Priorities: Maria

One skill that Maria has gotten very good at is putting herself first – making sure that she continually has the time and energy for diet and exercise (discussed on Day 8 of The Beck Diet Solution).  For Maria this particularly means making sure she keeps exercise a priority.  In the past, when her life got busy, exercise was always the first thing to fall off her plate. 

Maria exercises on a machine at home. When her kids interrupted her exercise in the past, she would always drop what she was doing and tend to them.  Now she tells them to wait until she’s done and then she helps them.  After dinner, if she’s already exercised, Maria may watch television with her husband. But if she hasn’t exercised yet, she nicely refuses to join him until she has finished.  Now she feels entitled to get her activities done first. 

Building this sense of entitlement is crucial to lasting weight loss because life always gets busy and things always come up.  If dieters don’t learn to put themselves first and ensure that they continually make diet and exercise a high priority, other factors will always get in the way of their best efforts.  Maria now knows that she is entitled to exercise because she deserves to be thinner and feel good about herself, and she is a good example for all of us. 

Craving Chocolate: Diana

Diana was tempted by chocolate this past week. She reported to our group that there was a few days ago, she stayed within her calorie limit for the day, but she deviated from her plan and ate unplanned chocolate.  Diana had planned to have an after-dinner snack that consisted of both some chocolate, and some nutritious food. But after she started eating chocolate, Diana found it very difficult to stop and ending up spending all of her snack calories on chocolate, instead of half on the healthy food she had planned. chocolate.jpg

We discussed in group how important it is to learn to stick to your plan 100%.  Dieters could stay within their calorie limits for the day and eat only chocolate the whole day, or only pasta, and because they were taking in fewer calories, they would lose weight. But an unhealthy, unbalanced diet like this is completely unsustainable over the long term, so dieters who don’t learn to spend their calories in a nutritious, balanced way will almost definitely gain back any weight they lose (discussed on Day 2 of The Beck Diet Solution).   This is why having a plan, and sticking to it completely is so crucial – because it forces dieters to become accustomed to eating in a way they can maintain for their lifetime. 

We went around the group and gave Diana ideas for things she could do in the future if she’s tempted to continue eating chocolate.  Our dieters suggested that she go distract herself (Day 13), firmly tell herself NO CHOICE (Day 13), read her Advantages List (Day 1), and remind herself that even if she’s feeling at that moment that she doesn’t care about sticking to her plan, she most definitely will care in a few minutes. 

Diana is committed this week to absolutely stick to her plan without any exceptions because she intends to lose weight and keep it off for good. 

Nighttime Demons: Brenda

Brenda has been having a bit of trouble lately with “nighttime demons” – those voices in her head  that around 9 or 10pm every night urge her to eat, even though she’s already finished her planned food for the day.  Brenda has been able to figure out that what she’s feeling at this time is not actually hunger, because by that point in the evening she’s already eaten a substantial dinner and snack.  And because she doesn’t usually want any one food in particular, Brenda knows that she’s not really having strong cravings either.  What she is experiencing is the desire to eat (discussed on Day 11 of The Beck Diet Solution), and we helped Brenda brainstorm ways in which she could combat the demons.

First of all, having Brenda label what she is feeling as “desire” instead of “hunger” makes it easier to resist eating.  What Brenda needs to say to herself is, “I’m not hungry. I just have a desire to eat. That’s not a good reason to eat. In fact, just because I feel like eating doesn’t mean I should. No choice; I’m not eating.”

We also discussed with Brenda the fact that the moment she definitively decides not to eat, the desire will begin to diminish and the struggle will significantly decrease (Day 13). Brenda made a Response Card to read every evening at 9 pm that reminds her that the desire to eat doesn’t last, that it always goes away, and that she certainly can tolerate it.  Last, Brenda decided that she will read her Advantages List every evening after dinner to keep very fresh in her mind exactly why it’s so worth it to her to withstand the desire and stick to her plan. 

