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.”

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.

Cravings
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

Motivation
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: dietprogram@beckinstitute.org.  Stay tuned for more in 2013!

In Session with Deborah: The French Fry Plan

This week I had a session with my dieter, Sarah.  Although in recent weeks Sarah has been doing well with her dieting skills, she told me that one food in particular keeps tripping her up: french fries.  Sarah has two young children and she and her family often go out to eat. Sarah told me that she usually goes into meals with the plan of not having any french fries, but more often than not ends up eating some off of her kids’ plates.  Sarah told me that most children’s meals in restaurants come with french fries, and since her kids never finish what’s on their plates, the fries call out to Sarah until she eventually gives in and eats some.

When Sarah came to see me she was feeling distressed because, although she knew continually overeating fries was a problem, she didn’t know how to control herself around them.  The first thing I discussed with Sarah is that she needs a French Fry Plan – she needs to plan in advance whether or not she’s going to have fries each time she eats out.  I reminded Sarah that since she really likes fries, it’s not reasonable to expect that she’ll never eat any.  The goal isn’t to never eat fries; rather it’s to plan in advance when she’s going to have them and when she’s not so she’s able to stay in control. This way, she doesn’t have to sit through meals looking at fries and struggling about whether or not to give in and have some, because the decision will already be made.

I also discussed with Sarah that during the meals when she plans to have fries, it’s crucial to order her own fries separately. Even if the meal she orders doesn’t come with fries and her kids’ meals do, she still needs to get her own side order. The reason for this is so that Sarah can start sending herself the message that it’s never okay to eat fries off her kids’ plates. If she’s going to eat fries, it means that she eats her own fries.  This is important because if Sarah some of the time allows herself to eat her kids’ fries (and there leaves the possibility of doing so open), then they will continue to call out to her, even during meals when she’s planned to not have any.  If Sarah has the rule, “I never eat fries off my kids’ plates,” then it will be much easier to resist every time they eat out because she won’t have to even consider (and therefore struggle about) whether or not to have some of theirs.  Sarah and I discussed the fact that, while this may end up costing her a few extra dollars, it’s 100% worth it because it will drastically reduce her french fry struggle (not to mention helping Sarah reach her enormously important weight loss goals).

I then asked Sarah what sabotaging thoughts she is likely to have during the meals when she hasn’t planned to have fries but is tempted to do so. Sarah said that some of the thoughts she may have are, “I’ll just have one. One won’t matter,” and “I really like fries and I just want to eat them.”

In response to these sabotaging thoughts, Sarah made the following Response Cards:

French Fry 1RC french fries 2

By the end of session, Sarah had a very clear plan of how to deal with her french fry troubles.  Here are the steps of her plan:

1.  Always plan in advance whether or not to eat fries at any given meal.

2. When I am going to have fries, make sure to order my own.

3. Remember – the fries on my kids’ plates are completely off limits. I just never eat them.

4. Read my French Fry Response Cards before meals when I haven’t planned to have fries.

5. Enjoy meals out even more because I’ll no longer be struggling about whether or not to eat the fries on my kids’ plates.

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: Difficulties Going Home

This week, I had a session with my dieter, Emily. Emily told me that she and her sister are planning a trip home this weekend to celebrate their mother’s birthday, and that she thought it would be hard in a number of ways:  Emily would be off of her usual routine, she would be spending a long time in the car, she would have fewer occasions to exercise, and she would not be in control of her food.  Beyond these practical matters, Emily also told me that saying in control of her eating might be difficult because she would be experiencing more stress, which puts her in danger of engaging in emotional eating.  Although Emily loves her family, she also finds that being around them for an extended period of time can be stressful (in part because they often comment about what she does and doesn’t eat).

In session, Emily and I spent most of the time coming up with strategies for both her practical and psychological concerns.  Emily knew that one the most helpful things she can do for herself is to make a general plan for her eating and exercise over the weekend.  Emily decided that she would plan ahead and bring meals and healthy snacks in the car so that she wouldn’t have to worry about finding healthy choices on the road or being tempted by unhealthy food.  Emily also decided that she would make it priority to take at least a 20 minute walk each day that she at home, which would have the dual benefit of getting in some exercise and also being a stress-reliever.

