The Advantages List – a list of all the reasons why people want to lose weight – is one of the most important tools that dieters have to help keep their motivation and discipline high (discussed on Day 1 of The Beck Diet Solution).  This week, our dieter Rose was having trouble figuring out how to make her food plan for a holiday dinner she has coming up.  She was talking about all of the different dishes that would be served and how she would feel deprived if she didn’t get to eat them all.  We discussed with Rose her options: either she could plan to eat a very small amount of a lot of different dishes (in which case she might end up feeling less satisfied both psychologically and physically) or a larger portion of just a few dishes.  Rose said that while feeling satisfied is really important to her, she thinks she’ll just feel too deprived if she doesn’t get to try everything. 

To help, we reminded Rose of several things.  First of all, chances are likely that this won’t be her last opportunity to eat any of these foods. Even if she opts not to eat them this week, they will come up again in the future.  Second we told Rose that if she chooses the first option, to eat small portions of many different things, she very well might still feel hungry but that’s ok.  Hunger is never an emergency and there is always another meal coming. 

Last we had to spell out the reality of the situation: either way Rose is going to be deprived.  Either she’s going to be deprived of eating everything at the holiday dinner, or she’s going to be deprived of all of the things on her Advantages List (being able to move around easily, having self-confidence, feeling better about herself, being healthier).  Either way she’s going to be deprived, and which, to her, would be the bigger deprivation?

One thing that has been helpful to our dieters recently is making their Advantages List more specific.  Instead of just listing, “I want to have more energy,” one dieter instead wrote, “I want to have more energy so I can go up and down stairs easily; so I can get the house in order in the evenings; so I can enjoy going out with friends on weekends without feeling tired.” Specific phrases create clear pictures in dieters’ minds of what they want to achieve.  We got Rose to ask herself: Would I rather be deprived of eating everything at the holiday dinner—or would I rather be deprived of feeling confident when I go to my son-in-law’s birthday party next week, being able to wear a regular sized seatbelt on the plane to Florida next month, and of being able to wear the special black dress I bought three years ago? Put in that way, the answer was clear to Rose. She’s now heading into her holiday dinner with much more resolve and confidence because she knows specifically why it’s worth it to stick to her plan.

We’d love to hear your comments. What specific Advantages do you have?