Thursday, July 19, 2007

what happened to The Beck Diet Solution?

Some of you may be wondering why I stopped posting about The Beck Diet Solution after blogging about it every day for a while. Or not. But I thought it was worth mentioning, anyway.

I probably quit this program in the same place that 99% of other people who picked up the book quit: Day 14.

Why Day 14?
Today, you're going to write a food plan that includes everything you're going to eat tomorrow. And, tomorrow, you'll check off whatever you eat that's on the plan and write down any food you eat that isn't on the plan.

You'll continue to plan and monitor your eating in writing every day for many weeks and months, possibly until you've lost all the weight you want -- and maybe even beyond.
Let's put it this way. My "sabotaging thoughts" about this were not argued away by Beck's very reasonable discussion of why this was a good idea. I understand why planning ahead is a great idea, I just don't want to do it. The exact reason it's a good idea is the reason I don't want to: It prevents spontaneous decisions about food. If something unplanned comes up, what you're supposed to do is say "Oh Well" and wait until you get a chance to eat the food you've planned.

In some sense, I already do plan my food. I eat the same breakfast almost every day. I often plan my dinners at the beginning of the week. But I want the option to respond to a situation that comes up, as long as I make it fit with my points. Yesterday, for example, I was at a farmer's market buying some fresh peaches and other fruit. I saw avocados (not local, of course) and thought of a salad that I saw in a magazine. So we had avocado, tomato, and onion salad for dinner (too much onion, next time I'll use less) with fresh sweet corn.

Theoretically, I know that even if I had committed to writing down ahead of time what I wanted to eat, I could still change my mind and do something else and write it down. But it doesn't feel that way to me -- it feels "unfair, punitive... too regimented," just like Dr. Beck knew it would.
After all, many people who aren't dieting don't have to plan like this. They can just stand in front of the refrigerator and think What do I feel like eating tonight? People who want to lose weight, however, just can't have that luxury.
So why can't we? I guess because we've proven that we can't make good choices by getting fat in the first place. That's the thing that grated on me while I was reading this book. The examples of good behavior that Dr. Beck used occasionally seemed like the behavior of someone mentally ill, or at least bizarre, like the woman who was offered a homemade chocolate chip cookie and didn't want it right then, but asked if she could take one home for her snack later.

Consider the difference between sitting and eating a cookie with a friend, chatting happily, and eating it alone, at the end of the day with no one else around. Sure, you can chat with the friend while she eats the cookie and you don't, but there's some tension there, and then at the end of the day you nibble at your cookie by yourself, trying to make it last as long as possible. And why do you have to do this instead of being a part of the human race? Because you're fat. Maybe when you've gotten to goal weight and have proven you can be trusted, you can eat your cookie with everyone else.

This book has some excellent strategies, but a few things like this sort of ruined it for me. Maybe I'm in deep denial and just not able to see what's in my best interest. Maybe it's just not worth it to me.

On a related but slightly different note, I was in a bookstore yesterday and leafed through Gina Kolata's , which I've read about but still haven't actually read. I just couldn't justify spending the money on yet another diet-related book right now, since I feel like I have my own Fat Library already. But I read through the prologue and the epilogue, and I am going to have to see if my library has it. Kolata, at least, seems to be trying to defend people who have trouble losing weight against accusations that they're not really trying or that they just don't know what's best for themselves.

By the way, I have to add in a big thank you to Erin for her nice comments about me in her excellent post the other day. I think the whole body politics/self-esteem/weight thing is a hard knot to unravel, but I'd like to think that the conversations we're having about it in Weight-Blog Land are getting us a little closer to sanity.


  1. 11:32 AM

    Today, you're going to write a food plan that includes everything you're going to eat tomorrow. And, tomorrow, you'll check off whatever you eat that's on the plan and write down any food you eat that isn't on the plan.

    Oh hell no. I've been carrying this book around in my bag and feeling bad that I haven't had time to read it yet.

    I want to think like a thin person. I don't know a single thin (as in has never been fat) person who does this.

  2. 12:58 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. 1:16 PM

    hey guys, here's a comment from someone who has followed most of the Beck Diet Solution, but not all of it, and is getting terrific results.

    I don't really plan my food in advance like she says, but I have still lost about 18 lbs in about 5 weeks quite easily.
    I chose a different approach. I just make sure I add-up all my calories for the day as I go. But you have to WRITE THAT DOWN, otherwise you will deceive yourself. So I don't really plan my meals in advance, but I do count the calories, and make certain I don't go over.

    As far as choice, you can have some flexibility too. Just budget in a certain amount of Mad Calories, like Mad Money, to do what you want with.

    The reason Beck has these rules is because they WORK. But like anything you can adapt them in a responsible way.

    I REFUSED to write down what I ate at first, as I thought it was a waste of time. But I realized quickly that I was WRONG, and that I have to write it down, and count the calories. It takes a couple minutes, big deal.

