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. 

Busy Week: Lori

In the meeting yesterday, Lori talked about what a busy week she has coming up.  Lots of meals out, a business trip out of town, and on top of it, her birthday on Friday.  In the past a week like this might have completely derailed Lori’s diet, but now she is going into it with confidence.

cafe.jpgLori has several strategies that will help her handle the coming week with ease.  First she will make sure to eat a normal breakfast and lunch every day.  Some dieters try to eat very little, if anything, for breakfast and/or lunch so they can eat big meals later in the day, especially if they are eating at a restaurant.  Lori knows that this simply doesn’t work and that not eating enough in the beginning part of the day will only lead her to significantly overeat later on (discussed on Day 2 of The Beck Diet Solution). 

Second, Lori is not at all concerned about her business trip because she knows that she will make wise decisions when eating out.  Because she won’t have complete control over her food, Lori also knows that it’s possible she will feel more hungry than usual, but she also knows that this is not something to fear and she most definitely can tolerate it (Day 12).

Last, in terms of her birthday, Lori has firmly talked back to her sabotaging thoughts that in the past would lead her to have a really big blow-out meal.  She now says that, “I know I have to eat mindfully for the rest of my life, so just because it’s my birthday, that’s not an excuse to eat a huge meal and dessert.” (Day 19).  Of course, like everyone else, Lori doesn’t necessarily like that she can’t eat with abandon on her birthday, but she’s accepted it and moved on because for her, being thin is so much more worth it. 

Coming to Terms: Melissa

Over the last few months, Melissa has noticed that she’s experienced a big shift in her thinking.  When she used to eat at restaurants during previous attempts to diet, she always viewed it as an opportunity to eat a lot and not really think about her diet.  She said she used to think that ordering something like a salad was both a waste of money and a waste of the restaurant experience.  She was fooling herself, telling herself things like, “It’s ok to go off my diet because I’m at a restaurant.  Everyone else is eating this way” (discussed on Day 19 of The Beck Diet Solution). 

                                 salad21.jpg

Melissa finally began to realize, however, that she couldn’t use eating at a restaurant as an excuse to go off her diet or she wouldn’t lose weight and keep it off –  she can’t have it both ways! Melissa came to terms with the fact that she’d rather be thinner than eat extravagantly at restaurants (Day 30).  Melissa ate out twice last week, ordered salads both times, and feels great about it.