Give Yourself Credit: Charlotte

Charlotte, a 63 year old researcher, is unlike many of our other dieters. She didn’t start dieting until the age of 49.  Since that time, she has tried many different diets but never really succeeded in losing more than a couple of pounds.   About six months before she joined our group, Charlotte started a new, calorie-restrictive diet, and lost 12 pounds.  She joined our group hoping to lose more. As of this week, she’s lost an additional 9 ½ pounds.

One thing Charlotte really needs to work on is giving herself credit, an essential skill (taught on Day 4 of The Beck Diet Solution).  She has a belief that isn’t very useful. She thinks that she won’t deserve credit until she gets to her weight loss goal. But consciously giving yourself credit is very important. It builds the awareness that you’ve learned new skills and are strong and in control, both of which reinforce your self-confidence.  Having this confidence is crucial because if/when you slip up, you can view these slips ups as just momentary mistakes, not as indications that you are helpless or hopeless.

cookies.jpgFor a cookie exchange (she and several of her coworkers each baked batches of their favorite cookies to trade with one another) Charlotte baked seven-dozen chocolate chip cookies – and she didn’t eat a single one.  She reported this to the group and talked about how discouraging it was that even though she didn’t eat the cookies, she was tempted to.  Once again, Charlotte had not given herself credit!  To make her do this, we had Charlotte list all of the times she didn’t eat cookies, even when she wanted to.  It turns out there were many, many times she had to exert self control and read her Advantages List (Day 1):  While she was making the cookies, so she didn’t taste the batter.  While the cookies were cooling.  When she was packing the cookies into tins.  While the cookies were in her car. And finally, right before she dropped them off.   Viewed in this light, Charlotte realized that she deserved lots of credit because all these were instances in the past when she had eaten cookies.  But this time she stayed strong because she knew she’d rather lose weight than eat lots of cookies.  Losing weight and feeling good about herself were worth more than the momentary pleasure of eating.  

Planned Indulgences: Lori

Lori, a 44 year old attorney, started dieting at the age of 14.  She says that she has attempted to lose weight, “too many times to count,” and has tried at least 5 different diets throughout the years.  In the past she’s lost as much as 35 pounds but started gaining it back within the year.  Lori has currently lost 32 pounds and is still going strong.  In general Lori says that she does not have a very big sweet tooth – almost always if she wanted a snack she would go for something salty, not sweet.  However, the one exception to this rule is a special chocolate cake she gets once a year at a retreat in January. 

One of the main things we try to teach our dieters is the importance of being able to work planned indulgences into their diets.  Deprivation diets and diets that are overly restrictive are just not sustainable over a long period of time because eventually life circumstances will intrude (birthdays, holidays, celebrations, etc).  If your diet does not allow for these types of occasions, chances are eventually you won’t be able to stick to it.  We want our dieters to become accustomed now to eating in a way they can maintain for the rest of their lives. cake.jpg

The retreat was last weekend, and even though Lori is currently on a diet and trying to lose weight, she did not have to forgo the chocolate cake she loves so much.  Instead, Lori decided that she would plan in advance to have a slice of cake, knowing it may slow down her weight loss for that week.  If she didn’t plan ahead of time to eat the cake, Lori knew that when she saw it she would really want it and would feel either very deprived, or would give in, eat it, and feel guilty.  Planning to have the cake allowed Lori to eat a reasonable amount and not feel deprived. 

At the meeting on Monday, Lori reported that she ate exactly what she had planned, that the chocolate cake was just as delicious as she remembered, and she enjoyed every bite.

Tolerating Hunger: Susan

Susan returned last night from her 10 day business trip and after weighing in today, was so pleased to see that she lost weight.   After a week and a half of eating out for two meals each day and having very little control over her food choices, Susan could very easily have gained several pounds, so the fact that she actually lost is a real triumph. 