Emily and I also discussed what sabotaging thoughts that might come up this weekend.  Emily said that her family often watches what she eats and makes comments, and although they are usually well-meaning, they cause Emily stress.   I pointed out to Emily that because she is now an adult, she doesn’t have to worry about “rebelling” against family by sneaking food or worry about what they will say about her eating because the only person she has to answer to is herself.  Emily I discussed this idea further and she made the following Response Card:

 

 

 

 

 

Emily and I also discussed the emotional eating aspects that might come into play this weekend and what strategies she can use if she’s feeling negative emotions, like taking a walk outside, working on deep breathing and relaxtion, or calling a friend.  We also discussed the fact that going home is more of an emotional experience for her, and therefore it’s normal that Emily would feel that way.  Just because she’s feeling stressed doesn’t mean anything is wrong, and just because she’s feeling stressed doesn’t mean she has to do anything about it.  It will go away on its own, as it always does.  Emily made the following Response Card:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily and I also discussed the fact that she should go into the weekend knowing and expecting that it will be more difficult to maintain control over her eating; this way she won’t be surprised when it happens. As long as Emily knows this ahead of time and fortifies herself, when the difficulty hits, she will be ready and prepared.

In Session with Deborah: Making a Food Plan

I recently had a session with my dieter, Kara, who is a busy stay-at-home mom to her four boys. In earlier sessions, Kara and I worked on all of the foundational dieting skills and she got very adept at consistently instituting good eating habits.  Because of this, we then started talking about having Kara make a food plan in advance and stick to it.  Kara was initially resistant to this idea and stated that her lifestyle just wouldn’t work with a strict eating plan because she was always on the go and she often didn’t know ahead of time what her next meal would be.  Kara also said that she didn’t want to give up spontaneous eating and liked being able to eat something if it was offered to her unexpectedly.  I discussed with Kara the fact that making a food plan and sticking to it would likely make her life a lot easier because she wouldn’t have to rely on willpower at any one given moment to resist unplanned treats. I also pointed out that it might actually be very helpful for Kara to have a food plan, because she was often scrambling around at the last moment to make sure that she had dinner on the table for her family. 

Despite these compelling reasons for why it might be worth it to try making a plan and sticking to it, Kara still resisted the idea and so we agreed to try it her way first – she’d work on staying in control of her eating and resist cravings, but without having a formal plan.  Over that week, Kara tried hard to reign in her eating without a food plan and without violating her rule: no junk food until after dinner.  However, when Kara came in to see me the following week, she dejectedly told me that something had thrown her off almost every single day, like when she was offered licorice at the park, cookies at a PTA meeting, or a dinner out with her husband.  

Kara and I discussed what had happened over the week and she realized that, right now, she faces too many temptations each day to be able to resist all of them easily enough, and therefore making a plan and sticking might be very helpful in overcoming this obstacle.  I reminded Kara that she probably tried very hard each day to resist the temptations and to reason herself out of eating food she knew she shouldn’t, and therefore likely had a much harder week than if she had just known ahead of time whether or not she was going to have something.  Kara decided that she was willing to try and stick to a food plan for at least one week and see if it made a difference in her overall day. 

Before she set out to do this, Kara and I spent some time in session thinking about when it would be hardest for her to stick to her plan and what sabotaging thoughts might get in the way of her doing so.  Kara thought that the hardest times would be, as it had been, when she was offered or saw food she didn’t expect, and to not give in in that moment.  I asked Kara what thoughts she might have in those moments, and then she made Response Cards with responses that we formulated together.  Here are some of Kara’s sabotaging thoughts and then the responses we formulated:

Sabotaging Thought: I really want to eat that right now even though it’s not on my plan. Just this one time won’t matter.

Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair that I can’t eat this treat right now.

Sabotaging Thought: I really don’t like having to make a food plan.

