Saturday, August 15, 2009

Last Post about the Beck Diet Solution

Luckily Dr. Beck says that it is ok to take more than one day before you start the next task. I've done fairly well at not eating while standing, but it's not easy. It's most difficult when I'm preparing food or visiting with friends. But I can see why it's important to avoid this, those calories consumed while standing are not acknowledged and won't satisfy your hunger.

I've also been working on the following task which is to give myself credit and acknowledging any eating (not eating) accomplishments. The flip side of giving yourself credit is to not be hard on yourself when you aren't perfect.

Last night I went out to dinner with my best friend who has a toddler that is the same age as mine. I didn't choose the healthiest meal - I ordered balsamic chicken (a lightly breaded chicken breast with a balsalmic cream sauce) with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The chicken wasn't the healthiest choice, but I was happy that I didn't order an appetizer, didn't finish all the potatoes and abstained from eating dessert. The manager even offered us a free dessert since my friend's chicken wasn't thoroughly cooked.

Next task: Eat mindfully and slowly
Another tip I learned from the Geneen Roth principles is to eat slowly. Eating slowly and mindfully is the next task in the Beck Diet Series. It takes twenty minutes for your brain to get the message that you are full. So you can be physically full and continue eating way more than necessary. You also want to enjoy your food, concentrate on the tastes and textures. The slower you eat, the less you eat. I know this works, but will take lots of practice for it to become a habit.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Chocolate Chain of Compromise

A miracle happened at the dollar store this morning. The packages of Miniature Skor bars disappeared from the dollar store chocolate aisle. Somehow, I got out of the store without buying a substitute. I'll admit, that I thought about Junior Mints or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but I decided to resist.

My colleague and I chatted outside at lunch today. I wanted a buy a little carton of chocolate milk, but decided against it. I told her that I was going to strengthen my muscle to resist and forego the chocolate milk. After discussing the nutritional value of chocolate milk, she suggested that I indulge in a healthier alternate to chocolate milk. This made me laugh since chocolate milk is a substitute for a chocolate bar. A chocolate bar is a substitute for a package of dollar store chocolate. A package of dollar store chocolate is a substitute for grocery store chocolate and grocery store chocolate is a substitute for warehouse store chocolate. That's the chocolate chain of compromise.

Today's Task
The next task is to eat sitting down. When you try this you'll find that it's harder than you think. It's important to eat sitting so you are aware of your eating and you are visually satisfied. Just think of all the mindless eating that happens when you are standing (taste testing your cooking, sampling food at the store, snacking in the food court). This is another Geneen Roth guideline that mirrors the Beck Diet Solution. I did not do well after work on this task. Standing up, I mindlessly ate the crust from my baby's toast and sampled the fritata to ensure the temperature was just right.

A note on Previous Tasks
I've prepared a wallet size ARC (Advantage Response Card) for my wallet. My reminder system isn't working well; I'm having trouble reading the card twice daily, and I'm definetely not reading the advantages when I'm craving chocolate in the chocolate aisle.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chapter 5, Week 1, Day 2: Pick Two Reasonable Diets

From time to time I wonder if my eating would be so out of control if I believed my mom when she said to me, "you're not fat, you look fine." For years she said this, and for years I never saw myself as thin enough.

I have never reached my goal weight. Even though I lost weight, it was never enough. I wanted to be thinner. I've always set myself up for disappointment and failure. Now I don't bother to set a goal weight. Whenever I am looking acceptable and can fit in nicer clothes, my motivation wanes and bad habits eventually creep back.

I know why and when my already low self image began. It's been 15 years, but I still remember the departing words from my snotty coach when I retired as a national-level athlete. She said, "so what are you going to do to stay thin?" Throughout my competitive career, my coaches would tell me to lose weight.

After retirement, I asked myself how could I stay thin if I was no longer training for 20+ hours a week? Maybe it was at this point that my brain decided that I could never be thin or perhaps it's self-fulfilling prophecy. I never really thought I could be thin, so now I go through an endless cycle of dieting and overeating.

The tasks for today is to pick two reasonable diets. I've been a Weight Watcher's girl for my dieting career. I hate the points system. It leaves too much freedom and not enough structure. I was glad when WW introduced the "core" plan that is a mix of the GI Diet concepts and points. So my two diet plan choices are the Simply Filling plan from Weight Watchers and the runner up choice is the points-based Momentum plan.

