By Jackie Wicks PEERtrainer Founder
The Beck Diet Solution, by Judith Beck, is very popular with members of the PEERtrainer community. The basic idea is that you begin to break down different parts of your thought and behavior and deal with them one at a time. It is based on a form of psychotherapy called "Cognitive Behavior Therapy", which focuses on the interrelation of thinking, feeling and acting. The Beck Diet Solution applies this approach to weight loss.
PEERtrainer Members recommend the book and the approach to each other and support each other every day in their own team called Mind Over Matter. Click Here to join this team for free and get supported and motivated each day. This article is an outline of the most important themes of the book. For each one of the 42 days of the diet, there is a specific discussion among the members around the idea. It is very powerful, and helps people change their behavior. A key part of her solution is for people to get some form of weight loss coaching. This page has a series of free coaching resources to take advantage of.
Here Are The Basics of The Beck Diet Solution
Create Your Advantages Response Card
A "Response Card" is an index card or similar sheet that is convenient for you to carry with you or otherwise keep handy. Today's assignment is to write down all the reasons you want to lose weight, and rate how important those reasons are to you (very important / important / somewhat important). Then you must read this card at least twice daily, plus whenever you feeling like giving into cravings, temptations, or sabotaging thoughts.
You need to select two times each day when you will read the card, and set up a system to remind yourself to read the card.
Pick Two Reasonable Diets
You can pick any reasonable, healthy diet plan. Then also pick a second reasonable diet as your backup plan, in case your first diet doesn't work out for you. The Beck Diet Solution is an approach, not a diet, so you will need to do some research in this area.
Eat Sitting Down
It's important to eat sitting down and not standing up so that you can see your food laid out in front of you and become more visually satisfied. Unplanned eating is also much more likely to occur if you are standing up.
What will you do to remind yourself to eat sitting down?
Give Yourself Credit
Learn to recognize all of the positive things that you're doing each day, so that when you make a mis-state you don't blow it out of proportion.
Eat Slowly and Mindfully
The Beck Diet Solution reminds us that it takes up to 20 minutes for the brain to get the message from the stomach that it's full. In addition to slowing down, she recomends concentrating on what you are eating in order to increase satisfaction from smaller portions. In the long run she feels it's unrealistic to eat without distractions (her patients never stick to it) but she suggests practicing without distractions at first to learn how to eat mindfully even if you're distracted.
Get a Diet Support Coach
The Beck Diet Solution recommends getting a coach to increase your chances of being successful at weight loss. We have this through this team- thanks anew07 and to everyone here! The purpose of the coach is to help with motivation, accountability, keeping perspective, giving yourself credit, etc. PEERtrainer provides free coaching services to help you stay on track, as well as premium programs to help people master all aspects of the mental aspect of weight loss.
Arrange Your Environment
Eliminate trigger foods from your home and work environments.
"Don't worry about throwing out food. It's going to get wasted one way or another - either in the trash can or in your body."
Make Time and Energy for Dieting
The Beck Diet Solution makes the point that in order to be successful at dieting, one must have the time to devote to shopping, planning and preparing meals, exercising, etc.
The book includes some worksheets where you can examine your schedule and also work on prioritizing. To make more time she recommends things like getting others to help, not requiring perfection, etc. Many people aren't used to making themselves a priority and the book includes responses to various self-sabatoging thoughts.
Select an Exercise Plan
Two types of exercise:
1. Spontaneous Exercise - taking advantage of situations you're in to get more exercise.
2. Planned Exercise
The importance of exercise cannot be overemphasized!
Pick a Reasonable Goal
Dr. Beck suggests making your short-term goal to be to lose 5 pounds.
Differentiate Between Hunger, Desire and Cravings
True Hunger = you've fasted for several hours and your stomach is empty.
A Desire to Eat = Not being particularly hungry but eating because there is food around. For instance, at Thanksgiving you ate a big meal yet you still want to have seconds or dessert.
