités with dip on the side even if it’s not on the menu.
Eat an apple before going out to dinner.
Stay hydrated.

I don’t know if this is enough for me to be able to reduce my caloric intake enough to actually lose weight while traveling.  Do you have any other suggestions?

We thought this letter was a great illustration of a problem many people face.  The suggestions are excellent, and we have a couple to add:

1. Because you’re going to be eating out so much more when traveling and are at risk for taking in a lot more calories, consider ordering a salad with the dressing on the side and topped with a lean protein.
2. Plan ahead!  If you know you’re going to be arriving too late to buy a decent dinner, bring travel-friendly food with you, such as tuna fish in a can or pouch, processed cheese that doesn’t require refrigeration, fruit, high fiber/high protein bars, or nuts.
3. Ask for a mini fridge for your hotel room and stock it with foods you can eat.
4. Try to avoid buffets, but if you do find yourself eating at them, survey all the food first, pick two or three things to eat, and then don’t go back for seconds.
5. When eating out, remind yourself that if you want to be thinner, you can’t have appetizers, bread with your entree, and dessert.  Make compromises!

We also recommend you read (or reread) Day 32 of The Beck Diet Solution and if necessary, bring the book with you on your travels to keep everything fresh in your mind. 

If you have any more suggestions, we’d love to hear them.

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. 

Staying on Track: Maria

On Monday we had our now monthly meeting of our lunchtime diet group and it was great to see everyone again!  Even better was when after everyone weighed in, we were able to report that each and every single one has either maintained their weight loss or gone on to lose more.  They have all made real changes in their thinking and in their behavior. They’ve adopted a whole new eating lifestyle and have the skills and confidence necessary to keep this lifestyle up. 

Maria, for example, knew she was going to a barbeque last weekend. Before she went, she sat down and thought about her food options.  They were:

1) Eat before she went in case there wasn’t any food there she could eat

2) Plan to eat at the barbeque, but know that she would have to be satisfied with smaller portions because the food was likely to more caloric then what she normally eats

3) Bring some food with her that she knows she will enjoy and feel satisfied with.

 

hotdogs1.jpgMaria chose the third option.  Because she knew she would be tempted by the sight and smell of hotdogs, she brought with her some low fat hotdogs that she’s had in the past and knows she enjoys.  She also brought some fruit for dessert in case there wasn’t any there, so she wouldn’t be tempted to go for cake or pie.  Maria went into the barbeque with the clear plan of eating exactly what she brought and nothing else, and didn’t struggle at all to stick to this plan.

How did she do it?  First of all Maria took the time to sit down and plan a strategy for the barbeque. If she hadn’t done so, she likely would have just gone with the intention of finding something there that she could eat, and probably would have ended up going over her calorie limit for the day.  Second, she brought food that was comparable to what was being served, so not only did she feel completely satisfied because she got to eat a good meal, but also she didn’t feel deprived because she was basically eating what everyone else was eating.  Third, Maria read her Advantages List (discussed on Day 1 of The Beck Diet Solution) before she went to remind herself why it was so important to her to stick to her plan.  Fourth, Maria has truly learned the skill of telling herself, “No Choice” (discussed on Day 13 of The Beck Diet Solution). She no longer lets herself even entertain the thought of going off her plan, and therefore no longer struggles to stay on it.

All of these things took time and lots of practice for Maria to master, but now that she has these skills, they come easily and naturally to her. 

Lifestyle Changes: Roxanne

buffet22.jpgRoxanne, who was now reached maintenance, recognizes that she needs to use the skills she learned in The Beck Diet Solution for life. At our meeting yesterday, she told us about a women’s retreat she attended over the weekend in which all meals were served buffet-style.  Unlike some buffets in which the food isn’t very good and quantity is valued over quality, Roxanne reported that this retreat is known for having excellent meals.  So how did she tackle this situation?

Roxanne made it much easier by establishing certain rules for herself:

 1) She started out each meal with a salad regardless of whatever higher-calorie appetizers her companions were eating

 2) She did a complete survey of the buffet before deciding what to eat for her main course, chose whichever three things she wanted, and took one plate of food – no seconds.

3) She decided ahead of time that she would allow herself one desert one night, and the rest of the time would stick to fruit.

Following these rules made eating at the retreat a relaxing and enjoyable experience for Roxanne.  She said that she didn’t struggle at all over the things she didn’t eat, and instead felt happy and in control, knowing that she would rather be thinner than eat out of hand (Day 33).  Roxanne says that in the past, she undoubtedly would have gone for seconds at every meal and eaten desert every night just because it was there, even if it wasn’t something she particularly enjoyed.  Because Roxanne has truly made these lifelong changes, her weight is remaining stable and she is confident that it will continue to do so.