I would love to pick a plan that doesn't require planning and is portion-controlled (Jenny Craig), but it costs more than I want to spend and I think it is important to plan the food you are going to eat.

I've also noticed that I'm not reading my ARC card enough. I need to make multiple copies and post everywhere. That's it for today.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chapter 5, Week 1, Day 1 Lay the Groundwork

What a difference 24 hours make. After feeling in control of my food thoughts yesterday, today I'm fighting feelings of disappointment and discouragement. This morning, I made my way to the dollar store chocolate aisle and bought a box of Junior Mints. "It's a smaller package than the mini Skor bars," I said to myself. "Officially the diet part doesn't start for two weeks," I rationalized. An hour or so later after consuming the chocolate, my stomach inevitably started to rumble; but, I embraced the hunger. It wouldn't be too bad if this was the only instance of poor food choices for the day, but unfortunately it was only 9:30 a.m.

I had lunch plans so I knew eating challenges lay ahead. Unfortunately, my lunch mate brought her own lunch, and I made the snap decision to get a McChicken meal at McDonald's. I would feel better about the day if this was the final instance of poor food choices, but unfortunately it wasn't.

I don't even know what possessed me to pick up three chocolate cookies less than a half hour after my McChicken meal.

What I should have done is read my newly created ARC (Advantage Response Card), which was the first task of the program. The ARC is a tool that will help overcome sabotaging thoughts. I wrote on a card all the advantages of losing weight. The other part of the task is to implement a system to remind myself to read the ARC twice daily and "whenever you find yourself struggling with cravings, temptation, or sabotaging thoughts."

It's interesting how your reasons for dieting changes over a couple of decades. As a teen and in my twenties, I was more concerned with how my weight reflected in my image, but now I'm more concerned with health issues. So, why do I want to lose weight? What did I write on my ARC? From my perspective, the advantages to loosing weight are:

- I'll be in better health
- I'll feel in control of what I eat
- I'll be more physically fit
- I won't struggle with food choices
- I'll look better
- I'll be able to wear a smaller size
- I'll be able to look in the mirror
- I'll have more energy
- I won't be embarassed to eat in front of others
- I won't wasted money on junk food
- I'll have a normal relationship with food
- I won't have such strong cravings
- I won't feel guilty for unplanned eating
- It will feel good to resist junk food
- I want to minimize the mommy pouch

Wow, that's a big list.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chapter 4: How to Use the Beck Diet Solution

There was one other time when I attempted to fix the psychological side of my eating issues. I attended a weekly group counseling sessions to overcome my emotional eating. The group counselor plugged the principles of eating only when you are hungry, and eating only what your body tells you to eat as outlined in Geneen Roth’s books, “Why Weight? A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating” and “Breaking Free from Emotional Eating.” Great theory. Great ideas. And very difficult to implement and maintain (for me at least).

Before attending this group counseling sessions, I was very stressed/depressed and overcome with feelings of guilt for eating “bad” foods. At the time, my cravings for "bad" food was very strong. I deprived myself of these foods to avoid the inevitable guilty conscious. The new principles broke down the guilt factor. Today, I only “eat when hungry” and “eat only what your body needs” when it suits me. So now, I routinely give myself permission to indulge in chocolate, baked goodies since my guilty feelings have softened over the years.

Chapter four: How to Use the Beck Diet Solution outlines how the program works. Basically there is a new task each day for six weeks. Some tasks are a one-time event; others are completed on a regular schedule (daily/weekly). Dr. Beck also recommends a 14-day wait period before starting a diet plan to help get in the right mindset. (Yikes, how many miniature Skor bars and chocolate wafers can I eat in fourteen days?)

What I like about the Beck Diet Solution (as opposed to the eating-only-when-hungry ideology) is that it’s a process; I’ll focus on one new task or lesson per day and build from there. I’m not overwhelmed with being perfect starting from day 1. The rules for the eating-only-when-hungry were few and simple, but I found difficult to implement especially for specific situations such as food in the office kitchenette or keeping temptations at bay after watching a Dairy Queen commercial.

