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Expect the Tough Times

One of our dieters, Rose, has lately been having a tougher time sticking to her diet and exercise plan.  She’s about 2 ½ months into her diet and for the first time is really starting to struggle.  For the first two months things were relatively easy for Rose – her motivation was high, she was losing weight, and generally nothing was too difficult.  But a couple of months in and her motivation started to flag, her rate of weight loss slowed down slightly, and Rose suddenly found herself having to exert a lot more effort to stick to her plan.  Rose was extremely worried that things would continue to be really difficult and was having strong doubts as to whether or not she could really keep this up.

The first thing we did for Rose was to normalize her situation and tell her that this is exactly what happens to everyone.  No one, not a single dieter that we’ve worked with, has had a consistently steady and easy weight loss.  Every single one has experienced exactly what is now happening to Rose – in the beginning it’s easy, and then at a certain point things get harder for a period of time. But the good news is, they always get easier again.  And although hard times will continue to crop up, they do become fewer and farther between as dieters go along.  But dieters really need to know ahead of time that the high motivation and ease of loss that they experience in the beginning of a diet won’t last, that they will definitely encounter a harder time, and that the hard time will also pass.  If dieters aren’t prepared in advance for these hard times then when they come up they’re likely to get very discouraged and are at risk for abandoning their diet altogether.  

We discussed with Rose the fact that she needs to think about the bigger picture.  Things were easier for a while, then they became harder, but they will absolutely get easier again.  We also helped her put her week in perspective.  Rose initially said that she had a “really tough” week.  We asked her if every hour of every day was difficult, and she said no.  We then asked her if even most hours most days were difficult, and again she said no. On further reflection, Rose realized that all in all, she probably had struggled, at most, for a couple of hours several days, but had let the tougher times tinge her memory of the whole week.  Once she was able to put her situation in perspective, Rose realized that a momentary struggle was definitely not a good reason to abandon her diet, and like everyone else who is ultimately successful, she just has to plow through until the difficulty lifts.  We also reminded her that this is not the last hard time she will encounter, but Rose now feels much more confident that she can deal with the next one when it arises.

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.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Some dieters in our new class are struggling with giving themselves credit (discussed on Day 4 of The Beck Diet Solution), which is a very important skill. So many aspects of dieting are difficult—at first: withstanding cravings, making food plans, resisting emotional eating, turning down food pushers, etc. The more dieters do these things, the easier they become, but this only happens if they are able to give themselves credit.  For example, every time a dieter resists a craving and praises herself, she builds up her confidence that she is capable of resisting cravings and she increases the likelihood that she’ll be able withstand the next craving she has.  If she withstands a craving but doesn’t credit herself for it, then the next time she has a craving she won’t be sure she’ll be able to hold out and may struggle a lot more. 

Dieters need to give themselves credit for every positive diet and exercise-related behaviors they do.  For instance, every time they stop eating before they’re overfull (Day 18), get back on track after straying (Day 20), eat slowly and mindfully (Day 5), or do any kind of exercise (Day 9), they need to say something to themselves, such as “Great,” or “Good, I did it.” Many people who have struggled with their weight are hard on themselves and overly self-critical.  By consciously recognizing the dozens of things they do right each day, dieters build up their self-confidence and awareness that they’re strong and in control.

At the beginning or end of each class we go around and have everyone tell some things they did in the past week that they deserve credit for.  In the beginning it was difficult for some of our dieters to come up with credit-worthy behaviors, but because they’ve been practicing this—and hearing what the others say—throughout the past several weeks, they’re getting much better at it. They are also noticing that the things they consistently give themselves credit for (such as eating sitting down) are becoming easier and easier to do – and this is no coincidence! 

Our New Class: Starting Their Diets

We have started a new weight-loss class here at the Beck Institute.  Our new dieters have just finished the tasks from the first two Weeks of The Beck Diet Solution and today are embarking on Week Three: starting their diets.  Our dieters are feeling nervous about starting yet another diet.  This is, of course, a perfectly legitimate concern because all of them have had experiences, over and over again, of starting diets, falling off the wagon, and giving up. We asked our dieters to tell us why this time will be different.

This time is different because never in the past have they had two weeks of preparation before they actually started following a diet.  Now they know so much more going in and have many more skills than they did before.   Now they know how to get themselves to eat everything slowly, while sitting down, and enjoying every bite (Days 3 and 5 of The Beck Diet Solution).  Now they know how to create both the time and energy in their daily lives to accomplish diet and exercise-related activities (Day 8).  They have learned to differentiate between hunger, cravings, and the desire to eat (Day 11), and have proven to themselves that they can tolerate feeling hungry (Day 12).  They have learned coping strategies for when they are experiencing intense cravings (Day 13), and they have learned to give themselves credit (an essential tool for building confidence) for the many positive diet and exercise-related things they do each day (Day 4). 

We advised our dieters to go back and read through the To-Do lists from the previous Days so that they can clearly see how much they’ve learned and how much better prepared they are this time than ever before.  We are confident that, like our other dieters, our new class is now ready to start losing weight, and to keep it off for good.