    Also, later in the book, Beck says once you are getting along better, you can do a rough food plan in your head, and eat with more flexibility. So its all there in the book. But for those who are overweight, they need some structure, that's why they put on the weight in the first place.

    Also, about the cookie. I find the thinking about that needlessly complicated. If a person is overweight, and trying to lose weight, there is nothing wrong with sitting there and talking with your friend WITHOUT eating the damn cookie! Life ain't all about food. But if you want the cookie, then eat the cookie! You still have Free Will.
    But Beck is giving people ideas on how to deal with those types of situations, where they want the cookie, but are trying to retrain themselves to eat healthier and lose weight. Most of us don't eat ONE cookie, we eat about 7 cookies. Its not about the cookie, its about controlling binging behavior some people fall into.

    So that's great you are pointing out areas of the book that don't seem to work for you. You should add them all up, and send them to Judith Beck as feedback. She'll thank you for it.

    But I have modified many parts of the Beck Solution program, but not the central parts of it, and am getting terrific results. The book is based on CBT, Cognitive Therapy, which is NOT some type of fascist ideology of over-control. Its the precise opposite. Its about human freedom. So I am not Judith Beck, but I don't see a problem in adapting the book and ideas as a person's thinks about it carefully. See if it works.

    That's what I did. I have changed parts of it, and if it works, great. If not, then I will go back and try it her way too. So far its worked, but if my ideas don't work, then I will admit my error, and try it her way too.

    I also eat while walking sometimes, but only my Snack, not a Big Mac! That breaks her rule, and again so far its working for me. Those "rules" are there to help us, not restrict us.

    There is so much in that book that is great, there's no need to get derailed over minor issues. I can GUESS, if you were with Judith Beck privately in a session, she would discuss with you what you wanted to do, and adapt it to the individual in a thoughtful way.

    Its just a template, and some people are better off following it. Others, like me, also do things in my own way. BUT, one has to be humble, and realize if its NOT working, then I will also try it her way.

    Sorry for the rant, but that was just my reaction to reading what you wrote. The Beck Diet Solution is based on CBT, and CBT has these various techniques, but only to help you achieve more personal freedom, and to enrich your life. We can do what we want, but its smartest to stay humble, and try it their way, and our own way, and see which way works best.
    Its like a little behavioral experiment to try and find what works for the individual.

    good luck...

    PS: the comment above this one is you know of one person who was overweight who got thin by NOT monitoring their food intake? I don't.
    The point is that naturally thin people don't think about food all the time, or overeat on a daily basis. That's why they are thin!! But people who are overweight have to re-learn their eating behaviors again, and learn how to eat moderate calories, and healthy foods. Becks technique is simply a techique for a person to become conscious of what they are eating, and to retrain their negative eating patterns. If a person doesn't have a problem with their eating patterns, then they clearly would not have a problem with being overweight.

    But it comes down to whatever works for the individual, but we have to be humble enough to admit we sometimes can benefit from the advice of an expert.

    there is also a little support group studying the Beck Diet Solution called "mind over matter" at Peertrainer.

  4. 7:22 PM

    Jen, I like your comments on Beck and I agree. Thanks for posting about it. I love book reviews. I am still working my way through my Louise Hay book about changing how I think. It does not address eating specifically but the changing my thoughts and healing is helping me in a bigger way that trickles down to my eating. At least so far, anyway. I enjoyed this post very much.

  5. 9:10 PM

    I was going to buy the Beck Diet Solution. Now I’m glad that I read this before I did. Beck Diet Solution, you are off my wish list!

    I also read your WW review and I liked it. It was very fair.

  6. 11:19 PM

    Yeah, that sounds a bit too much for most people. OK, so know approximately what you're going to eat, but to know exactly? And not venture off the path? Then feel guilty because you ate fresh fruit from the farmer's market? No thanks.

    I agree, though, that writing down what we DO eat is a big factor for *some people* in weight loss success. For me, it's been critical. Will I do it for the rest of my life? Who knows. But it's what's working now, and what I'll do until I've maintained my goal weight (which I hopefully will hit this fall) for a year.

    Love your thoughtful posts, Jen. Keep 'em up. Hope the dissertation is progressing nicely!

  7. 4:58 AM

    Jen, I'll mail you my copy of Rethinking Thin and you can pass it along to anyone else who wants to read it. It's a very humbling book even though I disagree with her conclusion (and maybe I'm looking at it wrong).

    I don't think you've given up totally on the Beck Diet -- you're just hung up on Day 14. And you're ahead of me; my book is still next to my bed (along with my other big slush pile of books and magazines). I think she has a lot of good tips and I like what Uber wrote above. Actually, your post and Uber's comments will motivate me to dig it back up and start to work on it some more. (I imagine it's hard to take a CBT and try to make it fit for the general population.)

