February 2010

Have I really only been away just a week? It feels like forever.

I have been busy with work.  I haven’t done any new postings or moved on to Day 20, but I’ve still been honing the skills I’ve learned so far. I’m still journaling my food, working out, and reading my advantages list. And preparing for my vacation next week.

I’ve also been leafing through Dr. Beck’s second book: Dr. Beck’s Complete Diet for Life. Dr. Beck wrote her 2nd book to address issues that came up with people who used her first book. Notably, when allowed to choose their own diet, people were choosing diets that were too low in calories to be sustained even with the help of Cognitive Therapy!

So Dr. Beck’s 2nd book includes a simplified calorie counting system that gives meal plans, food lists, and recipes for various calorie levels ranging from 1,600 to 2,400 calories. 1,600 is the minimum calorie level because research has found that when placed on a lower calorie level, people invariably end up cheating until they’ve raised their calories to around 1,600. (I’ve certainly found this to be true for myself when I’ve used computer programs to count my calories. Below 1,600, my hunger is too intense, and food just finds its way into my mouth.)

Doing the calculation in the book, I should be at the 1,800 level. It sounds like a lot, but it’s a lot less than what most people eat, and what I had been eating. I’ve been experimenting with the 1,800 calorie meal plan, but sticking to SBD (Phase II) foods. I found that I was pretty close to 1,800 when following the SBD without counting. I think I will lose faster if I pay more attention to added fats and use the 1,800 calorie meal plan as a guide.

The 2nd book goes through the same skills as the first book, but spends less time on the earlier Days of The Beck Diet Solution (setting up your kitchen, etc.) and more on dealing with challenging situations and sabotaging thoughts. Response cards are more strongly worded, and there are more of them. I believe Dr. Beck found that some people need the extra motivation!

In The Beck Diet Solution, you start food journaling and dieting at the same time. In The Complete Beck Diet for Life, Dr. Beck has you working on the skill of planning and monitoring food in writing for a number of weeks before you start dieting. She wants you to master inflexible eating (writing down what you’re going to eat the night before and then eating exactly that) before even attempting to limit calories.

I know I still haven’t mastered inflexible eating, even though I’m writing down all my food and even though I’m dieting and have even lost 10 pounds. I found myself that inflexible eating is a separate skill from calorie counting when I planned a “cheat meal” in advance. Sure enough, when it came time to eat the cheat meal, I didn’t really want it and ordered something else! I have sabotaging thoughts around the idea of sticking to a plan, not the food itself!!

In both books, Dr. Beck talks a lot about the importance about having a plan for vacation eating. Specifically, decide in advance to have up to 300 extra calories a day on one or more of your vacation days. That’s one large cocktail OR one small dessert at ONE meal that day. That’s it. No other extra sugar, snacks, drinks, bread, or sauces. No wonder people gain weight on vacation! It’s so easy to allow “only” one piece from the bread basket, and a cocktail, and a glass of wine, and a bite of a shared dessert along with the grilled chicken and veggies, and be convinced that I’m still being “good.” But that’s way too many extra calories.

On my one-week vacation, I plan to eat the same as at home except at 3 special meals that I anticipate: Valentine’s Day, dinner with my parents, and perhaps a restaurant meal with my brother’s family. I’m bringing The Complete Beck Diet for Life along with me for both motivation and calorie counting.

My Internet access will be spotty, but I will post as often as I can to keep myself accountable.

When I get back, I have plans for this blog. I want to pretty up the design, add more pictures, and post my daily eating. Any other requests?


Another day of doing the best I can despite being out of my usual controlled environment and surrounded by temptation. I was able to get my salad before lunch, and I ate earlier than everyone else because I was hungry. Then when everyone’s order arrived, I was treated to seeing and smelling the giant burritos, chips, and salsa that everyone was digging into. My boss opened a bag of chips on the table right next to me. But I didn’t give in. After he was done eating, I folded the bag closed and moved it away. Later, I threw away the leftovers.

Yesterday’s pizza was still around. Cold pizza is one of my weaknesses. The old me would have definitely jumped at the chance. Luckily, the leftovers had been left out overnight at room temperature—not safe to eat. If the pizza had been refrigerated, it would have been a major temptation! At the end of the day, I took another peek in the pizza box—my coworkers had almost polished off the leftover pizza. Egads!

After it was all over, I caved. On the way home, I stopped at my favorite restaurant and had a fried chicken wing appetizer (6 small pieces), and white zinfandel. It’s what I call “relief eating”! I was exhausted from 2 long days of meetings, and a very poor sleep the night before. My resolve was at a low. I guess my sabotaging thoughts were something like, “I deserve a treat. I can’t be expected to be perfect tonight.” Talk about fooling myself! I even had myself convinced I was too tired to write down my meal plan for today!

I would have been a rock star if I had resisted last night! Guess I’ll have to be a rock star another time.

Somewhere (and I can’t find it in this book), Dr. Beck says that you have to watch for sabotaging thoughts after a challenging food event, not just during it. Guilty as charged! I’ll be “good” at a party, on vacation, or whatever, and then eat when I get home. The sabotaging thought is, “Whew, I made it! Now it’s safe to eat.”

