Halloween Survival Guide

We sent this out last year (if you want to receive our free e-newsletter, you can sign up here), but there are probably people who haven’t seen it before and/or people who would benefit from reading it again! Here are some Halloween-specific strategies that will help you stick to your plan this October 31st and the days surrounding it.

Remember: Candy is available year-round! Dieters tend to load up and eat lots of candy on Halloween, saying to themselves, “Well, it only occurs once a year.”  That’s true, but Halloween is once a year, every year, and candy is available every day of the year. Drug stores and supermarkets sell fun-sized candy bars year-round, so you don’t need to load up now. You can buy candy any time.

Don’t buy candy until you need it. This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it’s an important one. Many people buy Halloween candy a few weeks in advance, perhaps rationalizing that “it will be good to have that task over with,” “I won’t have to worry about stores running out,” and “I can get the candy on sale.” And then what usually happens? They end up eating some (or all) of it before the big day. Even when dieters are able to wait to break into the candy until Halloween itself, it can be a daily struggle to resist. There is a very simple solution to this problem: Don’t purchase candy in advance.  Even if it adds a small amount of cost or an additional chore on your already busy October 31st, isn’t it worth not having to worry about giving in and expending the mental energy to resist until it’s time?

Buy candy that you don’t like so much in bulk and just a single serving of your favorite candy.  You’ll obviously have the most trouble resisting your favorite candy, so buy candy in bulk that you don’t enjoy as much—you’ll have an easier time resisting it, and when Halloween is over, it will probably be easier for you to throw away the leftovers, give them away, or donate them. You can and should buy a single-serving of the candy you like the most. This way, you’ll be able to savor your favorite candy without worrying about having to stop yourself from going back for more.

Remember, the Halloween experience lasts for longer than one day. Even though the holiday itself is just a day, it is highly likely that you will come in contact with Halloween treats on the days leading up to and following October 31st.  Be on the lookout for the common sabotaging thought, “I’m going to eat a lot of extra candy on Halloween, but it’s okay because it’s only one day.” This thought does not take into account the candy that you come in contact with before Halloween, the candy you might have left over, the candy in your office kitchen, at your friends’ homes, and at the parties and events you attend, before and after October 31st.  If you’re making a plan for Halloween, it’s important to factor in the days before and after, too.

Get rid of left overs!  If extra candy is in your house, you’re likely to be tempted to eat it at some point.  If you want to avoid having to resist leftovers, there are plenty of ways to get rid of them. Give them away, donate them, bring them in to work, or simply throw them away.  If you have the sabotaging thought, “I can’t throw the candy away because it would be a waste of money,” remind yourself, “Either way the money is already gone. Eating the candy won’t bring it back.”  One way or another, if you can limit your amount of exposure to leftover candy, you’ll make it so much easier on yourself.  And if your kids go trick-or-treating, it’s also a good idea to immediately get rid of the candy they don’t like or can’t eat. If you keep it around, you may end up eating it or struggling to resist it.  Remember, even though it may cost you a bit, in the long-run, you’ll probably  end up saving yourself thousands of calories by getting rid of extra Halloween candy and instead buying yourself a single serving of your favorite candy that you’ve planned to eat. This will help guarantee that you enjoy your favorite treat, when you really want it, and without the guilt.

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 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?

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Office Treats

Q: There are so many treats in my office right now, and although I try hard to resist them, it’s so hard this time of year.  Any suggestions on what I can do to get through the holiday season without getting off track with my eating?

A: We know this time of year can be particularly hard for people who are working on losing weight or maintaining their weight.  In answer to your question, let me tell you about what I do and what works for me.

