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.

A Peek Inside a Diet Session: Going on Vacation

My dieter, Lisa, is leaving soon to go on vacation for a week.  While Lisa is very excited for this trip, when she came into session this week she also noted that she was feeling somewhat nervous because she doesn’t want to undo all of the progress she has made over the past few months.  In session yesterday Lisa and I discussed specific strategies and guidelines she would use while she was on vacation as well as the mindset she wants to maintain. 

Here are some of the strategies and guidelines we formulated:

Since she doesn’t really enjoy the taste of alcohol all that much, Lisa decided on having a 2-3 drink limit for the whole week because, in general, she’d rather eat her calories than drink them.   Even though Lisa initially stated she didn’t want to have any alcoholic drinks on her trip, we discussed the fact that if her rules are too rigid and she ends up having a drink anyway, she may then be tempted to throw in the towel, thinking, “Well I’ve blown it for this trip. I might as well just get back on track when I get home.”  By having a reasonable range, Lisa is able to keep the option open so that if she does decide to have a drink, she doesn’t have to feel bad about it and she will still maintain a sense of control over her eating (and drinking). 

Lisa also decided that since there will be a gym in her hotel and she knows that she will have a lot of down time to use it, she will plan on getting there at least two of the seven days she’ll be away. Lisa also decided that on the days she’s not going to the gym, she will take at least a 20 minute walk.  Again, Lisa originally wanted to set a guideline of going to the gym at least 5 of the days she’ll be away, but I discussed with Lisa that if her plan is too hard, she may just abandon it completely and instead buy into the idea that if she can’t get to the gym 5 days, then it’s not worth going at all. 

Additionally Lisa decided that she will allow herself one reasonable sized treat each day and that she will take the time to really sit down and enjoy it.  Lisa and I discussed the fact that while she likely won’t be able to eat everything she wants on the trip, she can still get a lot of enjoyment from the things she is eating and it’s certainly not all-or-nothing: it’s not as if Lisa will either be able to eat everything she wants or she won’t be able to eat anything she wants – rather by choosing to have one treat a day Lisa is finding the middle ground.

Lisa and I also discussed many different ideas and sabotaging thoughts that may arise while she is on her vacation and we formulated responses to them.  We also came up with a general mindset that Lisa will maintain while she is away. Here are some of the helpful ideas that Lisa will remind herself of:

Everything that I eat and drink on this trip is 100% within my control. No one will force me to eat anything, so that means it is entirely up to me whether I lose weight, gain weight, or stay the same while on this trip.

I will enjoy the trip MORE if I stay in control of my eating! Every time I eat off track I feel terrible, and that will not change even though I’m on vacation.  If I maintain control, I will be able to feel proud of myself and I won’t have to feel guilty about anything, and I know for a fact that feeling guilty about my eating would take away from my enjoyment of the trip.

While I will be eating less than I probably want while on this trip, I am doing this for very important reasons! I would so much rather have everything on my Advantages List then the momentary pleasure of any one food.  It’s worth it to stay my plan and it’s not worth it AT ALL to undo my last few months of hard work.

I know I can do this! I’ve been in challenging situations before and I’ve triumphed and I know how amazing I feel when I do.  I’ve got this!

There’s no such thing as “blowing it for the entire trip.”  Even if I make a mistake one day, as long as I get back on track right away it won’t make any difference. And I know that the moment I get back on track is the moment I again start enjoying the trip more.

Vacation and Your Weight Loss Plan– An Article in the Albuquerque Weight Loss Examiner by Marsha Thole

In her recent article for the Albuquerque Weight Loss Examiner, Marsha Thole provides a helpful guide for dieters on vacation. First, Thole spells out what typically goes wrong for dieters on vacation. Then, using tools and techniques from The Complete Beck Diet for Life, she describes what must be done in order for dieters to remain on track and stick to their plans.

Click here to read the full article.

Rules for Traveling

When traveling and staying in a hotel, dieters may be tempted by the treats in their hotel rooms. Hotels are smart – they often leave a basket of snacks in full view so they can tempt people to spend money (Day 32 of The Beck Diet Solution). But dieters can take the basket and put it in a closet or cover it with a towel and develop a rule to always carry their own treats with them instead of eating anything from a minibar, basket, or snack machine. If they’re hungry, it’s important for dieters to remember that they’ll have their next planned meal/snack within a few hours or have breakfast the next morning (Day 16 of The Beck Diet Solution).  We ask dieters to imagine if this were thirty years ago when there was no food in hotel rooms.  What would they have done then? 

