Advantages List – Part II

I described in Part I how I helped Angie make her Advantages List.  This was only half the battle, however, and our next job was figuring out how she could get herself to read it every morning.  I told Angie that it would be best for her to read her Advantages List first thing in the morning, before she ate anything for the day, and asked her when, during her morning routine, she might be able to incorporate this.  Angie decided that it would be best if she kept it on her bedside table and read it first thing in the morning before other people (like her husband and kids) started asking her to do things.  I asked Angie if she would mind if her husband saw her list, and she told me that while he was very supportive, her list was private and she preferred that no one else in the family read it.  Because of this, Angie decided that she would keep the list in the drawer of her bedside table. 

With the list out of sight, I was concerned that Angie might forget to read it, and asked her if she had any ideas on how to solve this potential problem.  Angie said that another thing she does every morning before she gets out of bed is take her medication, and so we decide that she would put a sticky note on her medicine bottle, which would cue her to read her list.

After figuring out these logistical issues, Angie and I then discussed what thoughts might get in the way of her reading her list every morning.  Angie told me it was possible she might think something like, “I’m too busy/rushed to read my list this morning.”  To help combat this thought, I asked Angie to read her list aloud to me in session, and Angie was surprised to hear that it only took her 35 seconds to read the entire list.  “Isn’t it worth 35 seconds in the morning if it will help you lose weight and keep it off?” I asked her.  Angie agreed that it certainly was worth 35 seconds, and to help her remember that it would only take this short amount of time, Angie decided that she would write the number “35” on the sticky note she was attaching to her medicine bottle.

Angie also identified that the thought, “It’s okay if I skip reading my list this morning, I know what it says,” might get in the way of her reading her list this week.  Angie and I discussed this thought and I let her know that, at least for right now, it was not good enough to just think about the items on her Advantages List, she actually has to read it, not only because reading it helps enter it in the brain more firmly but also because Angie needs to prove to herself that she can do it, whether or not she feels like it.  With these ideas in mind, Angie made the following Response Card:

 “Whether or not I feel like reading my list, do it anyway!  It’s an important step in helping me lose weight and besides, it will only take 35 seconds.”

Although Angie didn’t feel comfortable having her list out in the open, she didn’t mind having this Response Card on her bedside table, so she decided to keep it right next to her medicine bottle so she would see it and read it first thing every morning. 

With these strategies in place, Angie felt confident that she was off to a good start and would be able to read her list every morning.

Advantages List – Part I

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

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

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

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

Advantages List

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

2. I’ll have less knee and back pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. My clothes and jewelry will fit better

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


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

Keep Your Weight Loss Resolutions

Have you made a resolution to eat more healthfully and/or lose weight this year? Have you started to lose motivation on that resolution? Many, many dieters make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and keep it off. And very likely, many of these dieters have made this same resolution in previous years and ultimately haven’t been successful.  One of the biggest stumbling blocks that dieters face is what happens once they get off track. One of the most common sabotaging thoughts that we hear from dieters is, “I’ve made a mistake. I’ve really blown it for the day so I might as well keep eating whatever I want and get back on track tomorrow.”  Of course the danger with this is that tomorrow may never come, or it may end up being next week, month, or even year.  And if getting back on track takes that long, likely by the time the dieter has been able to do so, she’s already gained back any weight she was able to lose before she got off track.

We always remind dieters that the most successful dieters and maintainers are not those who never make mistakes (because we’re all human and we all make mistakes). Rather, they are those who make mistakes and immediately get right back on track so the mistake is very minor.  In order for dieters to be successful, and in order for this year to finally be the year they follow through with their weight loss resolutions, dieters need to learn to recover right away from mistakes. Otherwise, one mistake will continue to be their undoing, as opposed to a very normal and minor part of their day.