I have a rule for myself that makes life so much easier: no junk food before dinner.  Before I started working on losing weight, and then maintaining my weight loss, I certainly did not have this rule and would eat junk food and desserts several times a day, often whenever it was offered to me or I came in contact with it.  Even after I lost weight, I still didn’t have this rule, but would try hard not to eat much (if any) junk food during the day. However, when I began working at the Beck Institute, limiting my daily junk food consumption became harder because there were often treats in our office kitchen. To make matters worse, my office is right across from the kitchen and I go in there several times a day to refill my water cup.  For the first few months, I found going into the kitchen to be a hard experience because I would see all the treats in there, want them, and then engage in the struggle of saying to myself things like, “Oh those brownies look really good/But you know you shouldn’t have one/How about if I just have a small piece/No, you know it’s about the habit, not about the calories/But just this one time won’t matter/Every time matters, don’t fool yourself,” etc.  Because this was happening to me on a daily basis (and, often on a multiple times a day basis), I quickly realized that something had to change because I didn’t want the struggle to continue.  So what did I do? I made a rule for myself: No junk food before dinner.  No exceptions. If I saw something in the office kitchen that I really wanted, I could take a piece home and have it after dinner.

Right after I made this rule, life got easier.  I no longer had to think about whether or not to eat the treats every time I went into the kitchen because I knew I wasn’t having any. The decision had already been made. In the beginning, of course, there were still times that I was highly tempted by the treats, and my sabotaging thoughts tried to convince me that just one time, or just one bite, wouldn’t matter. But every time I had that thought, I strongly reminded myself that every time does matter and every bite does matter because if I gave in once, then I would be much more likely to give in again.  I knew that if I opened the door to exceptions one time, then I would be tempted to open it over and over again, and thus my rule wouldn’t work anymore.  Every time I was tempted to eat a treat during the day, I would remind myself, “No, you’re not eating this now. The decision has already been made. Don’t even think about it.” I would also remind myself, “You don’t need to eat it now! If you really want it, bring it home and have it after dinner. Besides, you’ll enjoy it much more then because you won’t feel guilty about eating it.”

The more I proved to myself that no matter what I wasn’t going to eat treats from the kitchen while at work, it started to get easier and easier to resist them.  I am grateful all the time for this rule because it means that I can go into the office kitchen as many times a day as I need to, and I don’t have to worry about what I might see in there. I don’t have to worry about engaging in a painful “Should I eat this/Should I not eat this” struggle with myself because I know: I just don’t eat it at work. 

This rule becomes even more important during the holiday season when our office is overloaded with treats.  Even though, in theory, there are more temptations to eat all the treats during the holiday season, I am more committed than ever to my rule right now because I know that if I gave in, life would get harder again, and it’s just not worth it to me. Every time I’m tempted when I walk in the kitchen, I remind myself over and over again, “It’s not worth eating this now because the only thing it will do is increase my struggles and make life harder. It’s worth it to continue resisting because it means I’ll be able to maintain my weight and have an easier life.”

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.

Components of a Thanksgiving Plan

If you’ve read our newsletter, our Daily Diet Solutions, or past blog postings, then you probably know that we are strong advocates of having dieters make a plan for potentially difficult situations, like events, vacations, and holidays.  We push for this because we’ve found, time and again, that when dieters have a plan (even if it’s a general one), they almost always do better than when they have no plan at all and have to continually make spontaneous decisions about whether or not to eat something. Spontaneous decisions are often the hardest to control because they require a lot of on-the-spot thinking and self-discipline.  Any decisions you make ahead of time (like whether or not to have dessert, and if so, how much) means you don’t have to expend the mental energy and willpower in the moment deciding what to do. 

If you’re going to make a Thanksgiving plan this year, consider adding the following components:

Practice good eating habits.  Especially during days when you’re spending a lot of time cooking and have food around you all day, it’s extremely easy to take in hundreds of extra calories by just grabbing a bite here and there.  You can really cut down on this type of extraneous eating by continuing to make it a point to eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully. This may mean that you’re pulled away from your preparations briefly, but isn’t it worth it if it means you’ll actually get to enjoy what you’re eating and feel so much more satisfied?

Exercise. Even if you’re very busy on Thanksgiving Day, it maybe worth it to figure out, in advance, where you can carve out 15 minutes or half an hour for exercise.  The point of this is less about calorie burning (although that is a good benefit), but more about taking some time for yourself during a busy day. It can also be an excellent stress reliever!