After completing the Beck Diet Solution, I should notice the following things:
- Diminished cravings (yay!);
- No panicking when hungry (no time to panic, I eat long before hunger hits);
- Automatically plan food to eat each day (no a fan of food planning);
- Consistently follow the plan, even on special occasions (we’ll see);
- Feel proud about turning down food instead of feeling deprived (yay!);
- Feel proud of yourself (makes sense);
Time will tell if this program works for me, but I’m hopeful and positive and will work diligently on each task. I realize that it will take longer than six weeks to change my thinking permanently; I do think that this is the beginning of the end of my weight struggles.

So how did I do today? My first thought of food came on the train to work, when I realized that I wasn’t thinking about my morning snack (food bender). I was worried that I might begin dreaming about junk food snack, but the sabotaging thoughts didn’t escalate farther than a passing thought. I even managed to buy a diet coke at the dollar store without a visit to the chocolate aisle.

It felt good to feel free from constant obsessing about food. I was scared to think about the fact that I wasn't thinking about food. I immediately tried to think of something else since I thought that I would start thinking about Reese's peanut butter cups or skor bars. I shouldn't avoid these thoughts, I need to experience them to practice controlling them. I've been eating/snacking automatically for years, so it will take time to not eat automatically.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chapter 3: How thin people think

Obviously, I’m not yet thinking like a thin person. Take chapter three: How Thin People Think. Dr. Beck outlines eight characteristics that make dieting difficult. I, of course, can relate to all eight characteristics:

- Confuse hunger with the desire to eat
- Low tolerance for hunger and cravings
- Enjoy the full feeling
- Deny how much I eat
- Use food for comfort
- Feel helpless when I gain weight
- Focus on unfairness
- Stop dieting when I lose weight

For years I’ve been using any slight twinge of hunger (or desire masquerading as hunger) as an excuse to eat. I routinely buy small, snack-size chocolates at the checkout, rationalizing that the serving size is small so it doesn’t matter. I also manage to conveniently forget food consumed in the car, or that piece of toast while watching Survivor. I’ve already admitted to eating for any emotional reason: happy/sad/bored/just because.

The one characteristic that surprised me is “you focus on the issue of unfairness.” For years I always complained to myself that I couldn’t eat the same things that my thin friends ate, such as a slice of chocolate cake or a bag of potatoe chips. I dwelled on the fact that I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted. But the reality is, my thin friends never really ate that slice of cake or indulged in bag of potatoe chips.

From her research, Dr. Beck groups thin people into two groups: people who don’t have to work at staying thin and those who do. Naturally small appetites, eating only when hungry and exercising sufficiently are characteristics of those people who don’t have to work at staying thin. The other thin people work at it, eating smaller portions, low-calorie foods and eat fattening foods only on occasion. The difference between the later group and people like me is their mindset. The thin people don’t dwell on or struggle with restrictions and can manage the overwhelming barrage of sabotaging thoughts.

So how did I do today? After eating my healthy bowl of oatmeal (large flake variety has higher fiber content) for breakfast, I immediately thought, “what should I eat for a snack today?” and thoughtof all food available in the office’s food court: chocolate wafers, timbits, minature Skor bars, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies (oatmeal has fiber, it can’t be all that bad) and frozen yogurt.

I managed to temporarily rebuff the sabotaging thought, but it stalked me all the way to work: at the train station, on the train and during the 25-minute walk to the office. I was proud of myself when I bought powder and cosmetic pads at the pharmacy. Unfortunately I stopped at the dollar store for a diet coke. And then I went to the chocolate aisle. And I picked up a bag of miniature Skor bars. At this point, my muscle to give-in is much stronger than my muscle to resist.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chapter 2: What Really Makes You Eat

About a month ago, I started and five days later stopped reading "The Beck Diet Solution." I suppose I stopped reading it since it imposed on my free-for-all eating binge that I've been on for the last few weeks, even months. This is another reason why I wanted to commit to writing about my progress. I have to think about the content more than if I was just reading it in passing each morning. Reading "Day 2: What really Makes You Eat" has made me think more about my reasons for eating. Just like Dr. Beck says, it always starts with a trigger and thought.