Here’s one technique we use: We first remind dieters that in almost no other area of life do we think that making one mistake is a valid reason to continue making mistakes.  Dieters tend to believe the sabotaging thought that, “since I’ve made one dieting mistake, I’ve blown it for the day and I might as well keep making mistakes and get back on track tomorrow.”  We give them the following analogies: If you were walking down a flight of stairs and stumbled down a few, would you think, “Well, I’ve really blown it now!” and then throw yourself down the rest? No, you’d get up right where you were and walk down the rest. If you were washing your fine china and dropped a plate, would you think, “I’ve really blown it now!” and throw the rest of your plates on the floor? No, you’d continue washing and treat the rest of your dishes more carefully.  If you were driving on the highway and missed your exit, would you think, “Well, that’s it, it’s over, I’ve blown it!” and continue to drive five more hours in the wrong direction? No, you’d get off at the very next exit and turn yourself around.  We help dieters see that once they make one eating mistake, continuing to make more is like throwing yourself down the rest of the steps, smashing the rest of your plates, and driving further in the wrong direction.  It makes no sense!

We also remind dieters that, if they’re off track, any point along the way they get themselves back on track puts them in a better position. It’s not as if your body stops adding up calories for the day and once you take in certain amount of extra calories, you might as well keep taking in more because your body won’t process them.  Of course, that’s not how it works. Your body will continue to process every additional bite that you take, so getting back on track after 500 extra calories is much better than getting back on track after 800 calories, 1,000 calories, 2,000 calories or more. 

Additionally, we teach dieters to, once they’ve made a mistake, immediately get problem-solving oriented and not beat themselves up. If a dieter makes a mistake and says to himself, “This is so terrible! I’m such a weak person, I can’t believe I let this happened,” the only thing it will do is demoralize him further and make it harder for him to get back on track.  We help dieters view every mistake as an important learning experience and remind them that we learn just as much from challenges as we do from successes. When dieters make mistakes, we teach them to ask themselves three important questions: What happened?  What were the sabotaging thoughts I had that I wasn’t able to respond to? What can I do differently the next time? In this way, dieters are actually able to learn from mistakes and decrease the likelihood they’ll make the same ones again.

Once dieters are able to accept that mistakes are a part of life and learn to recover from them right away, they’re able to lose weight and keep it off because they don’t constantly undo all their hard work.

The Year In Review

Over the past year on the Beck Diet Solution Blog, we’ve written about many topics dealing with everything related to dieting/healthy eating, losing weight, and keeping weight off.  In case you missed any of them, or if you’re dealing with some issue in particular and want a quick reference of articles to read on that topic, we’ve broken down some of the posts we’ve written from the past year into separate categories.

In Session with Deborah: Do Cravings Really Go Away?
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Sugar Cravings
A Peek Inside a Diet Session: Cravings

Getting Back on Track
In Session with Deborah: Green Days
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Getting Back on Track Today
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Getting Back on Track

Dealing with treats
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Office Treats
In Session with Deborah: I Deserve a Treat
In Session with Deborah: Tempting Treats

Response Cards
In Session with Deborah: Reviewing Response Cards
How to Write Response Cards

Getting through Hard Times
5 Strategies to Get Through Hard Times
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator

Eating Out
In Session with Deborah: The French Fry Plan
In Session with Deborah: The Hangover Effect

In Session with Deborah: Regaining Focus
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Staying Motivated

Making a plan
Components of a Thanksgiving Plan
In Session with Deborah: Making a Food Plan
In Session with Deborah: Birthday Plan

Going on Vacation
In Session with Deborah: Vacation Goals
A Peek Inside a Diet Session: Going on Vacation

If you have any questions or topics you’d like to see covered on our blog, please email us:  Stay tuned for more in 2013!

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Staying Motivated

Question: I always start out the week feeling energized and motivated to stick to my diet, but by midweek I seem to lose motivation. By the end of the week and especially on the weekends, I have so much of a harder time sticking with my diet. Do you have any suggestions on how I can keep myself motivated throughout the whole week?

Answer: We’re glad you asked this question because we know that this is an issue many dieters struggle with, and we have some suggestions that may help.

Keep Reading your Advantages List.  On days when dieters are feeling less motivated, they need to be reminded exactly why they’re working so hard to achieve their weight loss goals.  Therefore, it’s crucial to form the habit of reading your Advantages List every single morning so that even on days when you’re feeling unmotivated, you’ll still be able to get yourself to read it because it will just be a part of your morning routine.  As the week progresses and your motivation beings to wane, it’s important to take a few extra moments with your Advantages List— really think about how important each item is to you, and how much you’ll enjoy each them when they become realities.  This should help you start off your day on a better and more motivated foot.