    I have to admit, even though I'm not counting points, I do like our inventory and writing it down. Do I want to be 86 and living in a nursing home and saying to my nurse, "Let me tell you what I ate today..." and handing her a list? Not really, but if it means I can get up from my chair and I don't need a special crane, then yeah, I'll do it. It stinks but so does having diabetes or any other disease that has to be monitored. I do think I have a disease -- it's in my head but I can't kid myself that I can eat like a normal person. Like you said, if we could, we wouldn't be fat in the first place.

    Thanks Jen and Uber for a good post and a good reply.

  8. 3:41 AM

    Guess my reactions are more along the lines of 'uber'... adapt what works for you. For me, writing down what I plan to eat the next day is a way of putting time between when I get the urge to eat a specific thing, and when I actually eat it. This slows me down and lets me figure out how what I want to eat (and probably will eat) can figure into a reasonable diet strategy.
    In this area, what really works for me is the evening review/planning session, where I give myself time to think about my choices during the day and adapt my strategy for tomorrow. In the past I have viewed meal planning as a weekly activity, and tracking as negative feedback on what I did 'wrong'. Now I see it as 'editing' my food journal, and my scale and tape measure as 'feedback tools'. Without BDS I would not have made this thinking shift.
    The truth is, my weight loss will be slow if I don't limit caloric intake. If I don't plan and track, I'm not a good judge of this process. It ain't magic; it's math.
    Regarding the 'cookie'... I read the example as a way to handle food pushers without making them feel bad or me feel obvious. In truth, I don't think the point was to eat it at home, alone. If I really wanted that silly thing, ideally, I would work it into my food plan for the next day.
    Emily (GatewayDreamer...Lessons, Thoughts, and Dreams on 'Beck site'.)

  9. 2:31 PM

    I guess most of the above comments reflect most of my thoughts. I credit Beck's book for my weight loss but I also have adapted it to best meet my needs. I don't think any book out there can meet all our needs so any program like this needs tweaked for a better fit. I still am a strong believer in the book & program. I guess my thought is not to throw out the baby with the bath water.

  10. 12:38 PM

    As a successful Beck dieter (I've lost over 25 pounds), I found that planning my meals every day is what saved me. I use, and there I put down everything I'm going to eat that day. I print it out, and check it off as I eat it. I adjust for calories as I go so I can plan in advance. If I'm going to a restaurant, I look up the menu, figure what I'll order, and add that. If there's no menu available, I leave myself a certain amount of calories and try to stay within that. Works for me!

  11. 4:56 PM

    I'm with Uber on this one. I need the structure and know I can adapt it as I need to. Reality is that going it on my own with no system has not worked, over and over and over.

    I use to journal my food for the day but I also feel free to change it to reflect changes in my plans and actions. Journaling keeps me honest with myself and makes me think twice before chomping on that unplanned snack or tasty tidbit while cooking.

    I have just started the Beck Diet Solution and workbook and so far am finding it to be the preparation I probably need to be able to succeed at something I've failed at so many times in the past. I like her set up of making the first 14 days a time to really look at how my thinking and habits affect my eating choices. I am making full use of those 14 days to start re-orienting my thinking before trying to change my diet too drastically. Reality is, though, that once one starts thinking about it, changes start happening anyway.

    Thanks for thoughtful comments from people who really care and are really trying on both sides of support for this approach.

  12. 11:04 PM

    I googled beck diet blogs and up came your post! I also gave up on the Beck Diet Solution too, although I stopped a whole lot sooner than day 14. Instead, I went to a cognitive therapist to help me reprogram my thinking.

    One of my tasks was to plan out every meal, every piece of food that went in my mouth. I resisted this task and found it very stressful. It helped when we planned meals together and I was generous and didn't allow myself to feel restrictive.

    In time when I wasn't planning as many meals as I thought I should - and feeling bad about it - she told me that the purpose of the meal planning is to get accustomed to eating every three hours, and to ensure that mindless eating out of the bag/box/fridge was eliminated.

    The most interesting thing that I learned in therapy is that most of my eating and food issues are a result of 20+ years of dieting.

    It really is a mindgame: I tell myself that I can eat anything (in any quantity) that I want, but in reality, I need to choose healthier foods in smaller quantities; be happy about it and not dwell on said food or smaller quantity.

    Anyhow, it's a work in progress. I'm now dieting with out a diet, and I'm so glad that I no longer have to plan every piece of food that goes into my mouth. I look forward to reading your blog, I like your approach.

  13. Anonymous7:34 PM

    To put in in pirates words "itsmore like a guide line" getting ready to read beck's diet and i do ww. writting done your does mean you cant change it, but it may make you observe patters of why u change it. Your trip to the farmers market was a good change but we didnt get fat by only making good changes. A log lets you look back at those changes and evalueate them.


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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07