Susan says that the most important thing she learned during her trip was that it’s ok to feel hungry (discussed on Day 12 of The Beck Diet Solution).  Dieters often think that they should never be hungry, and that feeling hungry is somehow bad or wrong.  Many dieters doubt their ability to tolerate hunger and so do things to avoid it, such as overeat at meals to ensure they don’t feel hungry before the next one, eat too many times throughout the day, or bulk up on food that are considered “free” on their diets.  Susan herself used to do many of these things; in particular, she would snack throughout the day, thinking she would be unbearably hungry if she didn’t.   

bizmtg2.jpgHowever, while she was on the trip, Susan found herself in meetings all day long.  For most of the time, she either wasn’t given snacks, or when they were provided they were foods not on her plan so she couldn’t eat them.  Susan often felt hungry between meals and for the first time gave herself no choice but to put up with it.  This was a very important experience for her to have because she now realizes that it’s ok to feel hungry sometimes and that she most certainly can tolerate it.  If Susan had given in to her hunger between meals, she would have eaten whatever snack they provided and most likely would have ended up gaining weight this week.  She is happy that she lost weight and more importantly that she learned not to fear hunger.  It’s a skill that will help her continue to lose weight and keep it off permanently. 

Movie Theater Popcorn: Brenda

popcorn.gifBrenda loves going to the movies, partly because she loves movie theater popcorn.  In the past, she would get a large tub of popcorn every time she went – even when she was trying to diet.  Brenda would say to herself,  “It’s ok to eat this because I’m at the movies. Everyone is eating popcorn.”  Just as people give themselves permission to overeat at parties or on special occasions (“It’s ok to eat this. Everyone else is, and besides, I’m celebrating”), Brenda was fooling herself in thinking it was ok to eat popcorn just because she was at the movies (discussed on Day 19 of The Beck Diet Solution).  After she joined our group, Brenda realized that she had just been fooling herself and that there doesn’t have to be a connection between the movie theater and eating popcorn (Day 26).  

A few weeks after Brenda started carefully planning and monitoring her eating (Day 15), she went again to the movies but didn’t plan to eat any popcorn. However, when she got there, she found herself overwhelmed by the smell and the sound of people eating one of her favorite foods, so she gave into her craving and bought popcorn.  We looked at this experience to see what Brenda could learn from it and decided that next time she went to the movies, she would plan in advance to have popcorn, knowing that when she got there she would really want it (Day 16). 

Brenda went to the movies again and she indeed had planned in advance to have some popcorn.  But because it is so caloric, she didn’t get to eat as much as she wanted and still felt vaguely unsatisfied.  Brenda realized that she either had to come to terms with the limited amount she could eat, or give it up.  Brenda decided on the latter, knowing she’d rather spend her calories on something more satisfying.  The next time Brenda went to the movies, she read her Advantages List (Day 1) and although she was tempted by the smell, once she firmly told herself “NO CHOICE” (Day 13) the craving for popcorn passed and Brenda watched the movie in peace. 

Brenda was extremely proud of herself for resisting popcorn and gave herself lots of credit for her ability to withstand the craving (Day 4).  She has now been to the movies three more times and has easily passed on popcorn each time. 

Prepare for Travel: Susan

suitcase1.jpgIn a few days Susan is leaving for a business trip.  Knowing that eating and dieting can be much trickier when traveling, we sat down with Susan to devise an eating strategy for her trip (a skill discussed on Day 32 of The Beck Diet Solution).   Eating at conferences can be difficult because mainly Susan will have to eat what they serve her.  However, there are some small but crucial measures she can take to ensure that she stays within her diet. 

First, we discussed with Susan her need and entitlement to make demands about how her food is prepared (Day 8).  If she were diabetic or had serious health problems, she would not think twice about asking for her food to be prepared to her specifications.  We reminded Susan that she truly is on a “medical diet” – indeed her doctor did tell her she needs to lose weight to be healthy – so she should not hesitate to speak up. One important modification Susan should make is to ask for her vegetables to be steamed, not sautéed in oil or butter.  Another small change is make sure she gets her protein (fish, chicken, etc) grilled or broiled and with whatever sauce it is served with on the side.  That way she can choose how much, if any, she wants to use.  A third is for when she eats salad, ask for the dressing on the side, and always request a low-fat (or fat free) alternative.  Because she is actually trying to lose weight and not maintain, Susan also decided that she will forgo desserts because she will not be able to accurately figure out the calorie-count.  Instead, she can ask for fruit. (Day 30)

We also helped Susan devise several rules for herself that she will strictly follow while she is traveling.  Setting rules is an important way to make dieting easier because it eliminates the struggle about whether or not you should or shouldn’t eat something (Day 16).  Susan’s rules are:

