The Beck Diet Solution is a six-week program of cognitive therapy which aims to make you change the way you think, which in turn helps you change your behavior. Cognitive therapists believe that all actions start with thoughts. You think about scratching your head, so you scratch it. You think about eating a bowl of cereal, so you eat it. Our thoughts and behaviors are a bit more complex than that, but if you can change the way you think, it is believed that you can change the way you act.
I will be following the Beck Diet Solution for the next six weeks and blogging about it every Monday. I’m actually at the end of week two right now, but I’ll try to catch the blog up with my real time behavior in the next few weeks. The book assigns you one task a day, letting you gradually change your behaviors little by little until you’ve changed the way you think about food and exercise. Dr. Judith Beck says it’s sometimes ok to do two or possibly three days of tasks in one day, just as long as you don’t overload yourself. The book requires that you keep a journal and sometimes write on note cards as part of the program. As I said before, I’ve already got my Hallmark-approved journal ready.
Each week has a theme, and the first week’s theme is “Get Ready: Lay the Groundwork.”
Day 1 – Record the Advantages of Losing Weight
First off, I had to write a list of the reasons I want to lose weight. I’ll be reading the list at least twice a day, every day, as well as during times I feel challenged. I saved my list in Google Documents so I can access it online anywhere. I also uploaded a few pictures of myself at my thinnest to accompany the list.
This idea sounded pretty dopey to me at first, but it has been helpful to keep me focused on what I want to achieve. I’ve been visualizing the moments I want to achieve in my mind instead of just reading the list by rote. For instance, I have to weigh in at the headache clinic I visit every other month, so I visualize myself stepping on the scale there and having the nurse record a lower weight than last month.
To remind myself to read the list, I set up a calendar in Google Calendars just for reminder events. I set this task as a recurring daily event at two different times, and set each event to email me a reminder one minute before the event. I now get an email twice a day reminding me to read my list with a link to the Google Doc included.
Day 2 – Pick Two Reasonable Diets
You’re supposed to pick a primary diet and then have a backup in case the first one doesn’t suit you. I’m doing the South Beach Diet again, and I put The Zone Diet down as my backup because I like its advice about balancing your carb, protein and fat portions during meals, though measuring that out for every meal seems more complicated than I like.
Day 3 – Eat Sitting Down
Dr. Beck recommends that you only eat when sitting down because it forces you to be purposeful while you eat. A lot of dieters sabotage themselves by standing in front of the fridge taking a few nibbles of something or licking the spoon a few too many times while cooking. If you see everything you’re going to eat laid out in front of you, it gives you a better sense of how much you’re actually eating.
I’ve been doing pretty well on this one, though I grabbed a few walnuts from the cupboards to snack on while I was waiting for a meal to heat up in the microwave. I also tend to take one or two bites of food while I’m carrying it from the kitchen to my chair, which seems like borderline ok behavior, though I doubt Dr. Beck would see it that way :)
Day 4 – Give Yourself Credit
A lot of dieters have problems with negative self-talk, so on this day you’re supposed to give yourself credit for things you do right. I don’t consider myself to be a Negative Nancy or a Debbie Downer, so I skipped this day. I already give myself credit.
Day 5 – Eat Slowly and Mindfully
Ugh. This was by far the hardest day of the week. I love to scarf my food, like a human Hoover. I’ve noticed this about myself for many years, but I’ve never really worked to slow down. There was a guy at my old workplace who was the slowest eater I’d ever seen. He’d literally take twice as long to eat his lunch as I did, taking ten minutes to eat a 6 oz. yogurt cup. One day I tried to pace my eating with him, but I cracked after a minute or two. PastaQueen want food now! NOW!!
So, I’ve been sitting down and focusing on savoring every bit because I can’t eat as much as I’d like to (i.e. the entire contents of the Keebler Elves’ bakery tree). There are still some days when I find that I’ve been mindlessly eating a pear in front of the computer or crunching on carrots in front of the TV. I then have to force myself to pay more attention to the eating experience.
Day 6 – Find a Diet Coach
Accountability is important, so Dr. Beck recommends you find someone to talk to about your dieting successes and struggles. You have to check in once a week, but you can talk more than that if you wish. I found an Internet friend who agreed to be my coach. I love simple days like this!
Day 7 – Arrange Your Environment
For the final day of the week, you have to arrange your environment so it’s optimal for weight loss. Basically, this meant throwing out any leftover Christmas cookies and asking my roommate to keep her junk food in her room so I wouldn’t see it. Otherwise, I already buy lots of healthy foods, and I’ve got vegetables being delivered right to my door every week, so I’m pretty good. Also, because I work from home, I don’t have to worry about arranging my workplace. The cats never run out and buy a box of Panera bagels like my old boss did.
Week one went pretty well. As the weeks continue, I’ll be building on the things I learned this week and checking to make sure I continue observing these behaviors as I learn new skills. I’ll keep you posted!