But it really isn’t. Unplanned food is unplanned food, at home or abroad.

On the other hand, I didn’t go on to pig out the rest of the night. Just a bite of cheese when DH was having some. I credit the fact that I managed to eat lots of protein in the earlier part of the day. Once I’ve had a high-protein breakfast, snack, and lunch, my hunger is pretty mellow for the rest of the day and night. (Studies show that it’s protein, not fiber or fat, that increases satiety and results in reduced caloric intake.)

This morning, I have an increased desire to eat but luckily, no real cravings. For the past 2 days, I’ve given my giving-in muscle the chance to do a couple of push-ups. But it ends here. RIGHT NOW is the most important time to get back on track.

And that just happens to be the topic of Day 20! More on that later.

(Written after lunch)

As predicted, my day is turning into a dieting worst-case scenario. Sometimes it’s impossible to plan for every alternative.

Plan A: Find out the catered meal in advance and plan what foods I’m going to eat.

First, there was no catered meal. Then there was, but too late for me to find out what it would be.

Plan B: Go get my own salad.

Conversations with coworkers were continuing during the lunch period, and I didn’t have time before my next meeting to go get the salad.

Plan C: Take whatever South Beach Diet-friendly foods I can find from the catered meal.

The catered meal is pizza and salad. No protein.

My goal was to do the best I could with what’s available, and I felt good and in control. The pizza was good quality. I got a slice of the veggie and ate the toppings off it. I took some salad and added Greek yogurt and walnuts from my snack stash. I stopped with a little salad left on my plate because I knew I was getting full. I thought about taking the toppings off another slice of pizza, but I knew it was just a desire and not hunger, so I didn’t do it. The idea of continuing to eat faded quickly from my mind.

I’m still on my diet, and I don’t feel in any danger. But it would still be safer for me to have a written plan. And the only way to really stick to that kind of plan to the letter would be to bring my own food with me everywhere. That’s definitely an alternative, at least most of the time. Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to be able to improvise.

(Written Before Dinner)

Time to strategize. I’m tired. Tonight’s restaurant with my coworkers is Italian, of all things. It would be so easy for me to order “whatever.” I would rather go home than face this. I won’t eat at home. I will feel socially shy and will want to eat and drink to blunt those feelings. That’s my previous way of handling situations like this…eat my way through them. I want to do it differently this time. It’s going to be tough.

I will:

• Read my Advantages

• Know that I am not the only person there watching what I eat. At least 2 of the other people there also work out frequently and are very careful about what they eat.

• Think of how disgusting I’ll feel tomorrow morning if I overeat tonight.

• Remember how hard I’ve been working in the gym and how I don’t want to undo all my hard work.

• Have a protein snack before we go.

(After Dinner)

Things went pretty darn well, considering we went to a fancy Italian restaurant and my fatigue was weakening my resolve. I planned to allow a light starter, since I needed to take the edge off my appetite, and I had eaten lighter than usual at breakfast and lunch. In the car on the way to the restaurant, I told my coworkers I was trying to avoid wheat, which both made me accountable and engendered my coworkers support of my not eating bread or pasta.

My light starter was sliced fresh mozzarella and tomato slices (perfect on South Beach!), which I shared with someone. Another coworker offered me a slice of grilled eggplant stuffed with ricotta and other cheeses…something I could not resist! I love eggplant. That was my big indulgence for the night.

I had planned to order swordfish and veggies for dinner, but after the rich eggplant roll, I was too full for an entree. I ordered a side salad with grilled shrimp on it as my main course. I ate half of it and took 1/2 the shrimp in a doggie bag to throw on today’s salad. (But when I got home at 11 PM I decided the shrimp had been at room temp too long and tossed them.)

The restaurant served gorgeous looking Italian bread with flavored butter and olive oil. I asked for the basket to be moved away from me. My coworkers ate slice after slice, but as long as it wasn’t near me, I wasn’t tempted. Then they asked for a 2nd basket, which did end up being near me, but by that time  was full. Some of us ordered dessert…I just tried one bite of some ice cream on someone’s plate that looked interesting. It turned out to be hazelnut! I also sipped on 3 small pours of red wine. I started out refusing, but succumbed to peer pressure to taste it. But I didn’t get drunk.

All in all, I’m happy with how I did. I spent my calories on things I really wanted to spend it on. I resisted all kinds of temptations, like fried ravioli and fried squid that were being passed around.

Still, I’ll feel much safer having a written plan for the foreseeable future.

For the next 2 days, I will be in an unenviable situation for a dieter. Hours of boring meetings during the day, and catching up on my real work at night. However, I’m lucky in one respect: My new boss, instead of planning the customary catered lunch, has given us the noonish hours as personal catch-up time. I will be able to get my predictable, SBD-friendly salads at the local café.

Therefore, I will be able to plan my meals except for dinner tomorrow night, which will be a group dinner at a restaurant, and I don’t even know what the restaurant is. As far as I can tell, it hasn’t even been decided yet.

