Jamie, 34, is a dieter with whom I (Deborah Beck Busis) worked a few years ago. By following the Beck Diet Solution program, she lost 25 pounds and kept it off for over three years. Then something big happened in Jamie’s life – she changed jobs. All of a sudden she found that she was working much longer hours and she was a great deal more stressed. A lot of things started to slide in Jamie’s life: she saw her friends less, she took less time to enjoy things like going to the movies, and her eating habits and food choices gradually changed (and not for the better!).
In the past Jamie had been good at planning meals and snacks and eating them at regularly scheduled intervals. With her new job, this became very difficult because not only was she working longer hours, but she also did not have any set or guaranteed time at work for lunch and snacks. Jamie also found it increasingly hard to get to the supermarket to buy the healthy and good foods she was used to eating, not only because she had less time but also when she did have free time, she was exhausted. Jamie found herself starting to return to some of her old, unhealthy habits, like just grazing during the day, not always eating a planned lunch, and often giving in and eating whatever junk food was in the break room. Jamie also found herself routinely buying lunch from not so healthy places and picking up junk food to eat for snacks. In part this was because Jamie’s schedule made it hard for her to buy healthy foods, but it part it was also because Jamie was feeling bad and stressed at work often, and she was turning back to these “comfort” foods to try to feel better.
These changes didn’t occur overnight; rather, it took quite a few months for the old habits to slowly start slipping back in, so at first Jamie did not really notice what was happening. Soon enough it started to feel normal for her to eat in this way, and she forgot how pleased she used to be with her healthy eating habits and how great they allowed her to look and feel. Jamie slowly started gaining back the weight she had lost and successfully kept off for over three years, and started feeling badly again about how she looked. Another telling change: Jamie stopped weighing herself every morning and started avoiding the scale completely. Jamie was conscious of the fact that she stopped weighing herself, but was not able to respond to the sabotaging thoughts that got in the way of getting on the scale.
Eventually, Jamie quit her stressful job after about a year and a half. Not because it caused her to gain weight and feel bad about herself, but because the stress of it began to affect other areas of her life, too. Because she was still managing to follow some of the cognitive-behavioral skills and techniques and respond to some of her sabotaging thoughts, Jamie gained back some of the weight she had lost, (about 12 pounds) but not all. Jamie was lucky to get a new, less stressful job, which allowed her the freedom to eat regular meals because she was guaranteed a set lunch hour, the hours were less demanding, and she again had time and energy to shop for and prepare healthy foods.
Jamie also took this opportunity to come see me again with the intention of relearning and fortifying her skills so that she could get back to the healthy lifestyle (and weight) she had previously mastered. Many entries you will see on this blog in the coming weeks will document Jamie’s struggles and successes as she attempts to lose weight again, and her sense of pride and delight she gets once she is again able to motivate herself to follow a healthy lifestyle.