“Eat whatever you want. No foods are restricted and you can have as much as you want.”
My heart sank when my therapist said this to me. I assumed that at some point after therapy that I would be able to go back to Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig and lose my weight. After all, chapter 5 of the Beck Diet Solution is called, “Pick Two Reasonable Diets.” I figured face-to-face therapy would work the same way.
Immediately I considered amending my original plan (step 1: reprogram thinking; step 2: lose weight) to (step 1: lose weight; step 2: reprogram thinking). The only problem is that dieting had become an impossible task. Every minute of a dieting day is difficult and angst-ridden. I had been down this road before with intuitive eating and frankly the idea of no structure scared the hell out of me.
And then she added: “But, you must write down what you want to eat first.” Well, I thought. At least there is some sort of structure.
Here were my guidelines:
• Prepare a meal plan for the day.
• Include details such as portion size and number of helpings.
• No foods are off-limits as long as I write it down in the meal plan first.
• If I want to eat something that is not in the meal plan, I had to plan that food or additional helping into a future meal.
• Plan my meals the day before, or any time during the day.
I already found meal planning and journaling difficult, so my first week was challenging. Even though I could plan to eat whatever I wanted, I remained paralysed from making food choices. So, with the help of my therapist, we planned a few days of meals together. I allowed for reasonable portion sizes and planned for a good mix of healthy and not-as-healthy snacks and balanced meals.
As for following my own meal plan, it went fairly well. Sometimes I found that I wanted an additional helping of something (let’s say granola) that was not planned for. The need for more granola would grow, and become focused; the only way to satisfy this need was to give in and eat the additional helping of granola. That is when I learned that the need, the feeling I was experiencing was anxiety. Anxiety from 20 years of dieting telling me that granola is bad for me. That I shouldn’t be eating one bowl of granola, let alone two or three bowls.
I asked my therapist: “What do I do to handle the anxiety? How do I make it go away?”
She replied: “You have to learn to sit with it. It will pass.”