I am beyond thrilled to be able to tell you guys that I have a very special post for you today!
A few weeks ago, after Seattle Runner Girl (SRG), Scale Warfare (SW), and I decided to do a Bloggy Beck Book Club to discuss Dr. Beck’s The Complete Beck Diet for Life book, I decided to take a huge chance. I contacted Dr. Judith Beck and asked her if she would be willing to participate in an email interview so that we could share the questions and answers with our blog readers. I figured, it doesn’t hurt to ask. And guess what?! She agreed!!!!
I was so happy and I seriously could not believe that a published author who had helped tens of thousands of people had agreed to let me interview her. I knew that I had to ask for SRG’s and SW’s input so that we’d have a great interview, and those ladies definitely did not disappoint.
Ok, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview…
Bella: Dr. Beck, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that you have granted this request. It’s quite an opportunity for me and my blogging colleagues (as well as our readers) to be able to ask you a few questions.
Bella: Your father first developed the idea of Cognitive Therapy. Why did you decide to use your knowledge of Cognitive Therapy to help those who have weight issues? What drew you to this aspect of therapy.
Dr. Beck: As a new psychologist in the mid-1980s, I treated clients who had problems such as depression and anxiety. A few also wanted to lose weight. I found that the same kinds of skills I was teaching clients to overcome depression and anxiety also applied to the problem of losing weight and maintaining weight loss, especially ways of changing their thinking and behavior. In the mid-1990s, I finally applied these skills to myself, lost about 15 pounds, and have kept it off ever since. (I had lost the same 10 or 15 pounds many times in my life.) So the topic is of both professional and personal interest and I myself encountered most of the problems and sabotaging thoughts I write about in my books.
Bella: You’ve written several books that pair Cognitive Therapy with weight loss. For a new reader, which title do you think is the best one to start with? How do they work together?
Dr. Beck: The Beck Diet Solution book and workbook (which can be used in conjunction with it or as a stand-alone) don’t mention food. They contain a six-week program in which a dieter learns a new cognitive (thinking) or behavioral skill each day. Most people need only one day for some skills but may need many days for other skills. These books suggest you choose any healthy diet which you implement after learning the first 14 skills.
Following the publication of those books, I received a couple of thousand emails and I also read hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs or postings to online community support groups. I realized was that many people were still struggling because they hadn’t chosen a healthy enough diet that they could keep up for life. So I wrote another book, The Complete Beck Diet for Life, which contains a sensible, healthy diet along with an updated version of the cognitive behavioral program in the first book and workbook. Dieters still master skills first, then make changes in their eating; then they do experiments to include their favorite foods–truly creating an individualized eating plan they can keep up for life.
SRG: If you had to point to one habit that made the biggest difference for most people, what would it be?
Dr. Beck: I haven’t done a systematic study and I don’t think it’s any one habit that makes a difference. It’s the combination of mastering all the skills.
SRG: How do you respond to people who look at the things “to do” in your books and say, “That’s just too much work!”
Dr. Beck: They haven’t read the books carefully enough to see that I recommend that people just learn one skill, master it, and then move on to a second skill. It would be overwhelming to try to learn all the skills at once. It’s like learning to play the piano. You don’t start with a complicated piece of music. You learn one scale, master it, then move on to another one.
SRG: You recommend that, at least in the beginning, people be inflexible dieters. How do you advise those who are ready to move beyond that inflexibility? What words of wisdom do you share with them so they balance a little more freedom correctly, instead of going overboard?
Dr. Beck: In the Complete Beck Diet for Life, I systematically teach people how to eat more flexibly. They do experiments, changing the timing and number and kind of food they eat for meals and snacks, for example. They create their own recipes and meals. They learn when it’s okay to change their plan in the moment and when it’s not. They learn specific guidelines for what is “flexible eating” versus “loose eating.” They learn how to work from a general eating plan instead of carefully planning each meal and snack.
SW: Many of us have had a lifelong struggle with weight. What is the single most important habit in that can help us finally move in the right direction (losing weight) once and for all, instead of going back and forth with our weight?