When Kara came in to see me earlier this week, she reported that she had had a much better week. As we predicted, once Kara made a food plan and worked on sticking to it, it made several aspects of her life easier. First of all, Kara struggled a lot less about whether or not to eat something that was offered to her because she knew that if it wasn’t on her plan, she shouldn’t convince herself that it was okay to eat it. Second, Kara also found that she really enjoyed having meal plans for the day (and even for the week) because it allowed her more time with her boys in the afternoon because she was spending less time trying to figure out what to prepare for dinner.  Once Kara decided to try making a food plan, she realized that it wasn’t nearly as bad as she thought it was going to be and, in many ways, it actually made her day better, not worse.

Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction:  If my weight is up one day, it means what I’m doing isn’t working.

Fiction.  On any given day, your weight might be temporarily up for a myriad of different reasons: hormones, water retention, biological factors, etc.  It’s important to remember that even if you are following your diet perfectly, your weight won’t go down every day, or even every week. All dieters have days and weeks where their weight temporarily goes up or stays the same – it’s just part of the process. Because of this, it’s important to not put too much stock on any one weigh-in.  As long as you keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing, your weight will go down again. 

Fact or Fiction: Calories don’t count on holidays, like Labor Day.

Fiction. Unfortunately your body has no idea that it’s Labor Day, or that it’s Thanksgiving, your birthday, or Christmas. Your body processes all calories the same, 365 days a year.  However, it is perfectly reasonable to plan in advance to have an extra treat on certain days – but make sure you do so in a controlled manner so that you don’t end up taking in way too many calories. 

Fact or Fiction: If I can’t follow my diet right away, it means I just can’t do it.

Fiction. Learning to diet successfully is like learning to play the piano. Nobody would expect to sit down at a piano for the very first time and play a difficult piece of music flawlessly.  Of course not! They would know that they need to learn to read music, start out with scales, then move on to easy pieces of music, practice them until they get better, and eventually move on to more complicated pieces. They would also expect to hit wrong notes and make mistakes along the way, and wouldn’t think that one mistake means they should give up. Dieting is the same. You need to learn certain skills, practice them over and over again, move on to harder skills, practice them, and eventually you’ll get better and better. You’ll make mistakes along the way – but that just means you need more practice, not that you can’t do it. 

Fact or Fiction: “Just this one time” is a legitimate excuse to eat something.

Fiction.  Every single time counts because every time you eat something you’re not supposed to, you reinforce your tendency to give in, and make it more likely you’ll give in the next time, and the time after that.  Every single time you resist unplanned food, you reinforce your tendency to stand firm and you make it more likely you’ll be able to do it the next time, and the time after that.  There is never a time when you’re not reinforcing one of these two tendencies, which is why every time matters. 

Fact or Fiction: If I’ve made an eating mistake, I’ve blown it for the day and might as well just start again tomorrow.

Fiction. There’s no such thing as blowing it for the day.  It’s not as if you reach a certain point and your body will stop processing any additional calories. The more you continue to eat on any given day, the more weight you may gain.  It’s never too late to turn a day around and start having a good eating day, because guaranteed you’ll take in fewer calories than if you keep eating out of control.  And remember, being in control of your eating feels so much better than being out of control, so the moment you get yourself back on track is the moment you start feeling better.

In Session with Deborah: Vacation Goals

My dieter, Mark, came in to see me this week.  Over the past month, Mark’s weight loss has slowed down and, in general, he and I have been working on consistently maintaining his healthy eating habits with the awareness that he may or may not continue to lose more.  This week, one of the things Mark wanted to put on the agenda was his upcoming trip with his wife and kids.  Mark and his family are driving to Maine and spending two weeks there before driving back home.  Mark told me that he wanted to discuss how he would handle both eating during the car rides and also while he was in Maine.

I first asked Mark: What is your goal for this trip? Is it to lose weight, gain a little, or stay the same?  Mark replied that since he has been in such a good eating groove lately and has been feeling good about himself, about the way his clothes fit, and about how much easier healthy eating has become now that he’s gotten in control and stayed in control, his goal for the trip is to stay the same – not lose any weight over the next two weeks, but not gain any, either.  The reason I posed this question to Mark before we talked about anything else is because defining his goals for the trip was necessary in order to figure out what his plan should be; Mark’s vacation plan would differ depending on the answer.   