Set mini goals and rewards.  We know that it can be difficult to sustain your motivation if you are focusing on goals that seem far away. In order to stay motivated and on track during the week, it can be helpful to set more short-range goals (like continuing to follow your diet for the next three days); then give yourself a small, non-food related reward.  This way, you have something tangible and achievable to anticipate in the short-term. 

Remember how good you feel on days you stay in control.  Regardless of whether or not you’re motivated to follow through with your healthy eating plan, we suspect you go to bed feeling far happier on the days you do follow your plan than on the days you don’t.  We always discuss with our dieters that even if staying in control of their eating had no weight loss benefits, we still think it would be worth it because remaining in control feels so much better than being out of control.  Whether or not you feel like eating healthfully, if you commit yourself to doing it, chances are likely that you won’t regret it and you will feel better, both physically and psychologically. 

Don’t rely on motivation – just do it, anyway.  We do many things in life whether or not we feel like it (and whether or not we feel particularly motivated in the moment), like brushing our teeth, taking a shower, putting on our seatbelts, getting to work on time, handing in assignments, getting up with our kids, etc.  We don’t tell ourselves, “Maybe I’ll take a shower next week, when I feel like it,” or, “I don’t want to get up with my kids right now, so I’ll sleep in today.”  There will probably be many times when you don’t feel like practicing your dieting skills, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them anyway. Instead of waiting for motivation to strike, think about why it’s worth it to you and just do it, anyway. 

Remember: A string of good days builds positive momentum.  It’s important to remember that staying on track is usually far easier (and requires less effort) than having to get back on track.  Every time your motivation dips and you’re tempted to give in and eat off track, think about the fact that motivation will return at some point (after all, you’re working on enormously important goals), and when it does, you’ll be so glad that you don’t have to put forth the effort to get back on track again.  Remind yourself that the more positive momentum you build, the easier it will be to continue doing what you’re doing, even on days when you feel unmotivated.

Success Story: Getting Past Excuses

Last week we received the following letter:

As a child and through my teenage years I did not struggle with weight and was active in many sports including different sports at various times. I was not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination though. I went to work as a salesperson when I graduated high school and had terrible eating habits, this was paired with a combination of no exercise and a medication that I was taking that causes weight gain – which caused me to gain 100 lbs. in approximately one year and had major implications on my life.

I stayed at this weight of 335 pounds for ten years for the most part, with the exception of the yo-yo dieting that so many of us go through. I managed to lose up to 25 pounds at times but always put on more than I lost in the end. I tried many different methods, but never acknowledged what I knew to be true. What I knew is that I had to eat healthy, exercise, and make good choices to lose weight. I was sometimes able to create this in the short term, but did not create a sustainable lifetime change in how I approached food. I often used rationale and excuses such as “it is the medication’s fault that I am so big.”

After I began my Master’s Degree in Counseling, I forced to look at myself and my life in a different way. Of the many things I had to look at was my relationship with food; I still wanted a quick fix and looking at reality was hard for me. I finally started to use some of the tools I have learned, mostly from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to motivate myself and change my relationship with food. I then learned of The Beck Diet Solution, and using the tools that I learned I was able to lose weight in a healthy way and stay motivated.

One of the most import lessons I learned while reading The Beck Diet Solution was an effective method to find my true motivations. Some of these motivations were setting a good example for my young daughter, and being able to hike and do other fun physical activities with my friends. As a result of my work and practice, I can now do many activities that I could not before and the compliments always feel good, too.

I have lost 75+ pounds so far but this is not my biggest accomplishment. My biggest accomplishment is that I have completely changed my relationship with food and I no longer need to eat all the time. I no longer make excuses about my medications causing weight gain, or any other rationales or excuses I used to use. One note that is always interesting to me is when people ask how I lost all the weight, I tell them by eating healthy and exercising and they are always so disappointed. This gives me a strange satisfaction as it reminds that I am strong enough to do what I thought I was not able to do, not so long ago.

Garth G. from Arizona

One of the things we found very interesting from Garth’s letter was his comment that people seem disappointed when they find out he lost weight through diet and exercise. This speaks to what we have often found, too – that many people still want and hope for some type of magic pill that they can take or some type of magic combination of foods they can eat which will finally enable weight loss. We find that holding onto this belief holds dieters back because it prohibits them from fully committing to a diet and exercise plan because they keep thinking, “there has to be an easier way.”

