Nighttime Struggles

In session this week, my client, Rebecca, told me that nighttime (specifically the hours between dinner and bedtime) was hard for her lately. She found herself having to continually fight off cravings, and it was wearing her down. I asked Rebecca two questions: 1) Did she have a plan for exactly what she’d eat in the evening? and 2) Was she craving things that were in her house currently or things that she’d have to go out and get? Rebecca told me that she didn’t have an exact plan for the evenings (she used to make one, but that habit had somehow dropped off her radar), and that she was craving food that was in her kitchen.

Those answers did not surprise me, and I predicted that they were both at the root of her trouble. First, not having a strong plan in the evening (especially since evening has historically been Rebecca’s ice cream servingshardest time) is a recipe for trouble. If she didn’t know exactly what she was going to eat, then it’s no wonder she was having lots of cravings because everything in her kitchen felt like an option. During her quiet moments, her mind was invariably scrolling through the possibilities of all the things she could eat, and cravings were the inevitable result. Going back to planning in advance exactly what she would eat in the evening will hopefully cut out a lot of the cravings. Her brain will know exactly what she’s going to eat, and therefore can focus on one food instead of many.

Second, the fact that Rebecca craved food currently in her house likely made her cravings a lot stronger because the food was right there, easily within her reach. Cravings for food outside the house are generally easier to resist because of the effort involved in going to get them (no instant gratification!). I asked Rebecca if, in addition to not planning her evening snack, she had also lapsed into bringing too much junk food into her house. Rebecca realized that she had.

For a while, she was good at keeping things like ice cream and cookies out of her house. It wasn’t that she didn’t eat these foods, but on nights she planned to have them, she brought in single servings at a time. Keeping her house a craving-free environment was critical to Rebecca’s early success in curbing her constant nighttime eating. Again, it’s no wonder that Rebecca was struggling so much in the evening – she had way too many tempting foods right at her fingertips. Rebecca agreed to get rid of the junk food (and/or ask her husband to keep the things he wanted to have in his home office) and go back to bringing in single servings.

With these two action plans in place Rebecca felt much better about her ability to return to more peaceful evenings!

It’s Where You Put Your Focus

Her basic mindset was, “This trip is hard and it’s a struggle.” I wanted her to switch her mindset to, “This is trip is hard and it’s a struggle, but I’m doing really well! I’m triumphing!”

Scale Avoidance

Today I had a session with my client, Jane. I hadn’t had a session with Jane in a few months. She told me she has been feeling somewhat off track over the last few weeks. She also told me that her portions have gotten bigger again and she’s snacking at random times throughout the day, among other difficulties.

Sticking to a Plan

When I saw that what we were doing just wasn’t working, I knew we had to try a different strategy. As usual, I asked Katie to describe some of the situations from the past week in which she went off track. She told me that she ate a roll at dinner when she didn’t plan to and she had unplanned desserts in the evening.

Recommitting

If you’ve gotten off track with your New Year’s resolution, this is exactly what you need to do, too! Stop expecting yourself to do everything and instead figure out what feels completely doable this week. Recommit to it, do it (and give yourself so much credit for doing so!), and then add one or more things next week.

Getting Weekends Under Control

The Cycle of Maintenance

Not enough is written about maintaining a weight loss, and this is a problem because for most dieters, that’s where the real work begins. Losing weight is unquestionably difficult but it comes with enormous positive reinforcement – watching the scale go down, fitting into clothes, getting compliments, etc.  Weight maintenance has many fewer new and motivating milestones and it becomes about getting ourselves to keep doing what we’re doing, even though most of the excitement has passed. Read more

In Session with Debbie: Slipping

This week I had a session with my dieter, Rachel, whom I previously hadn’t seen in about eight months because she no longer needed weekly sessions.  Rachel got in touch with me because she noticed that her weight had gone up a few pounds and so we agreed that we would have a session or two to help her get completely back on track. 

In session, the first thing I did was give Rachel lots of credit because she was able to recognize that she was slipping in places (which was causing her to gain weight) and she faced the problem head-on, instead of waiting a few weeks or months or more (which could easily have turned a 5 pound weight gain into a 15 pound or more weight gain). 

Rachel and I then discussed what things she had led slide lately and what old habits had been slowly creeping back.  Here are the areas that Rachel identified as needing work:

1.  Eating standing up.  Instead of really being aware of everything that she was eating and making it a priority to eat sitting down, Rachel realized that she had lapsed back into eating while she was cooking, while she was clearing the dishes, and while she was making her kids’ lunches. While it wasn’t a whole lot of extra food, it certainly did start to add up at the end of the day/week.    

