I've been going through a lot of stuff in the last few months and if you've been reading, it has probably been like watching someone trying on a bunch of outfits, trying to decide what to wear. "Maybe Weight Watchers," and then a little later, "no, I don't like some corporation making money off my fat, maybe Jillian Michaels's website," "but the exercises on Jillian's site are too hard to do at my gym so maybe I should go back to Weight Watchers," or, "but I can't face the meetings so maybe I should just forget about it and accept my body the way it is now," "but I don't want to get fat, maybe intuitive eating," "but I'm eating too much so maybe I need to be counting calories,""but counting calories makes it harder for me to plan meals so maybe I should go see what that Momentum program is all about at Weight Watchers," "but I don't want to spend the money so maybe I'll just exercise and count my calories."
Are you sick of me? Because I'm sick of me. At least, I guess, I've never thought about anything truly ridiculous like the Master Cleanse or the Cabbage Soup Diet. Not because I'm too smart for that stuff, but because even in my wildest fantasies I know I'm not disciplined (or crazy) enough to last a day on either of them.
I do think self-acceptance is important, no matter what plan I settle on. Anne has been nicely trying to compliment me into mental health but it just doesn't really work that way. It's not that I loathe myself or my body, I was happier with my body when it was thinner and I have all these clothes I love that I'm not wearing. And like most people, I don't have endless money to keep buying new clothes. I want to make this a practical thing. Like I told my friend M. last summer: "If I hadn't mowed the grass in a really long time, I wouldn't hate my lawn for being too long. I wouldn't get all wrapped up in trying to convince myself it was more beautiful as an untamed meadow. I wouldn't ignore it and hope that it would get shorter on its own. I'd just mow it." I want to bring that kind of nonjudgemental, no-nonsense attitude to managing my weight.
When Jennette was here, she had a copy of The Complete Beck Diet for Life. For those of you who have been reading a long time, you'll remember that I had a brief honeymoon with The Beck Diet, but then decided I didn't like it after all because I thought she seemed to have a punishing attitude toward dieters. I really did like the strategies and the no-nonsense approach, but I let a few things Beck wrote take on a life of their own and ruin the book for me.
I wanted to see how the new book compared to the old one and I really like the new one a lot better. It's not a sequel so much as the same strategies and philosophy retooled in a way that puts the reader in the driver's seat. In the last book, there was a task for every day. The book suggested the pace at which you should progress through. The new book has five stages, and the readers decide when to transition from one to the other, though Beck suggests milestones that help readers decide when they are ready to move on. In Stage 1, readers develop basic skills for successful dieting. Unlike in the last book, there is an eating plan in Stage 2, which provides food lists and plans for various calorie levels. Stage 3 is a set of strategies for challenging situations, like travel and dining out. Stage 4 introduces more flexibility to the basic eating plan and lets the dieters experiment and find out what modifications work for them. Stage 5 is all about how to stay motivated and maintain your weight for life.
The main reason I prefer this book is that it doesn't suggest that you have to plan every single bite you eat for as long as you have weight to lose in the way that the last book seemed to. This plan allows dieters to have greater flexibility once they master some basic skills. The meal plans and food lists are simple and realistic, very similar to a diabetic exchange plan. There are some basic recipes too, as well as guidelines for developing your own recipes that fit into the program. Finally, this book encourages dieters to make changes gradually, one meal at a time. It also suggests that if you don't have the time or motivation needed to use the strategies, now might not be a good time for you to try to lose weight.
My favorite thing about this book, though, is that it forces you to get clear about what you really want. Buried on page 182-183 is some really great advice about how to decide what a good weight for you to maintain might be. After following the program for a while and losing some weight, Beck says, "Many dieters. . . decide that the challenges of further restricting their eating are not worth the small amount of additional weight they might lose." For those who make this decision and are going to have to accept not getting to their "dream weight," Beck suggests that they realize that weight "is really so superficial. You have so many more important, wonderful attributes. . . Do all of the things you had put off doing until you lost excess weight." Later, she writes that dieters also have the option to decide to raise their maintenance range if they find it's not worth the work they have to do to maintain at their original goal. "It's fine to decide to eat more as long as you consciously make the decision to do so. . . knowing that you may gain a few pounds." The problem, she suggests, is that most of us don't make a conscious decision to change their habits, we just start slacking off without being conscious that we are actually making a choice to gain weight. We can get as angry as we want about it, but that's what it really comes down to.
All of this is really about deciding what you really want. Are you willing to learn to regiment your eating for a few weeks to learn skills that will allow you to be more flexible later? Are you willing to live with a little bit of hunger if it will help you achieve your goals? We are in a society that's afraid of hunger. We have restaurants on every corner, we are encouraged to bring snacks with us in case we get hungry, and sometimes we overeat in case we don't have a chance to eat later. Beck reminds us in this book that "hunger isn't an emergency."
I like the focus on choice. I think that the reason for all of my dithering is that I never got really crystal clear about how much I was willing to do to get rid of the 20 or so extra pounds I'm carrying. I just wanted it to go away without requiring any real effort or sacrifice on my part.
Today I did a "treasure mapping" exercise with some people I know. The idea is to put together a vision for the things you want to bring into your life for the next few months. One of the things I really got clear on is that I want to be fit, healthy, and at peace with my body. I am ready to eat better and exercise in order to get there. I think I'm ready for a little less nonsense. I'm going to give this plan a try, working through the book exactly as suggested. Now that I've read through the book, I'm going to start with Stage 1 and start practicing the skills.
One of the strategies she suggests is to get a "diet buddy" to help provide some accountability. I don't have anyone in my real life who would I feel comfortable with as an accountability coach (which sounds less humiliating than diet buddy) right now. I know from experience that I don't like my husband to be involved in my weight loss efforts except to cheer me on, and my family members all have their own issues with food. If anyone out there is planning to try this plan and wants to team up, email me or post a comment and we can get in touch about finding a way to be accountable to each other.