With the goal in mind of maintaining his weight, Mark and I then began figuring out what a reasonable plan would be.  Mark and I first discussed the car rides to and from Maine, because in the past Mark has used being in the car for long periods of time as an excuse to continuously overeat junk food snacks and unhealthy foods he would buy when he stopped for gas.  Mark and I came up with the following plan for the car trips:

1. Make sure to eat three normal meals.  Eat breakfast before I leave and take the time to stop and eat a real lunch (getting there 45 minutes later won’t matter in the long run).  Stop for dinner on the road or wait until we get there to sit down and eat dinner. 

2. Bring all snacks with me. Continue to eat like I do on normal days: one snack between breakfast and lunch and one snack between lunch and dinner.  Bring snacks with me so I’m not tempted to buy unhealthy food when we stop for gas.

3. Respond to my Sabotaging Thoughts. Remind myself that just because I’m in the car doesn’t mean I can snack all day long. My body doesn’t know or care that I’m in the car and it, and I, will be so much happier if I eat the same way as I do on a normal day. 

Mark and I then discussed what he wanted his plan to be for while he was in Maine and he told me about a homemade ice cream store that his family frequents whenever they are in Maine.  Mark said that he would feel deprived if he couldn’t eat ice cream with his family if they went during the day, but, at the same time, he also didn’t want to give up his nightly treat.  Here is a snippet of our conversation:

Mark: I think maybe the plan should be that, while I’m on vacation, I have two treats a day.  What do you think?

Debbie: Well, do you eat two treats a day now?

Mark: No, I only eat one.

Debbie: So you only eat one treat a day now and in general have been maintaining your weight. My guess is that if you eat two treats a day while on vacation, you’ll gain some weight.  Let’s take a look at your goal again.  At the beginning of session you said that you wanted to maintain your weight on this trip, and that goal seems to be incompatible with the plan of eating two treats a day.  So – do you want to change your goal, or do you want to change your plan? The choice is entirely up to you.

Mark: No, I really don’t want to gain any weight while we’re away, especially since we take this trip every year and I don’t want to gain weight every time we’re in Maine. I guess I’ll cut it back down to one treat a day while I’m on vacation.

Debbie: Okay. And remember, it’s reasonable to have a different plan when you’re away than you do normally. I know that you follow the rule, “No dessert until after dinner,” but I’m wondering if that’s one you might want to amend while you’re in Maine. Maybe in Maine, the rule should be, “one treat a day,” but you can choose when to have it. That way, if your family goes out for ice cream during the day, you can have it then, but not have your treat at night.  What do you think of that idea?

Mark: I think that’s a good idea because I really don’t want to miss out on our favorite ice cream, but sometimes it just doesn’t work to get it after dinner.

Debbie: So what do you want to say to yourself on a night when you’ve already had ice cream during the day, but now want to eat your nightly treat?

Mark: I guess I need to remind myself that I’ve already had my treat that day, and I can always have another one tomorrow. I can’t eat two treats and maintain my weight, and not gaining weight is so much more important to me than having an extra treat.

Debbie: That’s a great response!  Do you want to make a Response Card to remind yourself of that idea?

Mark: Definitely. 

Mark and I continued to hash out his vacation plan, and I frequently asked him: What is your goal for this trip? Do you want to change it or keep it the same?  This made our planning easier because it helped Mark remember that he had the choice of changing his goal, but since he didn’t want to, he had to make a plan that would enable him to reach it.  Here are some of the items on Mark’s vacation plan:

1. Eat three meals a day – brunch just doesn’t work for me.

2. Eat one treat a day except on my daughter’s birthday, when I’ll have two.

3. Make sure to do some form of exercise every day, even if it’s just taking a short walk on the beach.

4. Limit alcohol consumption to just on the weekends – when I don’t have it, I don’t miss it anyway.

5. Go with Emily to the grocery store to ensure that I have healthy foods readily available.

6. If we’ll be out for the day, bring snacks with me whenever possible so I don’t have to rely on finding something healthy on the fly.

