I started working with a new dieter today. Sue has already lost 50 pounds on her own. In fact, she has lost 50 pounds several times in her life—and always gained it back. She doesn’t want that to happen this time. She’s committed to learning the lifetime skills she’ll need so that this time, she can be successful.

Sue would like to lose more weight but understands that we won’t know what a reasonable maintenance weight will be until she gets there; that is, the weight she is when she’s eating a healthy diet she can sustain for life.

We haven’t talked much about what and when Sue eats. I don’t want to focus much on food until she’s learned the essential preliminary skills. It would be too hard to focus on learning these skills and changing what she eats at the same time.

Today we concentrated on the reasons Sue wants to lose weight. She’ll copy some reasons from The Beck Diet Solution and add as many more as she can think of. (She’s going to put the list in her iPhone.) I urged Sue  to turn a general reason such as “I’ll have more energy” into several specific reasons:

  • “I’ll have more energy on the job”
  • “I’ll have more energy to see my friends at night”
  • “I’ll have more energy to enjoy bicycling on the weekend”

Since she’s already achieved a fantastic weight loss, she’ll also add to the list positive experiences she’s having day to day that relate to losing weight. For example, she told me she cried (for joy!) in the dressing room the other day when she was able to fit into size 10 pants. She’ll add every compliment she gets to the list, too.

We also developed a system for Sue to remember to read this list every morning and at her most difficult part of the day: 3 pm. Sue decided to set the alarm on her phone to alert her when it’s time to read the list. She said she was 100% sure she would follow through with these assignments—she didn’t think any “sabotaging thoughts” would get in the way (e.g., “I don’t have to read the list—I know what’s on it.”). Sue “gets” it. She may not need to constantly remind herself now why it’s so worth it to stick to her eating plan but she has to have these reasons firmly entrenched in her mind for the times when temptation is great.

I’m looking forward to more sessions with Sue!