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In Session with Debbie: Being Too Restrictive

This week, my client, Katie, told me that she was having trouble staying on track during the weekend.  She said that she did really well during the week, but was consistently “losing it” once Friday night hit.  I first asked Katie to describe to me what her weekday eating was like. After hearing what a typical Monday-Friday looks like for her, one thing stood out to me very clearly: Katie was eating almost the exact same thing day in and day out.  6835999820_ab1d0a905a_mI questioned Katie about this and she told me that she had just fallen into the habit of eating the same thing for breakfast each day, lunch each day, and dinner each day because she found meals that were easy, convenient, and filled her up while tasting good.

It was clear to me that Katie was being too restrictive during the week.  Being too restrictive can come in different forms – sometimes dieters are too restrictive from a calorie standpoint and eat too little food. This eventually backfires on them because after a few days of eating too little, they’ll inevitably end up overeating.  Dieters can also be too restrictive in terms of the types of food they let themselves eat. If they try to cut out favorite foods entirely, this eventually backfires because when they inevitably give in and have their favorite foods, they eat way too much of them.  Katie was not being too restrictive during the week in terms of the number of calories she was eating, but she was being too restrictive in terms of the types of food she was eating. While Katie wasn’t limiting her food options because she thought certain foods were bad, per say, but more because she didn’t feel like putting in the effort to think about and make something different, it was still backfiring on her all the same. She ate the same foods during the week and then would use the weekend as her time to finally have variety. And because the weekends were the only time she was having any variety, it was no surprise that she was going overboard and was having trouble staying in control.

To help her combat this, Katie and I decided that having the same thing for breakfast during the week every day was probably okay, but she should have at least two different lunches that she switched off between.  We also agreed that it would be best if she didn’t have the same thing for dinner more than twice in a row and she committed to trying at least one new recipe each week during the week, and not waiting for the weekend. Even if she shopped for and prepped the ingredients on Sunday, she would wait until a weekday to actually make the meal. This way she would have plenty of variety during the week and wouldn’t have to cram in everything she wanted to eat once the weekend hit.

If you’re having trouble staying on track during the weekend, ask yourself: Am I allowing myself enough of my favorite foods during the week?

Planning to Eat More and Gain Weight

Julie was feeling disgruntled. She was tired of following her eating plan. “You know, I’m still pleased when I get on the scale every day. But now I’ve been maintaining my weight for the past year and a half. It’s not a thrill like it used to be.”

I asked Julie what was the hardest part of sticking to her maintenance diet.  “I’m just tired of what I’m eating. I want to eat more. I want to eat different things for lunch and dinner. I want to have a glass of wine when I go out with friends and dessert every night. I want to have an afternoon snack, like pretzels or crackers or chips. But I know if I do,” she said glumly, “I’ll gain weight.”

Julie and I reviewed her food intake on a typical day. It looked as if she were eating about 1600 calories per day. “What would you think,” I asked her, “about making just one change for this week, instead of all the changes you want all at once. You could plan to eat 200 extra calories each day. Today, for example, you could have a higher calorie lunch. Tomorrow you might want an afternoon snack. The day after that, you might want dessert. Or maybe you want to have dessert every night and keep everything else the same.  You could try this for a week or two, and see how it goes. If it’s going well, you can keep on doing it. If you’re still unhappy, you could add another hundred or two hundred calories.

“But I’ll gain weight, won’t I?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. You will. But it will probably only be a few pounds. And you might decide it’s absolutely worth it. I know you were proud when you lost 47 pounds. But what’s the big deal if you gain back three or four pounds and maintain there? There’s nothing magic about the number 47. And if you can feel more satisfied at a slightly higher weight, why not go for it?”

Julie decided to go for it. Over the next few months, she gradually added more calories to her daily diet. But she didn’t slip into it. She made conscious decisions to eat more and she planned in advance how she would use the extra calories. Her weight went up by 4-5 pounds and there were a few outfits that became too tight. But she recognized that it was worth the trade-off. She was happier being able to have more variety in her diet.

Don’t Fool Yourself: Brenda

Another Beck Diet Solution Dieter is Brenda, a 49 year-old self-described lover of carbs.  Throughout the past two decades, Brenda has tried dieting at least 20 times. But whenever she lost weight, she always gained it back in less time than it had taken her to lose it.  Brenda started out our group on a carb-counting diet. After she had lost 18 pounds in five months, her weight loss stagnated –  she was fooling herself by allowing too many carbs to creep back into her diet. (“It won’t really matter if I don’t count [this carb-heavy food].”)

Brenda had two choices: cut her carbs again or switch diets (a skill learned in Day 2 of The Beck Diet Solution). She decided to switch to a program in which she counts points (analogous to counting calories) so she could have more of what she loves: carbs.

Two weeks ago Brenda made the switch and has now already gone down another 1 ½ pounds.  At this week’s meeting, we discussed a breakfast she planned to eat at her favorite restaurant in a few days. This was a typical breakfast she used to have when she wasn’t dieting. Again we discovered that Brenda was “fooling herself” (Day 19) – this time, by not taking into account all ingredients (especially the butter and half and half) that would go into the breakfast. She was shocked to see how many points it would use up. (In the description below, we’ve converted points to calories.).

2 Eggs: 180 Calories
2 Pieces of Rye Toast: 160 Calories
4 Pieces of Bacon: 200 Calories
Butter/Oil (for cooking and for toast): 200 Calories
½ and ½ (for coffee): 40 Calories

=780 Calories

What Brenda thought would be a reasonable breakfast turned out to contain more than 2/3rds of her points allotment for the entire day.  Our diet group members suggested reasonable alternatives:

3 Egg Whites: 51 Calories
1 Piece of Wheat Toast: 65 Calories
2 Pieces Turkey Bacon: 70 Calories
Butter: 36 Calories
Nonfat Milk: 15 Calories

=237 Calories

Brenda realized that it just wasn’t worth it to eat the original meal she had planned when she could be satisfied with something similar. This was an important learning experience for Brenda and the group—how easy it is too fool yourself about how much you’re eating.