Dr. Beck: Again, there is no one single habit. That’s like looking for a “magic bullet.” There is no magic bullet. Fortunately there are concrete, common-sense skills for dieters to learn, just as their are concrete, common-sense skills if you want to learn to use a computer or play an instrument.
SW: How do you feel about the BMI? Many of us feel that our ideal weight is above the “healthy weight range” that many calculators suggest.
Dr. Beck: I have a different definition of ideal weight from most people. It does NOT include one’s BMI. Here it is: Your ideal weight RANGE is the weight, plus about five pounds, that you get down to when you are eating a very healthy diet you can stay on for life.
SW: How do you feel about the major weight loss programs out there (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, South Beach, calorie counting, etc)? Can we follow your program about learning new habits while following programs such as Weight Watchers, South Beach or calorie counting?
Bella: How do you see them working in conjunction with each other?
Dr. Beck: Absolutely, if the diet they propose (or your healthy variations from it) is one you can keep up for life and if you learn the pre-requisite dieting skills BEFORE you make major changes in your eating. Don’t follow a diet and lose weight short-term and then try to adopt a life-time diet. I’ll bet it never worked for you in the past (or you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog!).
SW: Programs such as Weight Watchers and calorie counting allow you to “eat back” some of the calories that you burn through working out. What are your thoughts on this?
Dr. Beck: Unless you’re a very vigorous exerciser, I think you should separate exercise from eating. You should exercise every day (even if it’s only a deliberate 5-minute exercise walk) because you need to develop the mindset that exercise is essential for good health and you need to develop a daily habit (so you don’t start an exercise program and then abandon it altogether). If you exercise one day and then eat more that day, you’ll feel deprived on days when you can’t have extra food. Research shows successful maintainers tend to eat in roughly the same way every day.
SW: What can we do to help ourselves lose weight consistently, week after week?
Dr. Beck: Learn the skills you need and be accountable to yourself and to another person for implementing them every single day.
Bella: One of the biggest reasons so many of us give up on weight loss plans is that we hit plateaus where we lose little or no weight for an extended period of time. How can we stay motivated and persevere through the times of struggle?
Dr. Beck: The first thing to recognize is that the changes you make in your eating are LIFETIME changes. It doesn’t matter if your weight has plateaued. You will continue eating in the same way for your lifetime–if you don’t want to gain weight back. To keep yourself motivated, regardless of what the scale says, you need to use the motivation for life plan in The Complete Beck Diet for Life. You learn many skills, for example, how to prepare yourself before you get on the scale every day, how to continue to give yourself credit for every positive eating behavior, how to look for “worth-it” experiences, and how to keep track of your meaningful weight-loss or maintenance experiences. During more difficult times, you learn how to calculate how many hours in the week were difficult versus how many hours were not, how to analyze why you’re having a more difficult time and do problem-solving, how to work on acceptance of what you still have to do, how to remember the “old” you, how visualize the future if you gain weight, how to respond to “it’s not worth it” sabotaging thoughts, how to remember that difficult times are temporary, and other skills.
Bella: Thousands of readers have been helped by the skills taught in your books. Can you think of an example success story that might motivate our blog readers?
Bella: Dr. Beck, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. I really appreciate your quick response. As a quick follow-up, are you currently working on a new book/project that you’d like to tell readers about?
How great is she?! I am still in awe that I got to interview her! I am so grateful to Seattle Runner Girl and Scale Warfare for helping me compose great questions. And I have to thank Dr. Beck for being so generous with her time and so accessible to us. This is a perfect example of my belief that you have to TAKE ACTION and take a risk in order to reap the rewards. This reward was a phenomenal experience!
As a reminder, if you’re planning on joining us for the Bloggy Beck Book Club, you’ll need to read up to and including page 49 to be prepared. Also, make sure you do all of the “assignments” that are included in the book up to that point. Seattle Runner Girl will be hosting our first discussion on February 25th. That’s one week, people, so happy reading!!!