Healthy Weight, Healthy Mind: Actions, Not Words

This client of Dr. Creel’s offers her own spin on weight loss advice, including some great tips for the busy holiday season.

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We are pleased to bring you this regular column by Dr. David Creel, a licensed psychologist, certified clinical exercise physiologist and registered dietitian. He is also credentialed as a certified diabetes educator and the author of A Size That Fits: Lose Weight and Keep it off, One Thought at a Time (NorLightsPress, 2017).

Do you have a weight loss question for Dr. Creel? Email him at [email protected]. He may answer your question in a future column.

In the next few articles, patients and colleagues provide their own recipes for weight loss success. The stories and advice are down-to-earth and powerful. I learned a great deal from them, and I believe you will too.

Carol: Actions Not Words

When we met, Carol seemed to be a no-nonsense, just-the- facts kind of woman. During our first few sessions she appeared to endure our back and forth chit-chat about her weight as a requirement to get to the bottom line — a plan. Unlike clients who leave a session saying, “That gives me something to think about,” Carol likes to leave saying, “That’s something I can use.”

During the first four months of treatment we stuck with a well-planned progression to reach her desired weight. We sometimes joked that we were following the manual’s instructions, keeping up with the manufacturer’s recommended scheduled maintenance, building what she wanted brick by brick.

Over the two years we worked together, Carol broadened her perspective. Although remaining true to her cut-the- fluff approach, she gained an appreciation for stepping back from her detailed goals enough to see the bigger picture of her journey. She became more comfortable sharing what lies behind her eating behavior — her beliefs, emotions, and personality — and learned to appreciate all those behind-the-scenes factors involved with weight management. Combining our discussions and her plans helped Carol identify exactly where she had problems with eating, and she learned what works and what doesn’t.

Although we looked for explanations for her behavior, we didn’t get bogged down by the why. Instead, we chose to look at how things happened and then made plans for how she wanted things to happen. I learned that Carol is polite, smart, and driven to succeed — someone you’d want on your team. Carol shows great commitment to managing her weight and has an uncanny ability to consolidate information, put a plan together, and then take action.

Carol has never been morbidly obese, but was at an unhealthy weight before starting our sessions. She didn’t like the way she felt or the size of her clothes, and she knew unhealthy behavior was to blame. After several years of persistence and remarkable success, she was kind enough to share her recipe for success:

  • Track food daily. Carol suggests using a mobile app because most people always have their phones nearby.
  • Develop some sort of external accountability. Without someone to check in with, it’s too easy to fall back into old behavior, regain weight, and ignore things that contribute to a relapse.
  • Weigh daily; it will keep you honest. Stepping on the scale each morning makes it easier to observe day-to-day fluctuations without freaking out about one measurement. You’ll learn to look for trends and modify your behavior accordingly.
  • Make exercise a priority. If you’re always trying to fit exercise between other activities, it often gets squeezed out. Instead, plan your days with exercise at the top of the to-do list. Carol suggests taking a fitness class, which also provides social support, or having a set time for your routine.
  • Plan and pre-prep meals as much as possible. Use weekends to slice and dice, pre-portion, or cook foods that take a long time to prepare. When your busy week is in full swing, healthy foods are at your fingertips and meals only take minutes to assemble.
  • If you drink alcohol, develop strategies to control it. Otherwise your calories can get out of control in a hurry. Not only do the drinks contain calories, but your inhibitions to eating not-so-healthy foods often fly out the window as well. Carol recommends thinking ahead about which social events will lend themselves to drinking and prioritize within a budget of two to three drinks per week.
  • Work functions, family pitch-ins, or holiday gatherings can often be part of a downhill spiral for someone trying to manage weight. Bring a healthy dish with you and never take home tempting, high-calorie leftovers.

Limit desserts. Carol admits to struggling with the sweet stuff. She found that only buying what she wants to eat at one sitting is a good strategy. She rarely bakes because the temptation is too much work to manage.

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