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). 


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.

America vs. Italy

am-flag.jpgWe had a special visitor during our diet group today, our colleague from Rome, Dr. Antonella Montano.  During the meeting she talked about her impressions of food in America and the differences between here and Rome. Antonella reported that she was SHOCKED when she went to a US supermarket.  She said in Italy, they have one or two varieties for most products, and the sizes are much smaller than in America. She was staggered by how many types of bread, snack food, cakes, and soda there were.  For some products, like ice cream, Antonella couldn’t believe how big the containers are that you can buy.  They don’t sell ½ gallon cartons of ice cream in Italy because people don’t eat that much!  As Antonella says, in order to successfully handle the US supermarkets, “You have to be a warrior!”  Because there are fewer options and smaller packages in Italy, making the right food decisions is easier there.

Antonella also pointed out some other differences in eating between Italy and the
U.S.  She ordered a salad at a restaurant yesterday and said that this single U.S. serving would have been enough for five people in Italy.  Also, in Italy they only put lemon, vinegar, and a small amount of oil on their salads, “not blue cheese dressing!”  She further noted that in Italy, children are taught from the onset that you eat three meals a day, and maybe a small snack in between.  There’s no eating all day in Italy as we sometimes do in America. In fact, restaurants often close between lunch and dinner, which forces people to stick to a more normal eating schedule.  Antonella was surprised that you can get huge meals 24 hours a day in America.  “You can always find a place to get extra food.  In Italy it’s not like that.” it-flag.jpg

We learned a lot from Antonella. We Americans tend to think our abnormally large portions are normal. Then when we restrict our eating to lose weight, we feel deprived (a problem dieters learn to cope with on Day 22 of The Beck Diet Solution)—instead of realizing that we are finally having the same reasonably-sized portions as much of the rest of the world.

Birthday: Diana

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

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

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

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.


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.

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.

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.

Get Back on Track: Roxanne

Our dieters are doing well despite all of the added pressures of the holiday season.  This week, almost everyone lost weight.  In our group, we discussed how they had eaten differently during previous Christmases. One dieter, Roxanne, summed up the group’s general sentiment best, saying she used to: “Eat until I bust!”

Roxanne, 47, has been struggling with dieting since the age of 25.  At one point, she lost 25 pounds and kept it off for about 2 years. Historically Roxanne’s biggest problem has been giving into cravings.  When she felt a strong urge to eat something, she usually did, telling herself “It’s ok to eat this because… I really want it; I’ll eat it eventually; I’ll have just a little; this one time won’t matter.”  Overcoming cravings and sticking to her food plans (a skill learned on Day 13 of The Beck Diet Solution) has helped Roxanne lose a total of 33 ½ pounds so far!

chicksalad.gifRoxanne is also becoming deft at making smart food choices.  She knew that last week she would be shopping and eating out a lot more than usual and had to be extra vigilant about not taking in too many calories (Day 30).  She made a rule for herself for this holiday season:  to order a salad whenever she ate lunch out. This rule eliminated a struggle about what she would and wouldn’t allow herself to eat. She stuck fast to this rule. One day, without thinking about it, she ordered breaded, fried chicken on her salad instead of grilled chicken.  But she didn’t criticize herself. She didn’t decide that she had blown her diet and therefore should eat out of control for the rest of the day.  Instead, she was able to get back on track immediately (Day 20).  She viewed the fried chicken as a momentary slip up and continued to eat normally for the rest of day, knowing that one minor mistake would not affect her weight at the end of the week.

Despite the holiday season, Roxanne lost 2 pounds this week.

Don’t Fool Yourself: Brenda

Another Beck Diet Solution Dieter is Brenda, a 49 year-old self-described lover of carbs.  Throughout the past two decades, Brenda has tried dieting at least 20 times. But whenever she lost weight, she always gained it back in less time than it had taken her to lose it.  Brenda started out our group on a carb-counting diet. After she had lost 18 pounds in five months, her weight loss stagnated –  she was fooling herself by allowing too many carbs to creep back into her diet. (“It won’t really matter if I don’t count [this carb-heavy food].”)

Brenda had two choices: cut her carbs again or switch diets (a skill learned in Day 2 of The Beck Diet Solution). She decided to switch to a program in which she counts points (analogous to counting calories) so she could have more of what she loves: carbs.

Two weeks ago Brenda made the switch and has now already gone down another 1 ½ pounds.  At this week’s meeting, we discussed a breakfast she planned to eat at her favorite restaurant in a few days. This was a typical breakfast she used to have when she wasn’t dieting. Again we discovered that Brenda was “fooling herself” (Day 19) – this time, by not taking into account all ingredients (especially the butter and half and half) that would go into the breakfast. She was shocked to see how many points it would use up. (In the description below, we’ve converted points to calories.).

2 Eggs: 180 Calories
2 Pieces of Rye Toast: 160 Calories
4 Pieces of Bacon: 200 Calories
Butter/Oil (for cooking and for toast): 200 Calories
½ and ½ (for coffee): 40 Calories

=780 Calories

What Brenda thought would be a reasonable breakfast turned out to contain more than 2/3rds of her points allotment for the entire day.  Our diet group members suggested reasonable alternatives:

3 Egg Whites: 51 Calories
1 Piece of Wheat Toast: 65 Calories
2 Pieces Turkey Bacon: 70 Calories
Butter: 36 Calories
Nonfat Milk: 15 Calories

=237 Calories

Brenda realized that it just wasn’t worth it to eat the original meal she had planned when she could be satisfied with something similar. This was an important learning experience for Brenda and the group—how easy it is too fool yourself about how much you’re eating.