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Amy’s Business Trip

Amy came in this week feeling quite defeated. Although she had previously been doing quite well with making food plans and sticking to them, she had been on a business trip earlier this week and hadn’t been able to write down her food. She viewed the trip as a complete “failure,” which left her feeling demoralized and unmotivated. As soon as I heard this, I realized very quickly that Amy was probably catastrophizing the trip, and viewing it as much worse than it actually was. I asked Amy what she had done right on the trip, and initially she couldn’t think of anything.  I then asked her if she had practiced any of her other skills during the trip. After thinking about it, Amy admitted that she was still very conscious of eating everything slowly, sitting down, and while enjoying every bite. Even though she ate at restaurants for every meal, Amy said that she always worked hard to make smart food decisions and never finished the whole portion she was served.  She also consistently resisted the cookies and muffins that were served throughout the day as snacks, and she always chose fresh fruit for dessert instead.  And because of all these things she was doing right, Amy didn’t gain a single pound on her trip.

It can be hard to believe that in light of all these things, Amy could have viewed this trip as a complete failure, but this happens often to dieters. They tend to focus only on the things they are doing wrong, or not as well, and completely discount all of the many, many things they are doing right. I asked Amy to take another, more objective look at her trip. When squarely faced with a list of all the things she deserved credit for, Amy was able to realize that the trip wasn’t a failure even a little bit – in fact, for the most part it was actually a huge success. Once she stopped catastrophizing and put the trip in perspective, Amy immediately felt better and even more confident about her ability to handle trips in the future.

Sue: Part 7, Fear of Losing Control

Sue is still afraid that if she eats something wrong, she’ll lose control and not be able to get back in control. We had the following discussion:

Sue: I’m just afraid that one false step will be the beginning of the end.

Dr. Beck: How many times in the past few months have you taken a false step?

Sue: A fair number, I guess.

Dr. Beck: And how many times did you start on the path of serious weight gain?

Sue: Never.

Dr. Beck: And why is that?

Sue: Well, it’s because I’m learning to see something as an isolated mistake. I’m learning how to get back on track right away. I’m still motivating myself by reading my list of reasons to lose weight. And other stuff.

Dr. Beck: That’s exactly right. It’s because you now know exactly what to do when you stray, and you know how to get yourself to do it.

Sue and I agreed that she needed to keep track of all the instances in which making one mistake did NOT lead to her losing control. We also agreed that this month, Sue would reread The Beck Diet Solution. She plans to take notes in the margins about what she can do if there ever does come a time when she starts to gain weight back.

This exercise will serve as a good reminder for Sue that all the skills she needs to stay on track are there in black and white, for her whole life. I think this will also provide her with a good measure of relief.

BACK TO BASICS

 

Marta was dismayed. After 20 months of maintaining her weight loss with relative ease, she had gone off track and had gained back five pounds.

 

“I wouldn’t mind it so much if I had decided in advance to eat more,” she said, “but that’s not what happened. A couple of weeks ago, we had company for the weekend. I was fine at first, but then everyone else was eating and drinking so much, that I wanted to, too. I just stopped using my usual weekend plan. So by Monday morning, I had gained two pounds. I felt really bad about that, and I was okay for the next couple of days. But then, for some reason, I started snacking too much after dinner. I’d have that old sabotaging thought, ‘I’ve eaten too much. I might as well start again tomorrow.’ I didn’t go way overboard the way I used to, but I did eat more than usual for the rest of that week and this week, like larger portions at meals, bread and butter at dinner, and extra snacks at night. I keep promising myself that I’m going to get back in control but I can’t seem to do it. My weight is up and I’m afraid I’ll just keep gaining more.”

 

Marta and I talked about the two choices she could make:

 

  1. She could plan to eat extra food, including bread and butter at dinner and an extra snack at night. It would be planned eating, though, not spontaneous deviations from her plan. Depending on how many extra calories she planned to have, she might gain a little more weight, plateau at her current weight, or lose a little.
  2. She could go back to her previous plan and lose the five pounds she had gained.

 

Either plan was completely legitimate and either way, she’d need to go back to practicing her daily CT skills (e.g., reading her Advantages Deck and Response Cards right after dinner, going to her Distraction Box if she felt the urge to eat unplanned snacks).

 

Marta called me several days after our “booster” session. She was back on track, felt in control, and didn’t need another appointment. I asked her what had made the biggest difference. She said going back to the basic CT skills had done the trick.

How to Keep Your Weight Loss Resolution

 

If you want to be successful, DON’T START OUT BY DIETING! In my experience, the major reason that people have difficulty losing weight or keeping it off is that they jump right into following an eating plan before they have learned how to diet.

           

Almost anyone can lose at least a little weight; you don’t necessarily need dieting skills to do so. But you do need these skills if you want to continue to lose weight and keep weight off. You need to learn exactly what to do when dieting gets harder. And it does get harder—for everyone–sometimes within the first week or two, sometimes not for a month or two. People often give up because they don’t have the skills to push through the difficult times. Then they regain whatever weight they have lost.

           

 If you’ve only sailed a boat in calm waters, you don’t want to leave on an extended trip without knowing what to do when the going gets tough. You might be able to navigate well when the ocean is calm, but look out if the weather gets rough! You need to learn foul weather skills in advance.

 

It’s the same with dieting. You don’t want to run into a rough patch and be ill-equipped to handle it. You need to learn, before you run into a squall, how to motivate yourself when you’re feeling unmotivated, how to refocus your attention when you have a craving, how to stick to a plan when you’re eating out, and how to get back on track immediately when you make a mistake. These skills are not intuitively obvious, but they can be learned in a step-by-step program. It’s too difficult for most people to focus on changing their eating while they’re learning these skills. That’s why I recommend postponing the start of your diet until you know what to do in stormy weather.