The key things that I learned today are:
- Although it very much seems like it is, eating is a choice it is not automatic.
- Eating starts with a thought which is brought about by a trigger.
- Triggers can be environmental (see, smell food), biological (hungry, thirsty), mental (thinking of a past food-eating experience), emotional (feeling happy/sad/bored) and social (friends/family encouraging you to eat).
- How you respond to the thought that comes after encountering a trigger, will determine whether you eat or not.
- Responding to these sabotaging thoughts is a skill that can be learned and will help keep weight off permanently.
- Which muscle do I want to strengthen? My resistance muscle, or my giving-in muscle?

This made me think about what happens when I eat (overeat). I don't crave junk food at mealtimes, but between meals, I'm always thinking about snacks and not the fruit and vegetable variety either. Especially if I'm alone. I think to myself: I'm alone, what can I eat now? Is there any ice cream in the freezer? Did we buy any treats this week during grocery shopping? Are there any leftovers from last night's dinner?

Rarely do I question the sabotaging thought to eat; the thought snowballs into action. I start hunting the kitchen. At times, I've resorted to eating baking chocolate. If nothing is available in the house, I'll start thinking about the food possibilities available by car or at the grocery store in the building at the office. Sooner or later, my thought about eating leads to overeating.

So with no specific tasks for today, I'll start to question when a trigger plants an eating thought in my head. Now that I know that I'd rather strengthen my muscle to resist.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chapter 1: The Key to Success

I've been preparing to start this program for a few weeks now. That means that I've been eating compulisely, overeating and eating junk on a daily basis. No one knows this since I'm very good at eating in secret. I ate an entire package of chocolate wafers in less than an hour at my desk. I didn't do this once, I did this twice last week and three times the week before!

I do this so I can eat all the tempting foods in whatever quantity I want since I can no longer eat this way once the diet starts. My distorted thinking rationalizes this behaviour to provide me with a motivation to change since I am so thoroughly disgusted with myself. However, this time no matter how many wafers, chocolate and ice cream I've consumed, it's been harder to get in the proper "headspace" for dieting. I'm just not feeling the will to eat sensibly and a strong-sense of motivation I have experienced previously. Perhaps this is another area that the "Beck Diet Solution" (BDS) will help me.

Day 1: The Key to Success
According to Beck, the key to success in dieting is knowing how to diet.

I already know how to diet: what to eat, what not to eat, eat less calories than my body burns and I'll loose weight. My interpretation of this statement means that this procees will help on the implementation part of the diet: how to avoid cheating, how to resist tempting foods, how to cope with hunger, cravings, stress, avoid using food for comfort and how to "talk back" to the sabotaging voice in my head.

There are no specific tasks for day one, but from reading this chapter, I've come to realize that many dieters think and rationalize like I do. Beck's book will also help provide solutions to problems that frequently come up with diet. Examples from the book that are some of my favorites are: "You felt upset and thought that eating would make you feel better." "You were too polite to turn down the dessert that your friend baked." "You felt like treating yourself." "You were too tempted by the sight of food when shopping."

Can you relate to these same problems? Do you have any other dieting problems you need a solution to?

Coming up tomorrow: Day 2: What really makes you eat...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Can I learn to think like a thin person?

I've been a serial dieter for twenty years. I have gained and lost countless pounds. I know what to eat and as a former athlete, I actually like to exercise. But somehow, I am unable to make my weight loss permanent. Is my problem the way I think? Do I think like a fat person? Can I learn to think like a thin person?

I've come to realize that food will always be an issue for me. I've also realized that many people don't struggle with food like I do. Why do I struggle and others don't? Can I somehow change the way I think?

One morning, I read Emily Yoffe's Dear Prudence column and she suggested to a writer that sounded very much like myself to read Judith Beck's book, "The Beck Diet Solution." The tagline of her book reads, "train your brain to think like a thin person." I immediately ordered three of her books. I want to learn to think like a thin person. Can Dr. Beck's books end my food issues/addiction/obsession?

The Beck Diet Solution uses the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focusing on changing destructive, sabataging thoughts and re-wire negative behaviour into positive choices. In other words, it will train me to think like a thin person.

The Beck program is six-weeks long and has tasks for each day. I decided to write this blog to chronicle my journey through this book. I figure it will increase my commitment, dedication and chance for success.

Can I change the way I think? I sure hope so.

See you tomorrow for day 1: The Key to Success...