Last October Carol went to her family doctor with symptoms of heartburn. She was appalled and devastated when the nurse asked her to step on the scale and she saw just how overweight she had become. She had to face the facts — admit she was consuming hundreds of extra calories, snacking on automatic pilot all night long and waking up feeling ill. She’d been in denial of how heavy she had become.
Carol decided to sign up for the weight management program at her gym, hoping the nutritionist was going to give her a magic pill to lose weight. She wanted the dietician to do the work, not her. Her program was to write down and count all her calories. Sadly she thought, ”It can’t be that simple; this can’t be the magic I was looking for.” She thought, ‘It’s not going to work.”
Carol joined calorieking.com and her husband bought her a pocket calorie counting book to carry with her. She realized the types and amounts of food she had been eating were making her obese. Soon she was asking herself, “Is it worth all those calories?” The old thoughts of “I won’t write down the cupcakes” are gone. Carol knows not writing it down is only lying to herself, and “what’s the point of that?”
When she watched cooking shows in the past and saw the chef putting in a half pound of butter, she used to think, ”Ooh I can’t wait to test that recipe.” Now she watches with different thoughts. Now she says, “Too many calories,” and chooses not to eat it. She got to the point where she’s able to say, ”I’d rather be fit than eat what’s calling me.” Counting her calories proved to be the magic bullet. ”Being mindful of all of your calories really does work,”’ she said.
Carrying something in her purse, like a fiber bar, allows Carol to be out shopping and not hear the pretzel shop or the cinnamon bun store screaming out her name. Now when she has a craving, she reminds herself that she has a finite number of calories left for the day. ”The nice thing about counting calories is I can have it (i.e. a cookie) as long as I’m mindful of how many calories it is and what I have left for the day. Planning ahead is essential.” She tells herself that she still has choices, and doesn’t need to feel deprived as long as she is mindful of portion sizes. She can savor half of a cupcake and feel very satisfied.
At her school picnic last week they served hotdogs, chips, and juice boxes. Even though she doesn’t even like hotdogs, she would have eaten it in the past because she ate on auto pilot. Now, being both mindful and accountable, she chooses her calories wisely. “Would I want those specific calories or would I rather have something I really wanted, in this case going out to lunch with a friend for a Greek salad (dressing on the side of course)?”
What’s calling Carol now is the thought, ”I need to make good choices.” Although she still wants pancakes and waffles for breakfast, she’s choosing the raisin bran cereal with skim milk.
Now she is being called to maintain a program that will allow her to be healthy and to feel good about herself. What’s calling you?
Ellen is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco and Redwood City, California. She specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and incorporates the use of mindfulness into the treatment of depression, anxiety, and emotional overeating. She runs a holistic weight loss program called Center for Thoughtful Weight Loss, www.thoughtfulweightloss.com. You can email Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org
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copyright © 2010 Ellen N. Resnick, LCSW
Reprinted with permission