With this arsenal of tools, Brenda is confident that she will be able to effectively and permanently fight off her nighttime demons.

Hunger, Cravings, and the Desire to Eat: Linda

During our diet group today, we talked a lot about differentiating among hunger, cravings, and the desire to eat.  The rule of thumb is that true hunger is what you feel when you’ve fasted for several hours and your stomach is empty; a craving is a physiological and emotionally intense urge to eat; and the desire to eat comes when you are not particularly hungry but eating because there is food around (discussed on Day 11 of The Beck Diet Solution).  For most dieters these three things can be difficult to tell apart, especially if they have a lifetime of confusing cravings and desire with hunger.

Linda has been having trouble with this lately. She reported today that she has been feeling very hungry lately, even though her eating has generally been the same.  We asked her whether she often feels hungry an hour or two after a meal; she thought about it and said yes.  Chances are Linda is confusing hunger at these times with either cravings or the desire to eat.  We discussed with Linda an experiment she can try which will help her get a better understanding of what true hunger really feels like.  One day this week she will skip lunch (if her doctor okays it) and rate every hour, between breakfast and dinner, how hungry she feels (Day 12).  This is an important experiment because it will prove to Linda three very important things:

1. What true hunger feels like.

2. That hunger comes and goes

3. That she CAN tolerate being hungry

Learning this about hunger will be invaluable for Linda and is one of the many tools that will help her keep the weight off for the rest of her life.

Coming to Terms: Melissa

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

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

Standing Firm: Maria

It was Maria’s daughter’s birthday last week, so over the weekend Maria threw a sleepover party for her and her friends.  Maria knew that there would be a lot of tempting food around all evening and night and so she sat down ahead of time and planned out what and how much she would eat (discussed on Day 16 of The Beck Diet Solution).  Maria decided that the best way to approach this situation was to make sure she had lower calorie versions of the regular party food.  For herself she bought fat free hotdogs to eat instead of regular ones, a snack size bag of microwave popcorn instead of a buttery full-size bag, and 100-calorie packs of the same kind of cookies. 

For the most part everything went according to plan during the party.  Maria was able to enjoy her scaled-down version of the party food and didn’t feel deprived because she had prepared for the situation so well (Day 30).  However, there was one snag when Maria came face to face with a big bowl of gummy bears – a food she hadn’t anticipated wanting at all.  She suddenly developed a strong craving to eat them, and all at once the struggle started in her mind.  “It went back and forth,” Maria said, “like an angel and a devil on each shoulder.”  She had thoughts like, “It’s ok to eat the [unplanned] gummy bears because it’s a celebration; I really want it; it will just be one.”  She countered those sabotaging thoughts by telling herself, “It’s not ok to eat unplanned food.  Every time I eat something I’m not supposed to, it reinforces that bad habit.  Every time I resist unplanned food, it reinforces the good habit and increases the chance I will resist in the future.”  (Day 13). 

After a long struggle, Maria finally made the firm decision that she was absolutely not going to eat any gummy bears.  She went immediately to her refrigerator where she had posted her Advantages List (Day 1) and read it to remind herself of just why it was so important to her not to eat unplanned food.  As soon as the decision not to eat was made, Maria said that her craving immediately began to diminish and the urge to eat gummy bears eventually subsided.  This was an incredibly important experience for Maria because it showed her that cravings eventually pass and she doesn’t need to eat to get rid of them, and that she is strong and can be confident in the future of her ability to withstand uncomfortable cravings.

More Birthdays!

birthdayballoons.jpgThree of our dieters – Roxanne, Charlotte, and Diana – had birthdays in the past 2 weeks, and they reported that this birthday was very different from previous ones.  In the past all of our dieters have noted that they used their birthdays (and usually their friends and family’s birthdays, too!) as an excuse to overeat, telling themselves, “It’s ok to eat this because it’s a special occasion; I’m celebrating” (discussed on Day 19 of The Beck Diet Solution).  This year, however, things were very different. 