Our dieter, Jason, had to apply this rule in a different way.  He travels for business once or twice a month and there is always an abundance of snack food at the back of the meeting room. He often feels either bored or somewhat stressed during meetings and it is particularly difficult for him to resist the high fat, high sugar foods. Jasonknows that eating these snacks is contrary to his plan, that he will soon feel weak and guilty, and that he could gain weight, he still has a hard time resisting in the moment.  Jason needs to read the advantages of losing weight just before each meeting. He’s also decided to make a rule for himself that he will not eat any snack food provided at meetings. It’s helpful for him to realize that he’s not alone—not everyone at the meeting eats these snacks between meals. Just like the minibar, he can’t give himself a choice about this or he will struggle every single time.  As soon as Jason makes this rule and practices following it ten times in a row, it will become so much easier for him to resist and stick to his plan.

Back From Our Travels

You may have noticed that we took a hiatus from the blog for two weeks. In addition to attending Thanksgiving and a family wedding in Tampa, we gave a series of workshops in California. Altogether, we were gone for 12 days in a row. It’s difficult to maintain your weight during holidays and special events and when you’re constantly hopping on and off airplanes and staying in a different hotel every night for 7 nights. But we did.

How did we manage? We’re committed to eating pretty much the same way 365 days a year. An important study by the National Weight Control Registry showed that successful maintainers are consistent eaters. Did we want to overindulge at Thanksgiving and the wedding? You bet we did. Did we want to pick higher calorie (and sometimes less healthy) meals at airports, hotels, and restaurants? Of course. But we didn’t, because we kept reminding ourselves that we wanted to be thinner and healthier. Was the restriction worth it? Absolutely. We felt good after every single meal and we felt great when we finally got home and stepped on the scale.

Now what works for us doesn’t work for everyone. Some dieters and maintainers do better if they plan in advance (Day 32) to have 300 or so extra calories a day at these times, but not more than that. They may gain a little weight, but that’s okay, as long as they eliminate those extra daily calories as soon as they return home. They have to be careful, though, that they don’t have too many special occasions at which they consume extra calories. And they have to be careful to plan to eat more, not just slip into eating more, since the latter strengthens their giving in muscle and weakens their resistance muscle (Day 11).

Anyway, it’s good to be back and we’ll continue to blog and let you know what’s going on.

Traveling and TBDS

We received this letter from a Beck Diet Solution reader and frequent traveler:

My concerns are that I travel nearly every week for work.  I have been on the program at home so far which is easy.  How will I be able to manage this when I am traveling?  I think for those of us who are road warriors, we often find ourselves hungry, stressed, tired, and without many choices as far as what we can eat.  I have been stuck in airports where there is little healthy food or stuck in airports when all shops are closed so that my dinner must come from a vending machine or I will not eat at all.  This is true with hotels too.  Sometimes I end up in a hotel which does not have room service so if I don’t eat before I get there, then I don’t eat! Here are some of my ideas: 

-Continue to eat slowly while seated.
-Remember that it is okay to be hungry–I won’t die from it!
Don’t get the key to the mini bar!
Really watch portions and always get a salad.
Avoid alcohol.
Ask for crudités with dip on the side even if it’s not on the menu.
Eat an apple before going out to dinner.
Stay hydrated.

I don’t know if this is enough for me to be able to reduce my caloric intake enough to actually lose weight while traveling.  Do you have any other suggestions?

We thought this letter was a great illustration of a problem many people face.  The suggestions are excellent, and we have a couple to add:

1. Because you’re going to be eating out so much more when traveling and are at risk for taking in a lot more calories, consider ordering a salad with the dressing on the side and topped with a lean protein.
2. Plan ahead!  If you know you’re going to be arriving too late to buy a decent dinner, bring travel-friendly food with you, such as tuna fish in a can or pouch, processed cheese that doesn’t require refrigeration, fruit, high fiber/high protein bars, or nuts.
3. Ask for a mini fridge for your hotel room and stock it with foods you can eat.
4. Try to avoid buffets, but if you do find yourself eating at them, survey all the food first, pick two or three things to eat, and then don’t go back for seconds.
5. When eating out, remind yourself that if you want to be thinner, you can’t have appetizers, bread with your entree, and dessert.  Make compromises!

We also recommend you read (or reread) Day 32 of The Beck Diet Solution and if necessary, bring the book with you on your travels to keep everything fresh in your mind. 