Craving = A physiological and emotionally intense urge to eat. You may feel tension and an unpleasant yearning sensation in your mouth, throat, or body.
If it has been between 20 minutes and 3 hours since you've eaten a reasonable-sized meal, any urge to eat is probably due to a desire to eat, not to hunger.
Practice Hunger Tolerance
"When people who struggle with dieting get hungry, they often feel hunger pangs intensely. The sensations can feel like an emergency. All their attention gets focused on how uncomfortable they feel - and when and where they can get food. They begin to think they won't be able to stand feeling that way."
The point of the exercise is to show yourself that you can tolerate hunger. Hunger is not an emergency, you don't have to eat just because you're hungry. Just because you want to eat doesn't mean that you should. So instead of getting sucked into that cycle of stressing because you're hungry, when you feel hungry but it's not time for a meal or snack you can say to yourself, "It's no big deal. I wish I could eat now, but it's OK I'll wait." Hunger comes and goes. As you turn your attention to other things, the hunger will diminish.
"Cravings usually peak within the first few weeks of your diet. Once you limit or stop eating the foods you crave, your cravings for those foods will diminish significantly. . . .To weaken the intensity and reduce the frequency of cravings, however, you have to stop giving in to them.. . . . The more often you wait out your cravings, the less intense and less frequent they'll be in the future."
Much like the point of practicing "hunger tolerance" showed you that hunger was not an emergency, practicing "craving tolerance" will show you that cravings are not emergencies either. You'll be able to say to yourself, "I'm feeling a craving but that's OK. I can tolerate it and it will go away."
"Cravings start to diminish the moment you decide you're absolutely not going to stray from your diet. They increase when you're indecisive about whether or not to eat."
Plan for Tomorrow
Each day, write a food plan that includes everything you are going to eat tomorrow.
Monitor Your Eating
Keeping a written record of what you eat increases the chances that you'll lose weight and keep it off. Don't try to keep a mental tally, because you will forget some of the things that you have eaten. Instead, make your notes immediately after you've eaten.
- Follow your written food plan, eating everything planned (unless you become overly full) and without skipping any meals.
- Immediately after finishing each meal and snack, note in your food journal what you ate.
- Give yourself credit
- Respond to sabotaging thoughts if you eat something you shouldn't. Tell yourself it isn't a big deal, you're going to write it down and get back on track immediately.
- Review: At the end of the day look at your plan. If any problems arose, figure out what you need to do to prevent them in the future. If you need help problem solving, ask your diet coach for help.
Prevent Unplanned Eating (NO CHOICE)
When you're tempted to eat something you shouldn't, your internal argument ("I want it! . . . but I shouldn't eat it!") creates tension, which is emotionally and physically uncomfortable. You'll be tempted to relieve this tension by eating. Notice, though, that once you've made the decision to eat, your discomfort immediately subsides - even before you've taken a bite! Just as deciding to eat can release this tension, so can deciding not to eat.
Establish your NO CHOICE eating rules. This decrases both the struggle and the discomfort.
The Beck Diet Solution alerts us to two types of overeating:
* You eat any food in a greater quantity than you had planned; or
* You feel full partway through your meal but continue to finish it anyway, leading to a feeling of overfullness.
Typical situations where you may overeat are at a restaurant, when you are served large portions, or if you're eating family style and can easily take seconds. (I actually don't serve foods family-style for this reason.)
To practice, select a meal and (1) choose a food that's on your plan, but give yourself a larger portion than you would normally allow; and (2) put something on your plate that you're not supposed to eat. At the beginning of the meal, you can push the extra portions to the side of your plate and eat only the remaining food.
If you're tempted to eat the extra food, use anti-craving techniques (assess your level of discomfort, tell yourself NO CHOICE, etc) and respond to any sabotaging thoughts.
When you've finished eating just the food you're supposed to, clear your plate. Throw out the excess or save it for another meal.