Thanksgiving Dinner.  Obviously any good Thanksgiving plan will include what you will actually eat for Thanksgiving dinner. If you know what’s going to be served, then you can make a specific plan to have x amount of Turkey, salad, stuffing, potatoes, etc.  If you don’t know what’s going to be served, then you can make a more general plan: x amount of Turkey, x amounts of 3 to 5 different side dishes, etc.

Set a range for alcohol/caloric beverages.  It’s perfectly reasonable to plan to have alcohol/caloric beverages during Thanksgiving, but it’s important to decide in advance what your limit is so that you don’t go overboard. Consider setting a range for the day, such as planning to have 0 to 2 glasses of wine.

Decide about dessert.  Again, it’s reasonable to have dessert on Thanksgiving, but decide in advance how much you’re going to have.  If you know exactly what’s going to be served, then you can make a more specific plan, like “Have one small piece of pumpkin pie and one small piece of pecan pie.” If you don’t know what’s going to be served, your plan can be more general: “Have one bigger portion of dessert or 2 to 3 small portions.”

Don’t go back for moreAnother helpful guideline to have during Thanksgiving is committing in advance to not having any seconds.  If you plan a reasonable Thanksgiving dinner and then go back for more, you’ll likely end up feeling overly full.  This year, if you want to avoid that uncomfortable feeling (and avoid possible weight gain), decide in advance what seconds, if any, you’re going to have.  That way, after you finish eating, you don’t have to struggle to decide whether or not to go back for more because the decision will have already been made.

Think about the rest of the day.  Since you likely won’t be eating Thanksgiving dinner until midafternoon or later, it’s important to think about what you’re going to eat before dinner begins.  Many dieters find it helpful to plan in advance what to have for breakfast and lunch (and it may be smaller than normal breakfasts and lunches), and then make sure they take time to sit down and eat what they have planned.  This way they don’t take in too many calories early in the day but they aren’t starving, either.

In Session with Deborah: Memorial Day Weekend

This week I had a session with my dieter, Amy.  Amy told me that while she is excited for the long weekend, she’s also nervous because she has a lot of events over the weekend and she’s worried about how she will handle her eating.

The first thing I did was reassure Amy that she had nothing to do be nervous about. I reminded her that if she makes a mistake over the weekend, it’s not the end of the world, and she has already become adept at the skill of making a mistake and getting herself right back on track.  In the event that she did get off track, I asked Amy to tell me exactly what she would do.  She replied that she would:

1. Label it a “mistake” and not castrophize.

2. Read her Advantages List and some Response Cards and remind herself that she will feel so much better if she gets right back on track that minute.

3. Think about other times when she’s made mistakes and how proud and great she felt when she got right back on track.

4. Think about what sabotaging thoughts led her astray and what responses might be helpful in the future.

5. Resume normal eating for the rest of the day and give herself lots and lots of credit.

Amy and I then discussed what events she had this weekend so that we could come up with a plan.  Amy reported that she is going to the beach Friday through Monday morning and will likely eat out for dinner all three nights, and then she will be attending a barbeque on Monday afternoon.

Amy and I first tackled how she will handle eating out three nights in a row while she’s at the beach. As a lover of bread, wine, and dessert, I reminded Amy that she probably couldn’t have all three at all three meals.  Amy and I talked this over and we realized that it is unhelpful to think of each meal out as a separate event, because if she did, then she might feel deprived not having bread, wine, or dessert at any of one of them.  Instead, we decided to conceptualize the three meals as one package deal, and figure out during which of the three Amy would have these treats.  In doing so, Amy is much less likely to feel deprived at any one meal because she can say to herself, “I don’t need to have bread tonight, I’m going to have it tomorrow. And besides, tonight I’m having wine.” 