Another common element from Garth’s letter was his discussion of how he used to make excuses for why he was overweight and for why he couldn’t lose weight.  While these reasons may very well be legitimate (Garth’s medication did, in fact, make him gain weight) that doesn’t mean they have to stand in the way of weight loss.  Certain things may make weight loss harder, but that doesn’t mean, as Garth found, that it’s impossible.

We give Garth so much credit for getting himself to stop making excuses, stop waiting to find a magic bullet, and just getting started.  And look where it got him today – over 75 pounds lighter and a new outlook on healthy eating and exercise.

Congratulations, Garth! You should be so proud of your success.

How to Write Response Cards

Response Cards can be very effective because they remind dieters of the important ideas they will need to help them stick to their diets.  Response Cards are usually one or two lines written on a 3×5 card (or a business-sized card) that dieters practice reading every day.  Dieters make Response Cards for issues that come up on a day to day basis, and also ones for specific and potentially difficult situations, like going out to dinner or to a party, going on vacation, during the holidays, etc.  In essence, Response Cards contain helpful responses to dieters’ sabotaging thoughts and help provide continual motivation.  For example, if dieters frequently have the thought, “I have to eat this because otherwise it will go to waste,” then they may make a card that says something like, “If there is leftover food, it will go to waste in the trashcan or in my body.  Either way it’s wasted.” 

Response cards can also be fine-tuned over time.  If dieters are struggling with emotional eating, they may make a card that says, “When I’m feeling upset, don’t eat! It won’t help solve the problem and then I’ll just feel even worse after anyway.”  Once dieters figure out how to cope with negative emotions in other ways, like taking a walk, calling a friend, or listening to music, then they may make a new Response Card that reads, “When I’m feeling upset, don’t eat because it will only make me feel worse. Instead go take a walk or call mom, I’ll be so happy later that I did.”

Response Cards should be very clear and to the point so dieters immediately know what messages they are sending.  Response Cards should also be strongly worded and, when needed, be very specific.  Here are some examples of okay Response Cards and then how to improve them:

Response Card: If I’m feeling hungry and it’s not time to eat, resist the food so that I can stick to my plan.

Better Response Card: If I’m feeling hungry and it’s not time to eat, don’t eat! I can hold out [X] minutes until it’s time to eat again, and the food will taste so much better if I do.


Response Card: Don’t eat little bites of food that aren’t on my plan because they will sabotage my efforts.

Better Response Card: Every single bite matters. It’s not the calories, it’s the habit. I need to take every opportunity I can to strengthen my resistance muscle.


Response Card: Yes, it is unfair that I can’t eat the way everyone else is eating but I can’t let that get in the way.

Better Response Card: It’s true it’s unfair that I can’t eat everything everyone else is eating, but it would be MORE unfair if I was never able to lose weight and keep it off. I’d much rather be thin!


Response Card: It’s not okay to eat unplanned food because I will regret it later.

Better Response Card: If I eat this food I hadn’t planned, I’ll get just a few moments of pleasure but then I’ll definitely feel bad about it and be at risk for eating more.


Response Card: If I make a mistake, get back on track right away so I don’t make the situation worse.

Better Response Card: Everybody makes mistakes, it’s not the end of the world. Get back on track this    minute! It’s a million times better to stop now than to keep eating more.  Being on track feels so much better than feeling out of control.

What is the difference between the okay and the better Response Cards?  While the “okay” ones do contain kernels of helpful ideas, they are not particularly motivating. The “better” Response Cards are very directive and remind dieters why it’s worth it to them to stick to their plans.  They also draw on dieters’ past experiences and use them as helpful reminders of times when they were able to resist in the past, or times when they didn’t but wished that they had.

Beck Diet Solution Success

We received the following letter a few weeks ago from Kari, a woman who read and followed The Beck Diet Solution. With Kari’s permission we are posting her story because we have found it incredibly inspirational and think others will, too. Kari’s story reminds us that, while dieting can be difficult, the payoff of doing so is amazing and absolutely, 100% worth the effort. Like many dieters, Kari has found that learning to take control of her eating has also enabled her to take control in other areas of her life, too. Congratulations on all your hard work, Kari!

(P.S. We’d love to hear your stories, too!)

October 5, 2011

Dear Dr. Beck,

I knew I had experienced transformation, but it didn’t really hit me how dramatic the change was until I saw these two pictures next to each other on my computer!