To lose weight, you must stop eating when you've eaten the amount of food on your plan. Remember the excess food will go to waste - in your body or in the garbage.
Change Your Definition of Full
To determine if you've overeaten, think about how easy would it be for you to take a walk at moderate to brisk pace before you eat. You should be able to walk at the same pace just as easily after a meal. If you can't, then you've overeaten.
For the next month, after each meal, ask yourself if you could easily go for a moderate to brisk walk. If you're not sure, try it.
Stop Fooling Yourself
"Dieters have an amazing ability to delude themselves about food." Beck lists examples of "fake" excuses such as:
--I'll eat it only this one time
-- It's not that fattening
-- I'll make up for it by eating less later
-- It won't matter
--It'll go to waste
-- I'll disappoint someone if I don't
-- Everyone else is eating it
-- I'm celebrating
--I really want it
--It's a special occasion
--I'm upset and I just don't care
--I'm craving it and I'll probably just eat it eventually
To stop fooling ourselves, notice what goes through our minds the next time we have an urge to eat. She recommends making a response card such as "It's not okay..." and including things such as how "it's not ok to eat unplanned food of any kind. I'm just trying to fool myself. Every time I eat something I'm not supposed to I strengthen my giving-in muscle. Though I might feel good for a few seconds, I'll feel bad afterwards. If I want to lose excess weight and keep it off I absolutely must stop fooling myself."
Get back on track
This technique involves responding to a specific fooling-ourselves thought-- to abandon our food plan for the whole day after we've eaten something we weren't supposed to. Beck points out that whatever we ate-- even 500 calories-- is unlikely to noticeablyaffect our weight. There's no reason to keep going and take in an extra 100, 200, 300, or 3000 calories.
(1) Acknowledge our initial slip "Okay, I shouldn't have eaten that, I made a mistake, This one mistake won't make me gain weight this week."
(2) Recommit yourself to your diet-- reading the Beck book, response cards, etc
(3) Draw a symbolic line saying: "Here's the line, right here, where I stop this unplanned eating." Mark it by brushing teeth, going for a walk, etc.
(4) Give yourself credit for stopping at any point. It's impotant to not get demoralized. Give yourself slack for being human and making a mistake. Give yourself credit for getting back on track when you'd like to keep eating.
(5)Watch out for feelings of failure and helplessness. Remind yourself that mistakes are inevitable- it's normal to stray sometimes. It doesn't mean you're a failure and can't diet successfully
(6)Continue to eat normally. If you cut back you'll likely feel unhappy and anxious about being hungry and then decide to eat whatever you want.
(7) Learn from the mistake. For example, did you forget to review your response cards (especialy Advantages, No Choice, It's not okay)? Neglect your food plan?
Encounter an unexpected trigger? etc.
Make a response card that reminds you that: "It's not the end of the world. I can start following my plan again right now. Just because I made a mistake doesn't mean I should keep eating. That makes no sense. It's a million times better to stop now than to allow myself to eat more."
Get Ready to Weigh In
Beck says that the advantages of weekly weigh-ins are: (1) They allow us to celebrate and build up confidence when we've lost weight (2) They keep us honest if we've gained and (3) They help us stay committed.
It's important though not to step on the scale with the wrong mindset or it can erode our motivation. If we view our weight as an indication of how weak, inadequate, or out of control we are, weight gains (or smaller than expected weight losses) can result in overeating. She urges using the scale as a source of information only-- like taking our temprature. If the number doesn't go down, we shouldn't waste time blaming ourselves. Instead, we shoudl consider what might be wrong (e.g. getting too lax, needing to add exercise) and then doing something positive to solve the problem.
Beck recommends using a graph to chart our weight loss. Even if we weigh every day, we should chart once a week. The chart shouldn't have our actual weights, just our change in weight for every 5 lbs lost. When we lose 5 pounds we make a new graph.The weight chart can serve as a motivator. She reminds us that our weight is unlikely to go down every week but if we're following our plan then, overall, our weight WILL go down.