Next, Amy and I talked about her strategy for the barbeque.  We came up with the following guidelines:

  • Look at all the food before deciding what to have.
  • No nibbling and no eating standing up! Make a plate of food and deliberately sit down to eat it so I can see how much I’m having and be visually and physically satisfied.
  • If we’re there for a long time, have a snack if I’m hungry but make sure to sit down and eat it mindfully.
  • No dessert at the barbeque – if I really want something, I can bring it home and have it after dinner.
  • No more than two drinks.  Remember, I’ve already had a big weekend and I don’t need more alcohol.
  • Spend time talking to people. I’m there for the social aspect, not for the food!
  • Bring and read the following Response Cards:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armed with these plans and strategies, and a renewed confidence in her ability to handle mistakes in the event that she makes any, Amy reported that she was feeling a lot less nervous and a lot more excited about the weekend to come.  I reminded Amy that she has the ability to handle any eating event, especially when she has a strong plan and a firm belief in why it’s worth it to her to follow it.

The Secret to Holiday Success

What’s the secret to holiday success? Having a plan. Yes, it really is that simple. Every dieter’s plan is different, and the plans can range from very general to very specific. For dieters who rebel against the notion of having a plan, we ask them, “When has not having a plan in the past ever helped you to reach your weight loss goals?”

My dieter, Jamie, came in to see me this week and we spent most of the session formulating her Christmas Eve plan. Jamie told me that she spends Christmas Day at her sister’s house does well staying in control while she’s there. However, on Christmas Eve Jamie’s whole family comes to her house and she is in charge of cooking for a large crowd. Jamie said that in previous years, the stress of entertaining a lot of people, combined with eating a lot while she was cooking, has led her to eat way too much, feel sick, and then just completely throw in the towel. This year, however, Jamie was determined to have a great Christmas Eve which she could feel good about, both during and after.

Before we made her plan, Jamie identified several areas that have been difficult for her in the past: she gets really stressed, she excessively tastes everything while she cooks, she skips breakfast and lunch, she doesn’t take any time for herself, she usually avoids the scale for the next few days, and she doesn’t respond to sabotaging thoughts like, “I’ve blown it so I might as well start tomorrow,” and “It’s Christmas Eve so it’s okay to eat whatever I want.”

Here is the plan that Jamie and I formulated:

1. Plan in advance to have breakfast and lunch. In the past, Jamie has skipped breakfast and lunch, thinking she will “make up” for it later in the day. This caused her to be extremely hungry when she started to cook, which then led her to eat a lot while she was cooking and during dinner and after, thinking “I skipped breakfast and lunch so it’s okay to have extra now.” For the day, Jamie usually ended up eating way more calories than she would have if she had had a reasonable breakfast and lunch.

2. Read Advantages List and Response Cards several times throughout the day, especially right before cooking. Jamie knows that she is more susceptible to sabotaging thoughts around this time, and she also knows that she will be tempted by more food than usual. In session Jamie and I made some Response Cards with responses to sabotaging thoughts that she has had in the past, and she committed to reading those cards, as well as her Advantages List, throughout the day so it would be fresh in her mind exactly why it’s worth it to her to stay in control.

3. Take a walk sometime during the day. While in general Jamie is good at getting herself to exercise, during the holidays, and especially when she is busy all day getting ready for a celebration, her exercise plans can fly right out the window. This year Jamie decided that she would make sure to get some exercise in at some point that day, not only to prove to herself that she can continue to make exercise a priority even when she’s busy, but also so that she can have a few moments to herself to de-stress and calm down.

4. Eat everything sitting down. This, too, is a skill that Jamie is usually pretty very good at. However, when she is cooking and preparing food, setting out appetizers, and wrapping up leftovers, she is much more likely to engage in eating standing up. Jamie realized that having the very strict rule of eating everything sitting down would help her to eliminate a lot of extraneous eating because, by sitting down, it will force her to be more aware and more accountable for every bite that she eats.

5. Limit consumption of alcohol and desserts. Jamie decided that her favorite part of Christmas Eve was the dinner, and she didn’t want to spend too many calories on alcohol and sweets. Jamie realized that she might feel deprived if she cut these things out of her plan completely, but by choosing to have a small amount of each she would still be able to consume them, and as an added bonus, she would be able to enjoy them guilt-free because she would know that she was having a controlled amount that was on her plan.