7. Continue to read my Advantages List and Response Cards every day and practice my healthy eating habits.

8. Continue to weigh myself everyday with the scale in Maine.

9. Remind myself that my goal for this trip is to prove to myself that I can go to Maine every year without gaining weight.

10. Remember that I will feel GREAT if I stay in control of my eating, and that it will put a huge damper on my trip if I feel out of control.

At the end of our session, Mark told me that he felt much more confident in his ability to stay in control while in Maine. He also decided that if he was tempted to eat or drink something that wasn’t on his plan, he would ask himself, “Is this going to help me reach my goals or not?”

By centering our discussion on Mark’s goal for the trip, and by reminding him that he could change his goal if he wanted to, Mark was able to come up with a plan that felt reasonable and doable, and one that he felt good about, knowing it would help get him to where he wanted to be.

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?

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator

Q: I see that there are three books: The Beck Diet Solution, The Complete Beck Diet for Life, and the workbook. Which book should I start off using?

A: The answer is that there is no right answer, and you will be fine starting off with any of them.  Through feedback we have learned that some people initially find the third book, The Complete Beck Diet for Life, to be a little more complicated to follow than The Beck Diet Solution (which we often call the “pink book”) or the workbook. Often dieters read The Beck Diet Solution first, and follow along with each skill in the program, and then later enhance their efforts with new ideas from the second book.  But as a general rule, figure out what seems easier for you to follow and makes the most sense because that is ultimately what will be most effective for you.

Q: I read the Beck Diet Solution book a while ago and I lost weight, but then my life got really stressful and I ended up gaining it back.  Do you know of dieters who had to do the program more than once and ultimately found success?  How did they do this, by going back and starting the program again?

A: YES, we have come in contact with many dieters who did not ultimately end up keeping all the weight off after their first attempt.  Frequently big life changes or stressors get in the way, and this is when dieters start to loosen the reins and stop practicing their skills.  Dieters need to be able to take a step back and view the situation objectively: which skills are they doing less consistently or not at all?  What part of the day is hardest for them? What do they have to do to make dieting a priority again?  Once dieters can figure out what is going on, they can then begin to formulate a plan to get back on track.

As you suggested, we recommend that dieter go back (maybe to even the first skill) and take time to ensure that they have fully MASTERED each skill before moving on to the next one. If dieters have not really mastered a skill the first time around, as soon as life circumstances become more challenging, practicing that skill will be much more difficult.  Often dieters initially think it’s okay to move on to the next skill once they are pretty good at the previous one, but we’ve found that “pretty good” is usually just not good enough. Taking time to master each skill can make the difference between temporary and lasting success.

Q: I know you say to eat without distractions. I have a bad habit of eating in front of the TV — the snacks are planned for within my meal plan — but sometimes, I’m setting myself up for failure. Any tips? Thanks!

A: You’re right, learning to eat slowly and mindfully are important parts of the program because we have found (over and over and over again) that dieters simply are not able to feel satisfied – physically and psychologically – if they do not take time to notice and enjoy what they’re eating.  While it may seem that as long as dieters are eating what they had planned to eat then it doesn’t matter how they eat it, we have found that this is not really the case.  Yes, dieters will continue to lose weight if they continue to follow their plan. But if they are not getting the most from what they are eating, then dieting will likely be much more of a struggle because they will feel less satisfied and more tempted to eat things not on their plan. When the struggle goes down, dieting gets so much easier and we want to help dieters make things as painless as possible.

If you are tempted to zone out while eating your (planned) snack, remind yourself why it’s worth it to you to momentarily turn off the TV and really focus on enjoying what you’re eating.  We find that dieters can be just as happy eating one cookie as they would be eating three, if they really take time to enjoy that one cookie instead of mindlessly eating and not tasting three.  And let’s face it – you deserve the pleasure of getting to relax watching TV AND the pleasure of getting to enjoy your food, so why not take time to do both and not deny yourself one.

You can also practice splitting your focus while watching TV and experiment with doing both at the same time, but be very deliberate about it.  If you notice that you are starting to eat mindlessly, refocus yourself and/or turn off the TV.  Some dieters are better at this than others, and some find that they really appreciate taking the time to enjoy their food and feel good about what they’re eating.