Specific Advantages

The Advantages List – a list of all the reasons why people want to lose weight – is one of the most important tools that dieters have to help keep their motivation and discipline high (discussed on Day 1 of The Beck Diet Solution).  This week, our dieter Rose was having trouble figuring out how to make her food plan for a holiday dinner she has coming up.  She was talking about all of the different dishes that would be served and how she would feel deprived if she didn’t get to eat them all.  We discussed with Rose her options: either she could plan to eat a very small amount of a lot of different dishes (in which case she might end up feeling less satisfied both psychologically and physically) or a larger portion of just a few dishes.  Rose said that while feeling satisfied is really important to her, she thinks she’ll just feel too deprived if she doesn’t get to try everything. 

To help, we reminded Rose of several things.  First of all, chances are likely that this won’t be her last opportunity to eat any of these foods. Even if she opts not to eat them this week, they will come up again in the future.  Second we told Rose that if she chooses the first option, to eat small portions of many different things, she very well might still feel hungry but that’s ok.  Hunger is never an emergency and there is always another meal coming. 

Last we had to spell out the reality of the situation: either way Rose is going to be deprived.  Either she’s going to be deprived of eating everything at the holiday dinner, or she’s going to be deprived of all of the things on her Advantages List (being able to move around easily, having self-confidence, feeling better about herself, being healthier).  Either way she’s going to be deprived, and which, to her, would be the bigger deprivation?

One thing that has been helpful to our dieters recently is making their Advantages List more specific.  Instead of just listing, “I want to have more energy,” one dieter instead wrote, “I want to have more energy so I can go up and down stairs easily; so I can get the house in order in the evenings; so I can enjoy going out with friends on weekends without feeling tired.” Specific phrases create clear pictures in dieters’ minds of what they want to achieve.  We got Rose to ask herself: Would I rather be deprived of eating everything at the holiday dinner—or would I rather be deprived of feeling confident when I go to my son-in-law’s birthday party next week, being able to wear a regular sized seatbelt on the plane to Florida next month, and of being able to wear the special black dress I bought three years ago? Put in that way, the answer was clear to Rose. She’s now heading into her holiday dinner with much more resolve and confidence because she knows specifically why it’s worth it to stick to her plan.

We’d love to hear your comments. What specific Advantages do you have?

The First Session

We recently started working with three new dieters and, as always, we covered a lot of material in the first session.  The first thing we go over with new dieters is the importance of making their Advantages List – a card that lists all of the reasons they want to lose weight.  Most dieters can come up with fifteen to twenty reasons for their Advantages List, among them being such things as:

  • I want to have more self-confidence
  • I want to look better.
  • I want to be healthier.
  • I want to have more energy.
  • I want to be less self-conscience.
  • I want to wear more fashionable clothes.

In the beginning, dieters need to read their Advantages Card every single morning so it is always fresh in their mind exactly why they are putting forth all this effort.  Dieters also need to read the card every time they are tempted to eat something they shouldn’t.  This way, they have to squarely face the question, “Do I want the momentary pleasure from eating [this food] or do I want all the advantages on my list – to feel better, to look better, to be healthier, to be able to keep up with my kids, etc.”  In this way, it’s much easier for dieters to resist tempting food, even in the moment, because they are able to see that they’d much rather have all the things on their list. 

Another important topic in our first session is the importance of eating everything slowly, while sitting down, and enjoying every bite.  For some dieters, eating everything sitting down can be a big adjustment, because whether they realize it or not, many people do a significant amount of eating standing up.  Opportunities to eat standing up abound – hor d’oeuvres at cocktail parties, free samples at the grocery store, taste-testing while cooking, picking at leftovers when clearing the table, etc.  And many times dieters just simply don’t remember the food they eat while standing up.  Eating everything slowly, while sitting down, and enjoying every bite is crucial not only so that dieters can be aware of everything they’re eating, but also so that they feel both physically and psychologically satisfied by their meals.   

We also discuss how important it is that dieters not be ashamed of themselves or see themselves as failures because they’re overweight. We emphasize that the reason they haven’t been able to lose weight and keep it off in the past is because they didn’t know how.  Dieting is a skill just like any other, and it takes instruction and practice to become adept at it.  No one would expect to be able to sit behind the wheel of a car for the first time and drive perfectly.  They would need a teacher, practice, and road experience before they became good at driving.  Dieting works in exactly the same way; it’s comprised of a specific set of thinking and behavioral skills. We always leave our dieters with a sense of hope, that this time is going to be different, that this time they can be successful, because this time they are going to learn how!