1. Absolutely no dessert (except for fruit)

2. No Bread at dinner

3. No heavy sauces (on protein, salad, etc)

4. Only drink black coffee

5. No alcohol, including wine and mixed drinks.

We made Susan copies of her Rules so she can read them several times a day in preparation for travel, and while she is actually at the conference as well.  Lastly, we talked about what to do if she slips up on her diet and engages in unplanned eating.  If this happens, Susan needs to get back on track immediately, and not compound the problem by continuing to eat more (Day 20).  With her eating strategy in place, Susan now feels confident that she can travel and stay on her plan.

Put Yourself First: Susan

Week 28 and our dieters continue to lose weight! 

One of our dieters, Susan, initially lost 7 pounds.  During the holiday season, however, she gained a few pounds back and then her weight stagnated – she didn’t gain anymore, but she didn’t then continue to lose either.  Susan said that she spent all weekend deciding whether or not she really wanted to lose weight, and whether or not she was ready to fully commit herself to the endeavor. She made a new Advantages List (discussed on Day 1 of The Beck Diet Solution) and thought about the value of each item on the list and how important they all were to her. 

Susan came to the realization that she had been consistently putting others first – her family, friends, and clients.  She hadn’t been making dieting a priority, making sure she had enough time and energy to do what she needed to do (Day 8), such as buying the necessary food at the supermarket, cooking meals, taking time to eat slowly and while sitting down (Days 3 and 5), and exercising (Day 9).  Susan also realized, though, that in order to be able to fully help everyone in her life, she had to first make sure that she was in good health – physically and emotionally.  She came to the decision that she was going to put herself first and make dieting her #1 priority, because her health and sense of well-being depend on it. 

Getting Through Hard Times: Maria

Week 27 of our Diet Group and our dieters are finally returning to a normal schedule and putting the holiday season firmly behind them.  In our meeting on Monday we talked about the importance of preparing for the hard times.  Most of the time dieting is pretty easy and doesn’t take much effort.  But every once in a while it can get very difficult, due to a particularly strong craving (discussed in Day 13 of The Beck Diet Solution), a situation in which you can’t control the food, such as while traveling (Day 32), or being surrounded by tempting food, such as at a party or restaurant (Day 30).  It is for such times we are trying to prepare our dieters, so that they can be in these situations and handle them with relative ease.

cheese.jpgMaria had a very hard week.  Her daughter was ill and so Maria has been up many nights tending to her. In addition to the stress of a sick child, Maria has also been very sleep-deprived.  Consequently, she found herself again having cravings for foods like cheese (a problem food for her in the past), which she hasn’t craved in a quite a while (Day 33).  “The cheese was literally calling out to me,” Maria says.  But did she answer the calling? “No, I knew it was just a craving and that I didn’t have to give into it,” Maria answered.  By labeling it a “craving” and differentiating it from actual hunger, Maria, even stressed and tired, was able to see that her desire wasn’t an emergency and she didn’t have to give into it (Day 11).  Maria reports that she held firm and didn’t eat any cheese, and is so happy that she kept her eating under control even in these stressful circumstances.  Maria lost 3 pounds this week.

Weighing In: Brenda

We have now reached the six-month mark for our diet group. Our dieters are all back to work and recovering from the holiday season.  For the most part, they maintained their weight this week, which was the major goal.  Some of our dieters report that, in the past, they gained five or more pounds over the Christmas/New Year’s week, so they were thrilled to step on the scale and find that they hadn’t gained any weight at all!

Speaking of stepping on the scale, one of the ideas we discussed during out meeting yesterday was how important weighing yourself is (a skill learned in Day 21 of The Beck Diet Solution).  Some of our dieters do it only once a week, at our meeting, and some do it every morning at home.  But whether it’s every day or once a week, weighing yourself is extremely important to weight loss and weight maintenance (Chapter 12 of The Beck Diet Solution).  Sometimes our dieters don’t want to weigh in at the meeting if they think they’ve gained weight, but we discussed how it’s most important to weigh in at these times!  Not weighing yourself allows you to stick your head in the sand and not face the problem, if there is one.   

