Dealing with Bereavement

Recently, my client Jeff’s mother passed away. While she had been sick for a while, her death was still somewhat unexpected and extremely difficult for Jeff. In session this week, Jeff told me that he didn’t want to backslide and regain the weight he had lost. But he was having a very hard time continuing to work on all his dieting skills while dealing with all of the practical and emotional consequences of this sad event. Jeff and I talked this through and he concluded that he didn’t necessarily need to work on actually losing weight while things were so hard and stressful but he did want to try to maintain his weight. He knew that eventually things would calm down, and when they did, he didn’t want to be worse off. Bereavement

Jeff and I discussed what would be reasonable for him to expect of himself and what wouldn’t be reasonable. Jeff committed to working on several skills he had already mastered: getting on the scale every day he was home; reading his Advantages List and Response Cards every day; working on eating sitting down, slowly, and mindfully; giving himself credit; not taking seconds at meals; eating one reasonable portion of dessert after dinner; making sure he was eating vegetables at lunch and dinner whenever possible; and going for a walk at least 3-4 times a week. We also decided that, among other things, he would temporarily stop counting calories, limiting his number carbohydrates per day, and going to the gym for longer workouts. To help motivate him to continue working the agreed-upon skills, Jeff made the following Response Card:

Even though it’s hard to work on healthy eating when things feel so hard, it’s still worth it to me because eventually things will get better and when they do, I don’t want to be in a worse position and have a lot of ground to make up. Besides, I have to keep doing this no matter what because my long-term health is at stake.

Because Jeff understandably was not able to continue practicing all his dieting skills, it was essential that we figure out what he felt he could keep doing and make his goals reasonable and achievable. If Jeff kept expecting himself to do everything, but ultimately couldn’t, then chances were extremely high that he would end up getting frustrated, decide that it was all too hard, and throw everything out the window (and likely end up gaining back weight). By choosing to focus on just some of the skills he had mastered, Jeff will be able to continue practicing many good dieting habits, keep his resistance muscle strong, feel good about his eating day to day, and be in an excellent position to resume the rest of his skills once this difficult period had become easier.

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