Now is when Dr. Beck’s “write it down and eat what you wrote” system isn’t helpful. Being able to make the best possible decisions under the circumstances, in the moment, is a helpful dieting skill, although Dr. Beck’s books don’t spend much time on it. I will be presented with an unpredictable menu. I need to be able to, and I will, choose a grilled chicken sandwich without the bun over lasagna. Writing down the ideal dinner of steamed fish and vegetables tonight will do me no good if I have no idea whether that choice is going to be available. I need to be able to, and I will, choose a few ounces of protein and a lot of veggies and a bit of good fat from whatever choices I’m faced with.

I can predict my breakfast, which I will eat at home before my commute, and my lunch, and my snacks, which I’ve already packed up in advance. But I can’t predict my dinner, and I plan to do the best I can in the moment.

Doing a perfect “write it down and eat what you wrote” eating diary is an exercise I will do someday, but it won’t serve me well this week. My ultimate goal is to do what’s best for me. And I will do what will best lead to my ultimate health and weight loss in my body, not on paper.

What’s important is for me NOT to get discouraged about not being able to get exactly what I planned and then indulging in wrong eating because of the “failure.”

I also won’t do any BDS tasks for the next 2 days. I’ll resume that on Thursday.

I will continue to write down everything I eat. It’s just that, in some cases, I’ll write it after I eat it rather than before.

Today’s workout: 20 mins ET Level 2, 40 mins weights & abs with trainer.

Today’s walks: once around the block, after both breakfast and lunch.

Results of the fullness experiment: As described on Day 18, I’ve been trying the brisk walk after meals. Walking after breakfast was quite easy, but then my breakfast is very small. Surprisingly, I could feel the difference between walking after breakfast and after the slightly larger meal at lunch. But I also had no trouble walking briskly, so I think I ate an appropriate amount. I will not walk after dinner…too dark, cold, and icy out there these days.

Today’s task: Stop Fooling Yourself

I love this Day! However, the first time I went through the book, I was intimidated by it. Don’t worry…you’re not expected to quit fooling yourself in one day. It will take time. Today’s the day you create the anti-self-delusional Response Card.

Where do you fool yourself that it’s OK to eat something that’s not good for your diet?

• I’ll only eat it just this once. I’ll be good tomorrow.

• It’s just the crumbs.

• I’m too upset (busy, tired, etc.) to worry about what I eat on top of everything else.

• Everyone else is eating it…I deserve to eat it, too.

• I’m celebrating.

• I’ll never get the chance to try this amazing food again.

• I’m craving it, and I’ll end up eating it eventually anyway.

Dr. Beck calls these “fake” reasons for eating. There’s a much longer list in the book. The first time I read the list, I thought some of these were perfectly legitimate reasons for eating!

I love this Day because it really digs into the nitty-gritty of Cognitive Therapy. I believe that we sometimes eat because we simply want to, we can’t be bothered to resist in the moment, and we use one of these thoughts to allow the eating.

It can be hard to fight back against these thoughts and accept the fact that wrong eating is NOT OK, even if it means feeling deprived, missing out on free food, feeling alienated from your family or friends because you’re not eating with them, and so on. Losing food as a best friend and comforter is not easy. These feelings get weaker over time, every time you make it through them without eating. At first, I thought I would never get to the point where I consistently could go without eating unplanned food, and I’m still not there yet, but my confidence is increasing over time. That’s how it works.

Here’s the Response Card that Dr. Beck recommends reading every single day:

“It’s NOT OK to eat unplanned food of any kind. I’m just trying to fool myself. Every single time I eat something I’m not supposed to, I strengthen my giving-in muscle and weaken my resistance muscle. I might feel good for the few seconds I’m eating, but I’ll feel bad afterwards. If I want to lose excess weight and keep it off, I absolutely must stop fooling myself.”

Cravings update: I’m feeling pretty good today, not in danger of craving. At the gym last night, while stretching my tight muscles, I thought that a craving kind of feels like a cramp. The end of a craving sure feels like the release of a cramped muscle. My body feels like it does after a good cry. That’s how I feel this morning. Maybe the cardio reset my system…maybe physical activity is a good way to counteract whatever’s causing me to have these cravings. One more reason to exercise.

Today’s To-Do List:

✓ I read my Advantages and NO CHOICE Response Cards at least twice today.

✓ I made and read other Response Cards as needed.

✓ I ate slowly, sitting down, and noticing every bite: All of the time.

✓ I gave myself credit for engaging in helpful eating behaviors: Some of the time.

✓ I did spontaneous exercise: twice

✓ I did planned exercise.

✓ I wrote out a food plan for tomorrow.

✓ I monitored everything in writing right after I finished eating.

✓ I ate only to normal fullness (and checked my stomach by taking a brisk walk after each meal).

✓ I created an It’s Not OK Response Card.

Today I give myself credit for:

☆ Making lots of new Response Cards.

☆ Exercising 3 days in a row without worsening any of my injuries.

☆ Eating the exact lunch I planned, even though I had an urge to change some of the ingredients.

☆ Identifying and responding to some of my sneakiest sabotaging thoughts.

☆ Going to the grocery store to purchase the foods I had planned to eat.


♡ My pants are looser.

♡ My stomach is flatter and my waist appears smaller.