Dealing with Food Pushers

Laura was bothered by a comment her sister-in-law, Rosemary, made at a family gathering two weeks ago. “Wow, you’ve really lost weight. Well, I don’t know if I can associate with you any more,” she said, with an edge in her voice. Laura knew that Rosemary was probably a little jealous, as her sister-in-law had struggled with her own weight for many years.

Laura was due to have dinner at Rosemary’s house a few days later. She was certain that Rosemary would push dessert on her, as she had many times in the past. If Laura politely declined the dessert, she predicted that Rosemary would challenge her: “Why can’t you eat like a normal person!!”  Laura had a series of unhelpful thoughts that got in the way of her coming up with a solution. She thought: “I can’t displease my sister-in-law.” “It would be terrible if I crossed her.” “I’m not entitled to stick up for myself.”

We discussed several options. Laura was tempted to eat the dessert, just to keep the peace, even though she preferred to have her favorite dessert later at home. But she recognized that she was entitled to stick up for herself and that if she didn’t, Rosemary would continue to try to control her.

Laura felt uncomfortable about being outright assertive. She wasn’t quite ready to say something such as, “Rosemary, please respect my wishes.”  She feared her sister-in-law, who regularly lashed out at people who disagreed with her, would become upset and embarrass Laura. She decided that she would say, “My doctor wants me to eat in a certain way.” Then Laura would immediately change the subject by asking Rosemary a question about her children. If Rosemary then said, “Come on, a little piece of cake won’t hurt you,” Laura was prepared to say, “No thanks. I’m afraid I have to follow doctors’ orders. But let’s talk about something else. How is your mother?”

The encounter went well. As predicted, Rosemary tried twice to get Laura to eat dessert. Laura stood her ground, though. She’s prepared to have a repeat of the experience the next couple of times she eats with Rosemary but she thinks three times will be the charm: her sister-in-law will get the message and stop pushing food on her.

Diet Hurdles and Bumps Along the Way

Andrea, a dieter I’m counseling, was so glad I had prepared her well for a more difficult time. At her second session with me, I asked her to write a response card to read every morning, in preparation for the first day that dieting would seem hard. It said:

 “Dieting is supposed to get hard. That’s okay. Just keep practicing your skills and it will get easy again.”

 Andrea sailed along all fall, losing weight steadily and fairly easily, and she was gaining confidence. But two weeks ago, dieting got harder. Holiday stress, too busy a schedule, not enough sleep, less control over her food—all these factors made it difficult for Andrea to stick to her plan. But she did! She said if she hadn’t been reading the card all along, she would have given up.

It’s perfectly normal and natural for a dieter–no matter how motivated or “good” of a dieter she or he is– to encounter a few bumps along the road.

In fact, the whole thrust of the Beck Diet Solution program is to prepare dieters for the difficult times. EVERY dieter encounters hurdles; some within the first few days, some (like Andrea) not for months, but at some point, dieting gets harder for everyone. It’s supposed to. (Maybe you’re more stressed, maybe you’re experiencing some physiological changes, maybe you’re feeling less motivated, etc.)

If dieting seems easy initially, it’s easy to get fooled and think it will always be easy. Hurdles don’t necessarily crop up at the beginning. Dieters are often so motivated when they first initiate a diet that they easily arrange their lives to make time for dieting (shopping, cooking, etc.), tolerate hunger, etc., and they don’t really experience a hurdle until their motivation flags or their life changes in some way or they feel more stressed. For other dieters, hurdles are experienced even on the first day.  They might, for example, have sabotaging thoughts such as, “I don’t have time to get the food I need.” “I can’t disappoint my friend by having just one drink tonight.”  It’s important for ALL dieters to prepare themselves for the hurdles they’ll experience. Creating (reading, and re-reading, daily) cards with their own advantages for losing weight and their responses to sabotaging thoughts is crucial to overcoming hurdles.