One of Roxanne’s friends thoughtfully baked her a cake, but knowing that Roxanne is trying to lose weight, she made a light angel food cake, using Splenda instead of sugar.  Roxanne was touched by the gesture, but because she hadn’t planned to eat cake that day, she didn’t allow herself to use her birthday as an excuse to eat unplanned food.  She took the cake home and enjoyed a piece the next day when she was able to work it into her plan.  In spite of her birthday, Roxanne lost a pound this week.

 Charlotte, a professor, had a similar experience.  One of her students baked a cake and brought it in for her department to enjoy.  Knowing that Charlotte was on a diet, the student made the cake healthier using applesauce instead of oil and left a section of it without icing.  Because of this, Charlotte was able to take part in the birthday celebration and still lose weight this week.

Diana, too, had a lot of people who wanted to commemorate her birthday.  However, she told everyone that she didn’t need a cake because she didn’t want to deal with having it around.  But this doesn’t mean that her friends weren’t able to find other ways to celebrate her birthday.  When she got home from work she found out that her coworkers had sent her a big bouquet of flowers – made out of fruit.

Our dieters this week handled their birthdays with ease and confidence.  We’re so proud of them!

Birthday: Diana

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

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

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

Slippage: Maria

During the group on Monday, we talked about the notion of “slippage” – letting bad habits infiltrate back into your life.  Setting in place new, helpful behaviors about diet and exercise takes time and energy, and the new habits and skills need to be practiced consistently to make sure the old ones don’t come creeping back (discussed on Day 42 of The Beck Diet Solution).

pretzels.jpgMaria noted that she was at risk for slippage when she was preparing her daughters’ lunches in the evening.  Several days in a row Maria caught herself popping an (unplanned) pretzel into her mouth as she was putting them into bags.  We discussed with Maria that while the number of calories in a pretzel is trivial, the act of absentmindedly eating unplanned food is not.  Today it could be a pretzel while preparing her daughters’ lunches, tomorrow it could be a brownie while talking on the phone (Day 16).  Also, while there are few calories in one pretzel, eating extra unplanned food every day while preparing lunch eventually would add up and could easily lead Maria to stop losing weight or even start gaining. 

Maria recommitted herself to not eating any unplanned food and to being extra alert when she was preparing food for others.  She stopped her slight slippage right at the onset, which will enable her to continue losing weight.

Wasting Food: Brenda

One of the topics we discussed during our group meeting is the importance of throwing outtrashcans1.jpg extra food.  Keeping leftovers hanging around in the refrigerator and cupboards can tempt dieters and threaten to derail their good efforts.  A lot of our dieters initially expressed discomfort at the idea of wasting food.  However, what we like to remind our dieters is that if you eat extra food you don’t need, your body can’t use it and just turns it into fat, i.e. the food is wasted in your body.  So the food is wasted in the trashcan or wasted in your body, but either way it’s wasted (discussed on Day 7 of The Beck Diet Solution). 

Brenda in particular had a lot of trouble throwing out extra food.  Her daughter would often cook big meals and there would be lots of leftovers that she couldn’t bring herself to toss in the trash.  Brenda said the leftovers would hang out in her fridge for a couple of days until she eventually ate them, whether she really wanted to or not.  She also often had half-finished boxes of snack foods in her cupboard that her grandchildren would start and not finish, and even though they were often stale and fairly unappealing, there were times when they sorely tempted Brenda.

Brenda responded really well to the notion, “In the trashcan or in your body, either way it’s wasted,” and with this new mentality it became easier for her to throw out food.  Brenda slowly got in the habit of throwing out all the unwanted leftovers from the meals her daughter cooked, because she knew she’d rather the food be wasted in her trashcan than show up on the scale.  Brenda also now periodically goes through her cupboards and without difficulty throws out all the unfinished, stale snack food.  Learning to throw out food may seem like a simple idea, but it will continually keep Brenda from eating extra food and help her keep the weight off permanently.