Introducing Jamie

Jamie, 34, is a dieter with whom I (Deborah Beck Busis) worked a few years ago.  By following the Beck Diet Solution program, she lost 25 pounds and kept it off for over three years.  Then something big happened in Jamie’s life – she changed jobs. All of a sudden she found that she was working much longer hours and she was a great deal more stressed.  A lot of things started to slide in Jamie’s life:  she saw her friends less, she took less time to enjoy things like going to the movies, and her eating habits and food choices gradually changed (and not for the better!). 

In the past Jamie had been good at planning meals and snacks and eating them at regularly scheduled intervals.  With her new job, this became very difficult because not only was she working longer hours, but she also did not have any set or guaranteed time at work for lunch and snacks.   Jamie also found it increasingly hard to get to the supermarket to buy the healthy and good foods she was used to eating, not only because she had less time but also when she did have free time, she was exhausted.  Jamie found herself starting to return to some of her old, unhealthy habits, like just grazing during the day, not always eating a planned lunch, and often giving in and eating whatever junk food was in the break room.  Jamie also found herself routinely buying lunch from not so healthy places and picking up junk food to eat for snacks.  In part this was because Jamie’s schedule made it hard for her to buy healthy foods, but it part it was also because Jamie was feeling bad and stressed at work often, and she was turning back to these “comfort” foods to try to feel better. 

These changes didn’t occur overnight; rather, it took quite a few months for the old habits to slowly start slipping back in, so at first Jamie did not really notice what was happening. Soon enough it started to feel normal for her to eat in this way, and she forgot how pleased she used to be with her healthy eating habits and how great they allowed her to look and feel.  Jamie slowly started gaining back the weight she had lost and successfully kept off for over three years, and started feeling badly again about how she looked.  Another telling change: Jamie stopped weighing herself every morning and started avoiding the scale completely. Jamie was conscious of the fact that she stopped weighing herself, but was not able to respond to the sabotaging thoughts that got in the way of getting on the scale. 

Eventually, Jamie quit her stressful job after about a year and a half.  Not because it caused her to gain weight and feel bad about herself, but because the stress of it began to affect other areas of her life, too.  Because she was still managing to follow some of the cognitive-behavioral skills and techniques and respond to some of her sabotaging thoughts, Jamie gained back some of the weight she had lost, (about 12 pounds) but not all.  Jamie was lucky to get a new, less stressful job, which allowed her the freedom to eat regular meals because she was guaranteed a set lunch hour, the hours were less demanding, and she again had time and energy to shop for and prepare healthy foods. 

Jamie also took this opportunity to come see me again with the intention of relearning and fortifying her skills so that she could get back to the healthy lifestyle (and weight) she had previously mastered.   Many entries you will see on this blog in the coming weeks will document Jamie’s struggles and successes as she attempts to lose weight again, and her sense of pride and delight she gets once she is again able to motivate herself to follow a healthy lifestyle.

Want to Lose Weight? Eat Breakfast

Breakfast is often touted to be the most important meal of the day. Your mother may have told you that, but if you’re like many people, you skip it anyway. Recent research now backs up your mother’s advice. The conclusion of researchers at the University of Missouri who studied the topic is that people who eat a balanced breakfast, especially one high in protein, experience less hunger throughout the day.

The dieters in our cognitive behavioral program for weight loss and maintenance often come in skipping breakfast. They say they don’t have time; they aren’t hungry in the morning; they would rather save their calories for later in the day. First we provide them with psychoeducation about the importance of eating breakfast. Second, we do problem-solving to help them find the time. Third, we help them respond to sabotaging thoughts that are likely to get in the way of their adopting this new habit.

When dieters say they don’t have enough time in the morning, we discuss which a.m. tasks they can omit, postpone, do the night before, delegate to other people, or spend less time on (at least temporarily, until breakfast becomes an easy routine).  Sabotaging thoughts often get in the way:

  • I don’t want to get up earlier.
  • I can’t leave dishes (even rinsed ones) in the sink.
  • My (adolescent) kids won’t like it if I ask them to make their own lunches.
  • I’d rather pick out my clothes in the morning.
  • I can’t ask my husband to help out with the kids.

We help them create written responses to these kinds of thoughts that remind them that it’s unrealistic to believe that continuing to skip breakfast will lead to success—after all, it hasn’t in the past. There may, in fact, be a physiological reason why people who struggle to lose weight tend to eat too much later on in the day. And the changes they make to free  up time for breakfast will soon become second nature.

When dieters say they aren’t hungry in the morning, we try to find out what times during the day they are hungry, and what their eating patterns are like.  They often have the sabotaging thought:

  • I’m not hungry in the morning and I’d rather save my calories for later in the day.

Upon questioning, we invariably find that these dieters consume most of their calories in the evening, often eating right up until they go to bed. No wonder they’re not hungry in the morning. But according to research (and our own clinical experience) skipping breakfast may indeed lead to less control over eating later on. We ask them to do an experiment for at least a couple of weeks: eat a protein-rich breakfast and then monitor their day and evening eating. Almost everyone ends up with the same conclusion: eating (a balanced) breakfast really helps them eat more reasonably for the rest of the day. It turns out Mom was right after all.

Leidy, H. J., Lepping, R. J., Savage, C. R., & Harris, C. T. (5 May 2011).  Neural Responses to Visual Food Stimuli After a Normal vs. Higher Protein Breakfast in Breakfast-Skipping Teens: A Pilot fMRI Study. Obesity Journal, (1-7). doi:10.1038/oby.2011.108

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to the Beck Diet Solution Blog!  Although there hasn’t been too much activity on this blog in recent months, we are now ready to post regularly.  I’m Deborah Beck Busis, LSW, the Diet Program Coordinator at the Beck Institute.  I work closely with Dr. Judith Beck and we will be collaborating to bring you information about up-to-date research studies, stories from our dieters, responses to questions, diet session transcripts, and much more.  We hope you’ll enjoy our postings and find them useful for yourself or dieters you are working with.  As always, we invite any feedback you may have about the blog, what you’ve seen on it, and what you would like to see in the future.

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