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Starting Over, Part II

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In Part I, I noticed what lead to overeating this winter – a lot of worry and fear. The worry and fear itself were not the cause of overeating. The cause is that I have a long-standing habit of responding to anxiety by overeating calorically dense foods.

So far, so good. Observing a habit is a good start, but it does not change the behavior. I am 52 years old and have had this habit for a very long time (since I can remember). I have lost weight when I have been in group situations where there is little opportunity for secretive, binge eating (example – at dance camp, or on a performing tour). I have also lost weight by diligently tracking my food (example – through SparkPeople). But I've always gained the weight back.

While I’d love to spend my life at dance and music camp, that is not likely to happen any time soon. And I have a sense that tracking, for me, does not change the underlying behavior. It DID give me a better sense of portions and of the relative caloric density of various foods. That was helpful. But it does not seem like a life-long tool for me because it plays into my anxiety and worry – Can I eat some more? Oh, no, I’ve eaten too much! -- which as noted above, is already problematic.

What to do: I was inspired by Cognitive Self-Change (CSS) as a tool for changing the habit of overeating. CSC is a training program our state uses to help those convicted of violent crimes to target the thinking behind violent behavior and change that thinking that lead to their actions. The goal is to prevent violent crimes in the future.

I learned about CSS recently when I facilitated a case conference for a young man leaving prison to live in the community. A case conference is an opportunity for the team – probation officer, community supporters, family, employment specialists, etc. – to make sure they are all on the same page regarding what’s needed to make sure the young man successfully re-enters the community. Since many people convicted of crimes go back to prison for re-offending, the team’s purpose is to help the young man continue to develop pro-social behaviors and to avoid re-offending.
Cognitive Self Change is one of the tools.

As I listened to this young man just out of prison articulately describe the CSS process, I was not only impressed with the changes he had made in his behavior so far, but also found myself embarrassed to notice I was still struggling with MY problematic behaviors. Admittedly, mine will not get me thrown in jail, but they are definitely harmful.

But I wondered: could this process be useful to ME? I’m writing this blog to explore this possibility.

Here are the steps in the process to avoid criminal behavior:
1. Pay attention to your thinking.
2. Recognize when your thoughts and feelings are leading you toward committing a violent or criminal action.
3. Think of new thinking that will lead you away from violence and crime, and that you can feel OK with yourself when you think it.
4. Practice using this new thinking in real life situations.

I’ve revised the steps to target overeating:

1. Pay attention to your thinking.
2. Recognize when your thoughts and feelings are leading you toward overeating or binge eating.
3. Think of new thinking that will lead you away from overeating or binge eating, and that you can feel OK with yourself when you think it.
4. Practice using this new thinking in real life situations.

How have I beein doing? It has been a goal of mine to be more observant of my thoughts and feelings, although I certainly could be much more attentive. I can generally recognize when my thoughts and feelings are leading me toward overeating. What I have NOT done is to “think of new thinking” that will lead me away from overeating.

I will be reflecting on this and will write more in my next blog. I note that the Vermont Department of Corrections program of cognitive self change takes eight months in prison, and then 12 months outside prison to complete. That means that they recognize that this takes time, support, and determination to complete. So, if I am going to do this, I need to focus on it and not give up! Stay tuned.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I try something simislar to this. I hope you are having great success mi amiga! It's a rough battle daily! emoticon
    2872 days ago
    This is exactly in accordance with the Beck approach . . . as applied to "sustaining weight loss" by "thinking like a thin person". Her workbook actually provides punch out cards you can carry in your purse to remind you of the various strategies that change thinking patterns . . . in particular, dealing with sabotaging thoughts.
    2899 days ago
    Your insights remind me of a book by Dr. Beck, targeting dieting with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I think it's called "The Beck Diet Solution." WATERMELLEN has blogged about it for a number of days. You can find the book on Amazon. It is about transforming your thinking.
    All the best,
    Usha. xx
    2901 days ago
    WOW! Keep that're bound to move mountains...or at least pounds!

    Thanks for those insights, my friend.
    2901 days ago
    This post is very, very inspiring. I'm going to use that method for myself, and see how well it helps me. I've done many of the same things you have lately in terms of making poor choices.

    Thanks for the information and inspiration!

    2901 days ago
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