We recently started working with three new dieters and, as always, we covered a lot of material in the first session. The first thing we go over with new dieters is the importance of making their Advantages List – a card that lists all of the reasons they want to lose weight. Most dieters can come up with fifteen to twenty reasons for their Advantages List, among them being such things as:
- I want to have more self-confidence
- I want to look better.
- I want to be healthier.
- I want to have more energy.
- I want to be less self-conscience.
- I want to wear more fashionable clothes.
In the beginning, dieters need to read their Advantages Card every single morning so it is always fresh in their mind exactly why they are putting forth all this effort. Dieters also need to read the card every time they are tempted to eat something they shouldn’t. This way, they have to squarely face the question, “Do I want the momentary pleasure from eating [this food] or do I want all the advantages on my list – to feel better, to look better, to be healthier, to be able to keep up with my kids, etc.” In this way, it’s much easier for dieters to resist tempting food, even in the moment, because they are able to see that they’d much rather have all the things on their list.
Another important topic in our first session is the importance of eating everything slowly, while sitting down, and enjoying every bite. For some dieters, eating everything sitting down can be a big adjustment, because whether they realize it or not, many people do a significant amount of eating standing up. Opportunities to eat standing up abound – hor d’oeuvres at cocktail parties, free samples at the grocery store, taste-testing while cooking, picking at leftovers when clearing the table, etc. And many times dieters just simply don’t remember the food they eat while standing up. Eating everything slowly, while sitting down, and enjoying every bite is crucial not only so that dieters can be aware of everything they’re eating, but also so that they feel both physically and psychologically satisfied by their meals.
We also discuss how important it is that dieters not be ashamed of themselves or see themselves as failures because they’re overweight. We emphasize that the reason they haven’t been able to lose weight and keep it off in the past is because they didn’t know how. Dieting is a skill just like any other, and it takes instruction and practice to become adept at it. No one would expect to be able to sit behind the wheel of a car for the first time and drive perfectly. They would need a teacher, practice, and road experience before they became good at driving. Dieting works in exactly the same way; it’s comprised of a specific set of thinking and behavioral skills. We always leave our dieters with a sense of hope, that this time is going to be different, that this time they can be successful, because this time they are going to learn how!