Say Oh, well to disappointment
This skill is about changing the sabotaging mindset that gets us to feel resentful or rebellious about dieting when the scale doesnt say what we were hoping or we see friends eating what we cant. The disadvantages of dieting seem greater than the advantages--What do I have to do what this book says? There must be an easier way!
At such points Beck recommends acceptancethat we can accept the disadvantages of dieting as a necessary means to an end rather than to keep railing against the fates.When were struggling we can try saying, Oh wellreminding ourselves that though we may not like dieting, it is reality, it is what we have to do to reach our goals. For example: I really feel hungry. Oh well or I wish I could order a hamburger instead of a salad. Oh well.
Countering the Unfairness Syndrome
Beck suggests this rule to help those of us who give ourselves permission to eat when confronted with issues of fairness. She points out that weve all grown up with the idea that life should be fair but it ISNT. Its not fair that some people die young, some people go hungry, etc. She suggests that when we find ourselves saying, Its not fair that ---- (e.g. I cant eat cookies right now while everyone else can) we should say, Yes, thats true, its not fair. Oh well. Then refocus our attention on all the advantages we do have in our lives compared to others.
She suggests this response card: Dieting may not be fair but I have two choices. I can feel sorry for myself, stop following my plan, never reach my goal, and continue to be unhappy with myself. Or I can sympathize with myself but go ahead and do what I need to do. Everyone experiences some kind of unfairness in life. This is one of mine. Besides, the greatest unfairness would be if I let this excuse prevent me form reaching a goal I strongly want to achieve.
Deal with Discouragement
With this technique, Beck is trying to teach us ways to find encouragement and motivation, especially in the face of self-doubt.
She says that it's normal to feel overwhelmed or discouraged at times-- wondering whether we can keep doing what we need to do. It's not okay though to let these thoughts overwhelm us. When we start to think: "It shouldn't be this hard" or "I'll never be able to keep this up" or "I don't want to do this anymore"-- it's important to remind ourselves that we CAN do what we need to do. Dieting does get easier. The following will help us persevere:
-- Read our Advantages Response card more often, thinking about each item and adding more
--Add up the difficult hours. She says that most dieters she has worked with have wanted to give up at one point or another. They often say: "I've had such a hard week. I don't know if I want to do this anymore." When they actually look at the week, though, they'd see that most of them struggled between 20 minutes and 2 hours once or twice that week. For the other 164 hours, they hadn't struggled. But those memories of the struggle tainted their recollection of the whole week.
--- Focus on what you can do today. Instead of thinking about the longterm, think: "I just need to continue to do what I need to do today. If it's hard tomorrow, I'll deal wit that then."
Identify Sabotaging Thoughts
Beck emphasizes that it's important for us to learn to recognize our sabotaging thoughts and to respond to them effectively. She points out that eating off our plan doesn't happen automatically-- that almost always it is preceded by a thought or series of thoughts.
She recommends carrying our diet notebook and pen with us for a few days, marking down our sabotaging thoughts. We might not always pay attention to them. If we notice we're tempted to eat we should ask: "What was just going through my mind?"
Common diet-related sabotaging thoughts include:
* Dieting is too hard
* I don't care
* It's okay to eat this
* I really want it
* I'll make up for it later
* It will go to waste if I don't eat it
* I don't want to disappoint or inconvenience )))
* I'm stressed/tired/sad/bored/upset
* I'm treating myself
For now, she suggests not worrying about what to do with the thoughts. She'll be covering that over the next days' techniques.
Recognize Thinking Mistakes
Thoughts are ideas -- not truths. Just because I'm thinking something does not make it true.
Master the Seven Question Technique
In this step, Beck has us create response cards to help us more effectively reply to our sabotaging thoughts. She recommends looking through our diet notebooks to identify common distorted thoughts. Then, using the 7 questions below, we should ultimately come up with response cards that we can read over at set times as well as whenever we need them.