Thank you for writing your books and helping me to give myself the 40th birthday present that I really wanted. When I turned 39 on Oct. 23, 2010, I said that by the time I turned 40 I wanted to be a healthy weight. Well, I’m about to turn 40 and I am now in the “normal” weight range, thanks to using the skills I learned in your books.

I am a musician and losing weight has made performing so much easier and a lot more fun. I have so much more confidence because I feel great. But also, and perhaps more importantly, I’ve learned how to help myself stay on track with not just dieting, but practicing music, budgeting money, and other areas that I would like to improve.

The Beck Diet Solution is an incredible tool, and I am so glad that I had the good fortune to discover it! No other diet I tried could take me all the way to goal – yours was the only plan that covered every single hardship that I might face and taught me how to plan for those times. Your diet plan was the only one that taught me how to tailor the program to my own circumstances – from planning the food I liked to creating my own responses to my specific sabotaging thoughts and behaviors. Your plan was the only one who dealt with the reality of food pushers, traveling and getting off track. I liked learning how to count calories because it gave me the knowledge I needed to know to deal with meal planning, restaurants and parties. If I had times when I cheated, I knew how to analyze the situation and plan to avoid that pitfall again. The Beck Diet Solution is a sensible, comprehensive approach that really works!

I have been on the plan for a little over a year now, and I just recently made new “advantages” cards. When I looked back at the previous year and compared it to my current cards, I could see how much I’ve matured as a person because of following your plan. I really feel that your approach helped me to become more conscious of myself in so many areas of my life – not just how I look or feel physically, but how I greet life in general now on an emotional level. I now notice distorted or sabotaging thoughts about other things, not just food, and I can talk back to those as well.

Anyway, I can’t thank you enough. You’ve changed my life and I know there are positive ripple effects to the people around me. I hope everyone who has a desire to lose weight will find your books and experience the amazing transformation that I have.

Thank you again!


Kari D.


Instituting Exercise – Part I

Last week in session, my dieter, Jamie, and I tackled the question of exercise. Should she do it? How much should she do? How much is reasonable to do? What types of exercise can she do? Will she hate doing it? How will she fit it into her busy schedule? How will she get herself to do it?

Like many of my dieters, when Jamie first came to see me she was a classic all-or-nothing exerciser, meaning she was either exercising intensely 7 days a week or she wasn’t exercising at all. Jamie had very little middle ground and was always either “on” her exercise plan or “off” of it. Jamie had also told me that she really hated to exercise and she was not looking forward to the day that I would “make” her do it.

As soon as I heard that from Jamie – that I would “make” her do it – I immediately reminded her that my job wasn’t to make her do anything because these were not MY goals for her, they were her goals for herself. I pulled out Jamie’s Advantages List and asked her how important all of those things were and Jamie responded that they were the most important things to her and agreed that she would be willing to try new things if it meant she could achieve them.

In session last week, I discussed with Jamie the fact that she might not need to exercise to lose weight, but almost definitely would need to exercise to maintain her weight and she unquestionably needed to exercise to have good health. Since a lot of Jamie’s goals involved having better health, preventing future health problems, and being able to be more active with her children and husband, I reminded her that all of those things implied a better level of fitness, which she would not be able to achieve without some form of exercise. Albeit reluctantly, Jamie agreed that exercise seemed like a necessary evil.

The first thing Jamie and I did was discuss what type of exercise plan would be reasonable for her. Jamie initially told me that since she would have to exercise again, she might as well do as much as she can so that the weight would come off more quickly. I reminded Jamie that we are working on getting her away from all-or-nothing thinking of all kinds, and besides, when has being an all-or-nothing exerciser ever helped her to maintain an exercise plan and reach her goals?

Jamie and I decided that since she loved the fall season, and since the weather was cooling down, she would start off by walking outside for at least 20 minutes 3 days this week. I encouraged Jamie to not make her plan for more days or for more minutes/hours this first week because setting too hard of a plan would only be counterproductive. I discussed with Jamie the fact that it’s always important to set reasonable homework because that way she can achieve it and feel good about it. If Jamie had decided to make her plan for 6 days that week and instead was only able to walk on 4 days, she would wind up feeling bad about the 2 days she didn’t walk, instead of feeling great about the 4 days she did. Jamie and I then discussed what would be the easiest time for her to get this walk in, knowing that the earlier in the day she aimed to do it, the more likely she would be to get it done. Jamie decided that 3 days this week she would get up a half hour earlier and get her walk out of the way before her kids woke up.