2. Snacking with her kids.  Before we began working together, Rachel would always snack with her kids and eat whatever they were having, without really thinking about it. One of the changes we had instituted was that Rachel had specific snack times during the day when she would have healthy snacks, not the crackers and snacky foods her kids ate.  Rachel realized that she had slowly started getting away from deliberate snack times and had again started to eat whatever and whenever her kids did.  

3. Eating whenever she felt hungry or just wanted to eat.  Another change that Rachel and I had worked on was helping her overcome her fear of hunger and eat at specific times, to ensure that she didn’t overeat during the day (which was a risk because she worked from home).  Rachel told me that she had started to do things like go into the kitchen whenever she felt like eating and having something, instead of waiting until her next meal or snack.

4. Keeping serving bowls on the table at dinner.  Rachel had also decided a while ago that it was best to not keep big serving dishes on the table during meals because the extra food would tempt her and she would often end up having seconds, even though she didn’t need them.  Removing the serving bowls enabled Rachel to just concentrate on what was on her plate and not constantly fight against the temptation to have more.  Rachel realized that over the past few months, serving dishes had reappeared on the dinner table, which meant that Rachel sometimes took and ate more food than she needed. 

Rachel and I then discussed exactly how she would get herself to correct these old habits and fortify her new, helpful habits.  We also reviewed Rachel’s Advantages List and all of the wonderful benefits she has already experienced from losing weight, so that Rachel would remember exactly why it was worth it to her to get herself back in line and how much better she would feel as a result of doing so.

Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Ideal Weight

Question:  I have read the book, re-read parts, and implemented the techniques but the scale is not budging.  I have stayed within the same 2 pounds for at least 3 months – even with exercising 5-6 days per week and cutting my calories.  I am afraid the answer may be to accept this weight and call it maintenance because I cannot see adding more exercise or decreasing calories as I am already doing what I think is the most I can.  BUT- I am not totally comfortable at this weight and I only have about 10 pounds to lose to be at my ideal weight.  Any feedback would be appreciated. 

Answer: I first want to tell you about our concept of ‘ideal weight’ – it’s the weight that you get down to when you’re eating and exercising in a healthy way that you can maintain.   Now this weight may not the weight of your thinnest friend, it may not be the weight you were at in college, and it almost definitely isn’t the weight of the celebrities we see on television.  In our minds, your ideal weight is the weight that you can get down to and stay at, not the weight that you can get down to, then gain some weight back, then work on losing it again, then gaining it back again.  We just don’t believe that it’s worth getting down to a weight that you ultimately can’t maintain (by either exercising or eating in a way that is not sustainable) because you’ll just gain it back and then feel very discouraged.

It’s also important to know that most people, when they lose weight, get down to what we call their lowest achievable weight. However, most people don’t stay there! They eventually end up relaxing their habits just a bit and gaining a few pounds back and end up leveling off at we call their lowest maintainable weight.  Their lowest achievable weight is probably not their lowest maintainable weight because it would require intense focus on their eating and exercise. 

 Without knowing the specifics of your situation, it sounds like you likely are right around your ideal weight (in the way we define it), and at either your lowest achievable or lowest maintainable weight – it’s hard to tell at this point.  Remember, losing weight is basically a matter of calories in and calories out.  So could you lose more weight? Of course you could if you cut your calories really low and/or exercised an abnormally high amount.  But those things are never maintainable, so it’s not worth it because the only thing that will happen is you’ll get down to a weight that you can’t maintain.

 All this being said, it doesn’t mean you have to be at all unhappy with where you are now.  In fact, you should be extremely proud of yourself for the weight you did lose and for all of the hard work and dedication you put into it. Instead of focusing on the 10 pounds you didn’t lose, think instead about all of the weight you did lose. Even if you’re not quite at the weight you wanted to get down to starting out, think about what life was like at your higher weight and before you really gained control over your eating. My guess is that life is different and better now in so many ways.  Do you feel better about yourself? Are you fitting into more clothes? Are you happier with what you see in the mirror?  Can you do more activities and/or do them more easily?  Are you less self-conscious? Do you have fewer aches and pains?  Is your health at all improved?  Do you feel less at the mercy of hunger and cravings? Do you no longer fear going into situations in which there will be a lot of tempting food? Do you feel better about your ability to exercise?

Likely you’ve already experienced many benefits of losing weight, and it’s important to recognize them.  You can also ask yourself:  How would my life really be different if I lost another 10 pounds? Would the differences be so significant?  Is it possible that I’m already experiencing many of the things I wanted to achieve, even though the number on the scale isn’t what I initially had in mind?  It sounds like it may be worth working on changing your concept of your own ideal weight, feeling proud about where you are, and move forward appreciating all the wonderful changes that have come about as a result of losing weight.