The 7 Question technique:
1. What kind of thinking error could I be making?
2. What's the evidence that this thought might not be true (or completely true)?
3. Is there an alternative explanation or another way of viewing this?
4. What is the most realistic outcome of this situation?
5. What is the effect of my believing this thought and what could be the effect of changing my thinking?
6. What should I tell a close friend/family member if he/she were in this situation and had this thought?
7. What should I do now?
Beck suggests writing one or more Response Cards using the Seven Question technique now. Read these along with our other cards at least once or twice a day. As we identify more sabotaging thoughts, create more Response Cards.
Get Ready to Weigh In
Beck recommends weighing in at least once a week. So if you are following her plan along her time line, this would be the end of the 2nd week of dieting. She recommends wearing the same clothes as the week before and adding a new dot on your weight loss graph, connecting the dots.
She includes various sabotaging thoughts and helpful responses for different scenarios of losing a lot of weight, a little bit of weight, or no weight (including gaining).
Resist Food Pushers
This is something we talk about a lot in our PEERtrainer Tip Of The Day blog, the idea that you need to be hyper-aware of the influence of other people on your behavior.
Decide About Drinking
If you want to include alcohol in your diet, you must plan for it in advance, just like food. This means that you must know how many calories are in the drinks you plan to have, limit your consumption, and make sure that it does not lead to unplanned eating.
To learn more about the program, buy the book!!
The Importance of Social Support and Self-Monitoring
Group and peer support is a highly proven method for losing weight and getting healthy. It is one thing to learn how to lose weight and eat more healthy, it is another thing to put this into practice on a consistent basis. Friends and family are of limited use because there is only so much burden they can bear. Getting the support of an anonymous group of people each day can make the critical difference. Self-monitoring is the other method, backed by volumes of research, that is highly correlated with weight loss success. You keep a log of your food, exercise, goals and thoughts. When you do this each day it keeps you accountable to yourself, and brings this aspect of your life to the top of your mental agenda. When you are writing each day, you are thinking about the things you write about. This begins to change how you think and facilitates better decision making. When you make better decisions, and have a broad support network, you are very likely to lose weight for the long term. When you do both these things, the odds of success increase dramatically.
A free, online resource that facilities both social support and self-monitoring in an easy to use (and anonymous format) is PEERtrainer. You sign up, start or join small groups and teams. You log your food each day, and the others in your group see your log and provide support, motivation and accountability each day. It is like a virtual support group available on the internet whenever you need it. It is highly effective and has been featured in The New York Times, Fitness Magazine, Women's World, Business Week, ABC News, CNET, Fast Company...
Diets That Work
You have heard over and over that diets don't work. The traditional American idea of dieting is "portion control" or reducing your caloric intake. These approaches fail because you are only reducing portions of unhealthy and fatty foods. There are new diet approaches out there that seek to fundamentally change what you eat. These diets slash the amounts of saturated fats and sugar that you eat and radically increase the amount of plant-based foods. The Fat Smash Diet (by Dr Ian Smith) is one such popular approach, and Eat to Live by Dr Joel Fuhrman is another. These approaches are not about lowering carbs, or getting more protein or counting Weight Watcher points. They about fundamentally restructuring your eating habits. When you reorder your diet to eliminate processed foods, slash dairy and meat consumption and increase your intake of fruit, vegetables, beans, rice- you will lose weight and reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a host of other diseases. Improper nutrition is at the root of most diseases. Animal based foods contain cholesterol and boost the levels in your body. Plants do not contain any, and help reduce levels in your body. As blood cholesterol levels decrease, cancers of the liver, rectum, colon, male lung, female lung, breast, childhood leukemia, adult leukemia, childhood brain, stomach and esophagus levels will decrease. The more you reduce meat, dairy and processed foods in your diets, the healthier you will be.
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