A little self-help

I’ll admit it.  I’m on a diet and have been since November.  But not a diet like one you might imagine.  I am not restricting myself to 1200 calories (far too low for most people).  I have no cut out carbs or sugar or fats.  It doesn’t have a ‘name’. I still drink beer & wine.  I eat chocolate.  And I love it.  My diet is one that I can follow for life.  I don’t feel deprived, don’t feel like binging and I’m losing weight, albeit slowly.  Very slowly.  In our world of fast movement and lack of patience, my diet has been one that has tested my resolve.  BUT, I’m seeing results.  Yay!  If you want to do something similar to me, then here are the resources I’m using:

  • MyFitnessPal -(MFP)  this is a website where you can post your food input and figure out if you are eating the right ‘macros’ (amounts of certain food elements, such as protein).  I’m focusing on eating under my calories and eating enough protein to protect my muscles.  What I like about it is that you can manipulate the numbers to your own needs.  I do NOT go by their numbers as they tend to give people too low calorie needs.  Most people also try to lose 2lb a week which is FAR TOO QUICK (unless you are about 100 lb overweight).  I also LOVE the forums.
  • Scooby Workshop – I use the TDEE method of losing/maintaining weight.  In this method, you figure out how many calories to eat daily based on your activity level.  I use an activity level of moderately active (between 3-5 hrs) as I lift 3x a week, run 2x a week, have a 2 hr field hockey practice, play 1x a week and walk a lot.  It is suggested that you do a deficit of between 15-20% – you’ll be better able to maintain your lean muscle mass (a good thing).  I do a 10% deficit as I’m close to my goal weight.  It’s suggested that the closer you get to your goal weight, the less you try to lose per week.  What’s good about doing this method is that you learn how to eat the way you should for life.
  • Eat More to Weigh Less  – I spent my teens and 20s doing crash diets and restrictive diets.  I was not healthy.  I was skinny but had a much higher body fat percentage as I had lost a lot of my lean body muscle.  I wish that this website has existed back then (well, actually the internet didn’t really exist to the same extent).  I’ve learned so much about how to eat at a healthier level, do the right things for my body and get the support I need.  They also have a group on the MFP website.
  • Stronglifts 5×5 – I have always done a bit of weight lifting.  But I used to use machines as they felt more ‘comfortable’.  They helped but I wasn’t seeing the gains I had hoped for.  And then I was introduced to the Stronglifts programme.  It’s changing my body.  It’s early days but I can see the muscles below my body fat.  And my body fat is starting to come off even though I’m eating around maintenance.  I’d rather get tighter, stronger and stay the same weight.  NO, I’m not getting bulky – while I do have a genetic gift to gain muscle more than many women (more testosterone I believe), I’m not getting big – I’d have to take drugs to do that.  It takes guys, who have a lot more testosterone years to build muscles naturally.  So lift weights!  Lift BIG weights and you’ll never regret it!

If you are an emotional eater like many of us (yup, I’ve been there), then I would love to share with you a few worksheets that have helped my clients and myself with all those negative thoughts that seem to come into our mind (and which we might not even recognise may change how we feel and behave):

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/ThoughtRecordSheet7.pdf 

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/ABC.pdf 

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/CravingsDiary.pdf 

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/FoodDiary.pdf 

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/CriticalVoiceTRS.pdf

No one worksheet is going to be the end all. If things are really bad, I’d suggest seeing a therapist, particularly one who uses CBT. But it’s a good start!

Using Thought Records

One of the most useful tools in CBT is a thought record. Why would this be helpful? In CBT, the belief is that thoughts, feelings/emotions, behaviours and physical symptomology are all tied together and influence each other:

Unhelpful thoughts can trigger unhelpful behaviours, emotions and physical symptoms. So if you change those unhelpful thoughts (sometimes called irrational thoughts), you will end up changing your emotions, behaviours and physical symptoms.

In the beginning of CBT, most therapists will ask a client to fill out a simple thought record. Here’s an example:

By filling this out, the therapist will get to have an idea of what unhelpful thoughts a client has.  Then in session, they may begin to work with these thoughts and see if there are more helpful alternatives.  Here’s an example of an unhelpful thought that I had the other day (because, honestly, we all have them…but they may not be so bad or so numerous as to influence our mental state): “I am so clumsy.” It was not helpful as it didn’t add anything to my life but it made me feel slightly less good about myself. I had tripped and the thought came to mind. It wasn’t a huge deal as it was just one random thought and after I thought it, I countered it with something else (which I can’t remember, but was probably something along the lines of ‘yup, and that’s okay cause you’re still good at sports’.)

As the client gets practiced at it in session, the client will then be asked to fill out a more intensive form and do the work on their own, trying to find evidence for and against the thought, and then coming up with a more helpful thought.

Even if you are not doing CBT with a therapist, you can use these forms to help yourself. There are several self-help websites, but the one that I’ve found most helpful is http://www.get.gg/. If you are really struggling, I would seek out a professional to help you with your issue. But if the problem seems to have just begun or you are in a long wait for a therapist, you could use these resources to start looking at how your thinking might be influencing your life in a not so great way. Another fabulous resource is a book called “Mind Over Mood” by Greenberger & Padesky. It’s a book that I’ve suggested to clients who I can only see for a few sessions so they can continue to work on their issues on their own.