Now that Jamie had her exercise plan, the next step, which will be covered in Part 2, was to discuss with Jamie how she would get herself to actually institute the plan, in part by helping her to identify in advance what sabotaging thoughts might get in the way of this.

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator

Q: Now that I have lost weight, I’m finding that my motivation to stick to my diet is lessened and my Advantages List and Response Cards don’t have the same strength/power to keep my motivated. Why is this? What can I do?

A: Good question. We find that this sometimes happens to dieters – they are overweight and very unhappy about it. They learn the necessary cognitive and behavioral skills and they lose weight. Their life and health gets better. They keep practicing their skills and eventually they become used to their new look and size. And, most importantly, they (for the most part) really forget the reality of their daily life before they lost weight and the countless ways that being overweight is difficult.

When this happens to dieters, especially if they tell us their Advantages List is not really helping, the first thing we have them do is sit down and do a visualization. We ask them to think back to a time before they started losing weight and see themselves going through a typical day. We ask them to think about:

• What are you wearing?

• What do you wish you could be wearing?

• How easily or not easily are you moving around?

• Are you able to exercise comfortably and without being self-conscious?

• Do you have any sharper aches and pains?

• How is your health? Are you at higher risk for any illnesses or diseases?

• What are you eating?

• Are you feeling good about what you’re eating, or does eating certain foods cause you guilt?

• Do you feel in control of your eating?

• Are you often engaging in the uncomfortable “should I/shouldn’t I” struggle about eating things?

• How do other people look at you?

• How do you feel about yourself?

• Do you have a sense of pride in your appearance?

• Do you feel comfortable interacting with other people, either professionally or personally, who are a smaller size than you are?

• Are you setting a good example for your children?

• Do you feel comfortable being intimate with your partner?

• Are there things you are doing that day that you don’t have to do now?

• Are there things you do now that you weren’t able to do that day?

If dieters are able to do this effectively, it should help remind them of all of the small and big reasons it has been worth it to keep working on implementing their skills consistently. When we ask dieters if they would rather stop implementing their skills and return to how things used to be, 100% of the time we hear a resounding “NO!”

We also discuss with dieters the fact that, in the beginning, dieting was likely very hard for them because they were learning all of these skills for the first time. Eventually it got a lot easier and they were able to implement them consistently. But the truth of the matter is, from time to time dieting gets more difficult, which then causes motivation to lag, which then causes dieting to get even harder. We remind dieters that harder periods are completely normal and they happen to everyone. The biggest shame of all would be if dieters gave into a harder time and used it as a reason to give up, telling themselves, “This is too hard, I don’t want to do it anymore.” What dieters need to know is that as long as they keep working at it, dieting will get easier again. It always does.

So what can they do in the meantime to help make this difficult period go by faster?

1. Make a new Advantages List. By this point you’ve probably stopped reading it every day, and that’s fine. But as soon as dieting gets more difficult it’s important to start reading one every day for a period of time. Likely your old Advantages List will not be as compelling anymore because you’ve been living those advantages for a while. Use the visualization technique we mentioned to think about some new advantages you haven’t been paying attention to lately (maybe you forgot how you used to hate it when people looked at what you bought at the supermarket, or how you didn’t like to eat in social situations where everyone was of a smaller size than you, or how you used to worry that you were setting a poor example for your kids).

2. Make new Response Cards. Take time to identify what sabotaging thoughts you are having in regards to continuing to practice your dieting skills and write down strong responses to them on cards. Read these cards every day until dieting gets easier again.

3. Visualize. For a few days, take a little bit of time and again think about how your life was different before you lost weight. Ask yourself how it would feel to get back there and whether or not practicing your skills, while not always fun, are actually less of a burden than being overweight.

4. Remember. There are a few things that dieters often lose sight of once dieting gets tougher. One of the biggest ones being that when they were eating whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, often they were doing so without a sense of complete control and it did not feel good. Making healthy choices and feeling control of your eating feels so much better than constantly feeling bad about what you’re eating. Remember how it used to be and then remember how it is now.