6. Take time to refocus if stress sets in. Jamie knows that at any point during the day she might start to feel stressed or frenzied, and in the past she would turn straight to food to calm herself down. Jamie realized that if she wants to lose weight and keep it off, she can’t keep eating as a cure for stress. Instead, Jamie and I made a list of several different things that she should immediately start trying if she notices herself getting stressed so that she can calm herself down, refocus her energy, and get right back on track – all without eating a bite.

7. Weigh in the very next morning. One of the biggest reasons dieters get off track, and stay off track, is because they are not accountable for their actions. By knowing that she will have to get on the scale the next morning no matter what, it will be easier for Jamie to stay in control because she will know that she’ll have to face the consequences, either positive or negative, of her Christmas Eve eating.

8. Remember that staying in control feels great, and eating off track feels really bad. This is one of the most important ideas for Jamie to remember because any time she is tempted to start eating out of hand, she can think about how bad that will feel and realize that it’s really not what she wants to do. Jamie has had enough experiences of feeling happy and proud when she staying in control, as well as enough experiences feeling sick and terrible when her eating was out of control, to know 100% that she will feel so much better and be so happy with keeping her control in spite of the numerous temptations.

5 Reasons to Start Your Diet Resolutions Today

Perhaps one of the most commonly heard holiday-related sabotaging thoughts is, “My resolution is to eat healthfully so I’ll start dieting after New Year’s.” In our work with dieters we don’t subscribe to the notion that it’s a good idea, or even a rational idea, to wait until the holidays are over to start eating healthfully. Instead, we work with our dieters to help them build skills and practice them consistently so that they don’t have to struggle to get back on track come January 1st. The reason we do this is because the holiday season happens year, and if dieters decide to throw in the towel during the holidays this year, chances are pretty good they will do the same thing next year, and every year to follow. Here’s why it’s so problematic to wait until the New Year to begin eating healthfully again:

1. If dieters decide that it’s okay to splurge a lot during the holidays and eat whatever they want, it sends themselves the message that it’s okay to make exceptions to dieting and healthy eating. Once dieters start making exceptions in one area, they begin to get tempted to make exceptions in other ways as well, telling themselves, “just this one time won’t matter”. Instead of just knowing that they will stay in control during the weekends, at weddings, functions, dinners out, parties, and other holidays, they may begin to struggle with themselves before and during each one and agonize over whether or not to make an exception. We always remind our dieters that one of the hardest parts of dieting is the struggle, and everything we can do to reduce the struggle is worth it.

2. There is no guarantee that dieters will actually be able to get themselves back on track once the holiday season is over. At the beginning of the holiday season, dieters may firmly believe that no matter what once the New Year hits they will be able to return to healthy eating, but this is not always the case. If dieters eat off track during the holiday season, it is likely that they will end up gaining some, or even a lot, of weight. Gaining weight can be very discouraging, and the more discouraged dieters feel, the harder it will be for them to get back on track. If dieters are feeling discouraged, when the New Year comes they may very well end up telling themselves, “I’ve gained all this weight so what’s the point,” or, “I’ll get back on track tomorrow,” or, “I’ll start my diet next week,” and it may take weeks or even months for dieters to regain control over their eating.

3. Dieters will constantly undo all of their hard work from the rest of the year by gaining weight during the holiday season. Even if they are able to get themselves back on track January 1st, they may not be able to quite lose all the weight they had gained. If this happens, dieters will find that their weight slowly begins to creep up year after year and they may begin to feel helpless to stop it.

4. It often happens with dieters that once they get off track for a number of days, they actually forget how good it feels to be in control of their eating and how much they enjoy all the benefits of losing weight. Especially if dieters have gotten used to giving in to all their cravings, eating whatever they feel like, and not having a plan, it can be very difficult for them to convince themselves to return to healthy eating once the holiday season is over because they don’t remember how much better it feels when they are practicing their skills consistently.