If you have any more suggestions, we’d love to hear them.

Just Do It!

One of our new dieters, Sarah, had to go on a week-long trip because her two kids were competing in a roller derby competition.  During class Sarah reported feeling nervous that she might end up gaining weight while on the trip because she wouldn’t really have opportunities to exercise.  We brainstormed with Sarah ideas for how and when she could fit some exercise in.  We first asked her if her kids would be competing all day, every day, or if there would be some down time during the day that she might be able to at least squeeze a few minutes of exercise in.  After all, we reminded her, five minutes of exercise is better than zero minutes! (discussed on Day 9 of The Beck Diet Solution).  Sarah acknowledged that her kids weren’t competing all day, and that there was actually a running track conveniently located just a couple of minutes from the roller rink.  We then asked her what would get in the way of her slipping out for a little while each day to get some walking in, and Sarah admitted that what was holding her back was her reluctance to wear sneakers and shorts in public. 

We’ve found that feeling self-conscious or embarrassed is a common problem for many dieters, particularly women, and they avoid a number of physical activities in which they would expose their body. We helped Sarah see that most people, if they noticed or thought about her at all, would only have a fleeting thought and then go on to think about other things. Some might even have a positive thought—“Good for her for exercising.” If they had a negative thought, though, what did it really matter? They weren’t important in her life. Another dieter in the class had a great suggestion, too, to ask another mom at the competition to walk with her, so she’d have company and feel less conspicuous.

Armed with a plan, Sarah walked several days during the week, stuck to her diet, and lost two pounds. Perhaps more importantly, she changed her ideas, became less self-conscious, and is now resolved not to let embarrassment stand in her way in the future.

Switching Diets: Brenda

drink6.jpgIn two weeks, Brenda is going on a week-long vacation to Jamaica, which she is very excited about.  During the group this week, though, Brenda also voiced concerns about sticking to her diet while on vacation and she knows she’d better prepare in advance (Day 32 of The Beck Diet Solution). Brenda has been following a carb-counting diet, but she knows that when she goes to Jamaica she will want to sample the delicious local fruit and indulge in some tropical mixed drinks – all of which will pack in the carbohydrates. 

We discussed with Brenda the fact that this is the reason we have our dieters initially pick two diets, so they can always have one on the backburner in case their primary diet isn’t working out (Day 2).  The second diet Brenda had selected was a calorie-counting diet.  She realized that this would be perfect for her trip, and that she doesn’t need to abandon her diet while on vacation, she just needs to be flexible and follow a diet that is more practical for her circumstances.

Counting calories while on vacation will enable Brenda to work reasonable amounts of local foods that her normal diet wouldn’t allow, and it will enable her to continue her weight-loss efforts even while traveling.   Because she has gotten used to counting carbs, Brenda knows that she will have to bring a calorie-counting book with her to help plan her meals, but she knows that not gaining weight and feeling in control will make it well worth the effort.  With her new diet in tow, Brenda is confident she will be able to fully enjoy her vacation without any repercussions on the scale. 

Busy Week: Lori

In the meeting yesterday, Lori talked about what a busy week she has coming up.  Lots of meals out, a business trip out of town, and on top of it, her birthday on Friday.  In the past a week like this might have completely derailed Lori’s diet, but now she is going into it with confidence.

cafe.jpgLori has several strategies that will help her handle the coming week with ease.  First she will make sure to eat a normal breakfast and lunch every day.  Some dieters try to eat very little, if anything, for breakfast and/or lunch so they can eat big meals later in the day, especially if they are eating at a restaurant.  Lori knows that this simply doesn’t work and that not eating enough in the beginning part of the day will only lead her to significantly overeat later on (discussed on Day 2 of The Beck Diet Solution). 

Second, Lori is not at all concerned about her business trip because she knows that she will make wise decisions when eating out.  Because she won’t have complete control over her food, Lori also knows that it’s possible she will feel more hungry than usual, but she also knows that this is not something to fear and she most definitely can tolerate it (Day 12).

Last, in terms of her birthday, Lori has firmly talked back to her sabotaging thoughts that in the past would lead her to have a really big blow-out meal.  She now says that, “I know I have to eat mindfully for the rest of my life, so just because it’s my birthday, that’s not an excuse to eat a huge meal and dessert.” (Day 19).  Of course, like everyone else, Lori doesn’t necessarily like that she can’t eat with abandon on her birthday, but she’s accepted it and moved on because for her, being thin is so much more worth it. 

America vs. Italy

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

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

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