Tell me truthfully: Do you think that thin people actually think differently than heavier folks? (Avoiding for a moment the very real point that thinness does not necessarily bring happiness as evidenced by this Special K survey where the top 4 happiest – both with their looks and their lives – groups of women were sizes 10, 8, 6 and 12 respectively.)
I like to watch people eat. I stare. I’ll admit it gets awkward occasionally. But, contrary to what they often think, I’m not mentally tallying the calorie count of their food or passing judgment about what put on their plate. What I’m doing is studying them. I’m trying to figure out how normal people act around food so that perhaps if I act like them, I’ll eventually be normal too. So do thin people think differently? For myself, I don’t know. What I do know is that for whatever reason many people of all sizes have a much happier relationship with food than I do. And I’m guessing that it might have to do with how they think.
Dr. Judith Beck agrees with me. Her father, the late great Dr. Aaron Beck, pioneered the field of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Any of you who have e-mailed me for advice about your own issues with food and/or compulsive exercise (despite the fact that I am not qualified to give anyone advice about anything, bless your hearts) probably got to hear a lot more than you wanted to know about CBT. I love it. I credit Dr. Beck the elder with helping me pull out of a serious depressive episode my freshman year of college. And now his daughter has adapted CBT principles to weight loss.
The basic premise of CBT is that to change your actions, you need to change your cognitions, or thoughts. You know the old saw about if you are unhappy then smile until you feel happy? It’s sort of the same. You practice thinking and writing (there’s lots and lots of writing involved in CBT) the thoughts you want to have and replacing your old destructive thoughts with the new ones. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a little labor intensive at first but it does get better until at last the new thoughts are habitual. I know it all sounds a little hokey but there is a substantial body of research to support it.
A few years ago Dr. Judith Beck came out with a neon pink – ’cause women love pink, get it? – little hardcover by the name of “The Beck Diet Solution.” I was immediately skeptical as I am of anything using the four-letter D word but hey, I was in Barnes and Noble and you all already know about my dirty little secret about that store. So I read it. And then… I bought it. I think the Barnes and Noble sales person actually fainted when he rung me up. I loved it. It turns out that Dr. Beck was promoting a way to never diet again. At least in terms of highly restrictive food plans that cut severe calories or restrict whole food groups. In fact, it wasn’t about dieting at all but rather about how to change your thought patterns to “think like a thin person.”
She immediately dispelled the favorite myth of dieters everywhere that nobody has to watch what they eat except the poor sap on a diet. She contends that thin people are actually very careful with what they eat; they just don’t think about it in terms of deprivation. Like I said earlier, I don’t actually know how non-disordered eaters think. So I’ll have to take Dr. Beck’s word for it. But I would like to find out!
Dr. Beck has since come out with a sequel to her Diet Solution called The Complete Beck Diet for Life. This incorporates all the same skills as in the first book but adds a little more direction. The new book includes actual recipes and tips for maintaining your weight. All in all it is one of the most sane “diet” books I have ever read. And the best part is that you don’t need any equipment fancier than a pencil and paper to do it!
That and you have to really decide that you want to do it. Trust me: at first you will think “I don’t need to do all this writing nonsense; let’s get to the good stuff!” This doesn’t work. The whole point of CBT is that you have to ingrain it your brain through repetition. So skipping the repetition is like wearing Lindsay Lohan’s “presidential” leggings and thinking that automatically entitles you to a Washington D.C. internship.
Tuesday’s Great Fitness Experiment Giveway
What do you think? Do thin people think about food differently than not-thin people? Have any of you switched from one mindset to the other? Anyone stuck in a particular mindset? Leave me a comment on your take and you will be entered to win your very own copy of Dr. Beck’s new book!
PS> For an awesome interview with Dr. Beck about her book, head over to Cranky Fitness!