5. Once dieters get off track, it can undermine their confidence that they are capable of dieting successfully and controlling their eating. Not only do they forget how good it feels when they are in control, they may also begin to question their abilities to lose weight and keep it off permanently.

For all of these reasons and more, we find that it is just not worth it to continually splurge during the holiday season and have to count on getting back on track January 1st, because doing so can make almost every part of dieting and maintaining harder and jeopardize future success. Our dieters come to realize that good health, feeling good about themselves, having more self-confidence, being able to move around better, being able to fit into their old clothes, feeling proud of themselves, setting a good example for their kids, and feeling good when they look in the mirror more than makes up for it.  So don’t wait, start your resolution RIGHT NOW and come January 1st you will be so happy you did.

What Worked this Thanksgiving

We have met with and talked to many dieters since Thanksgiving, and we asked each of them, “What worked for you this Thanksgiving?” This is a very important question for all dieters to ask themselves, and especially for those who had very successful Thanksgivings. The reason for this is simple: Thanksgiving happens every year and likely what worked well this year could bring similar success in years to follow, so it is worth it to take a few moments to develop a strong plan that dieters can replicate in years to come.

We also encourage all of our dieters to actually write down what worked for them this year because although it is very fresh in their minds right now, a lot will happen over the course of a year which can drastically erode their memories.

One dieter, Karen from California, wrote in to us and told us specifically what led to her Thanksgiving success. Because she employed so many wonderful techniques, we have decided to share it on the blog so that others can benefit from her ideas, as well. Here is what Karen had to say:

1. I acknowledged to myself that a holiday is NOT “just ONE meal” –it is potentially a week off track, followed by “food guilt” if I follow my old ways of eating.

2. I started listening to The Beck Diet Solution audiobook on Sunday before Thanksgiving to mentally prepare.

3. We decided to let someone else do the cooking (a restaurant in our case) which created MANY benefits, including: a) I bought only our regular, healthy food at the store b) we didn’t have lots of leftover, potentially high calorie, food in the house c) I was not stressed, so there was no temptation to “stress eat” Wednesday night either.

4. Because I wasn’t cooking, our family took a long walk before getting ready to go out Thursday.

5. I kept my pretty, little notepad in my purse to write down what I ate (my phone and iPad are not discreet enough and take too long to enter info).

6. We were eating at a buffet, so we walked past all the food before choosing. I knew I would not eat anything unless it was truly irresistible in flavor (“undressed” veggies being the exception).

7. Because I like stuffing/dressing, I opted not to have bread/rolls.

8. Because it was a buffet, I didn’t worry about “wasting food”, so I had one or two bites of THREE desserts! With many sips of excellent coffee in between.

9. We purposely took a long time, making our one and only plate last as long as possible. The turkey was the star, veggies made up 1/3 of the plate, but the bite of stuffing with each bite of other food was the treat.

10. I limited alcohol to 5 oz of champagne, which I took a long time to drink (normally I would choose wine OR dessert, but I had both!)

11. We went for a long walk at the park (in our fancy clothes) after we finished since there was no clean-up to do.

12. That evening our son was hungry, so I fixed him supper, but I asked myself if I was hungry and the true answer was no, so I didn’t end up eating again, I just had two cups of tea.

13. Because we had no leftovers or unusual cookies/cakes/pies in the house, we went back to eating the food we regularly enjoy for the rest of the weekend.

14. I estimate I ate about 1500 calories total that day (I was prepared to have 1800, but my bigger concern was preventing over eating all the OTHER days before and after T-day–that is what normally starts the bad holiday cycle, not just the actual Thanksgiving meal). Who knew eating out would actually help me stay on track!

Karen also had the fantastic idea to attach her list to her electronic calendar for next year, so in the week before Thanksgiving, she would automatically be prompted to remember not only what she did last year, but HOW GREAT IT FELT when she did it!

Isn’t it worth taking just a few minutes to write down a similar list with all of the things you did well this year (or all of the things you would like to do differently next year) if it means you get to stay in control of your eating, feel good about yourself, AND lose weight and keep it off?