Brenda says that this is an issue she’s struggled with before.  In the past, when she was dieting and losing weight Brenda would weigh herself consistently. But the moment she feared she’d put on a pound or two, she would avoid the scale. This prevented her from identifying and fixing any problems. And even though she didn’t get on the scale, she would feel demoralized, would continue to eat out of control, and then would gain back all the weight she had lost. This time, though, Brenda is doing things differently.  She’s weighing in every week during our group meeting and she just made a New Year’s resolution to weigh herself every day at home.

Get Back on Track: Roxanne

Our dieters are doing well despite all of the added pressures of the holiday season.  This week, almost everyone lost weight.  In our group, we discussed how they had eaten differently during previous Christmases. One dieter, Roxanne, summed up the group’s general sentiment best, saying she used to: “Eat until I bust!”

Roxanne, 47, has been struggling with dieting since the age of 25.  At one point, she lost 25 pounds and kept it off for about 2 years. Historically Roxanne’s biggest problem has been giving into cravings.  When she felt a strong urge to eat something, she usually did, telling herself “It’s ok to eat this because… I really want it; I’ll eat it eventually; I’ll have just a little; this one time won’t matter.”  Overcoming cravings and sticking to her food plans (a skill learned on Day 13 of The Beck Diet Solution) has helped Roxanne lose a total of 33 ½ pounds so far!

chicksalad.gifRoxanne is also becoming deft at making smart food choices.  She knew that last week she would be shopping and eating out a lot more than usual and had to be extra vigilant about not taking in too many calories (Day 30).  She made a rule for herself for this holiday season:  to order a salad whenever she ate lunch out. This rule eliminated a struggle about what she would and wouldn’t allow herself to eat. She stuck fast to this rule. One day, without thinking about it, she ordered breaded, fried chicken on her salad instead of grilled chicken.  But she didn’t criticize herself. She didn’t decide that she had blown her diet and therefore should eat out of control for the rest of the day.  Instead, she was able to get back on track immediately (Day 20).  She viewed the fried chicken as a momentary slip up and continued to eat normally for the rest of day, knowing that one minor mistake would not affect her weight at the end of the week.

Despite the holiday season, Roxanne lost 2 pounds this week.

Don’t Fool Yourself: Brenda

Another Beck Diet Solution Dieter is Brenda, a 49 year-old self-described lover of carbs.  Throughout the past two decades, Brenda has tried dieting at least 20 times. But whenever she lost weight, she always gained it back in less time than it had taken her to lose it.  Brenda started out our group on a carb-counting diet. After she had lost 18 pounds in five months, her weight loss stagnated –  she was fooling herself by allowing too many carbs to creep back into her diet. (“It won’t really matter if I don’t count [this carb-heavy food].”)

Brenda had two choices: cut her carbs again or switch diets (a skill learned in Day 2 of The Beck Diet Solution). She decided to switch to a program in which she counts points (analogous to counting calories) so she could have more of what she loves: carbs.

Two weeks ago Brenda made the switch and has now already gone down another 1 ½ pounds.  At this week’s meeting, we discussed a breakfast she planned to eat at her favorite restaurant in a few days. This was a typical breakfast she used to have when she wasn’t dieting. Again we discovered that Brenda was “fooling herself” (Day 19) – this time, by not taking into account all ingredients (especially the butter and half and half) that would go into the breakfast. She was shocked to see how many points it would use up. (In the description below, we’ve converted points to calories.).

2 Eggs: 180 Calories
2 Pieces of Rye Toast: 160 Calories
4 Pieces of Bacon: 200 Calories
Butter/Oil (for cooking and for toast): 200 Calories
½ and ½ (for coffee): 40 Calories

=780 Calories

What Brenda thought would be a reasonable breakfast turned out to contain more than 2/3rds of her points allotment for the entire day.  Our diet group members suggested reasonable alternatives:

3 Egg Whites: 51 Calories
1 Piece of Wheat Toast: 65 Calories
2 Pieces Turkey Bacon: 70 Calories
Butter: 36 Calories
Nonfat Milk: 15 Calories

=237 Calories

Brenda realized that it just wasn’t worth it to eat the original meal she had planned when she could be satisfied with something similar. This was an important learning experience for Brenda and the group—how easy it is too fool yourself about how much you’re eating.