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A New Way of Thinking About Dieting?

July 16, 2009 By:
Rita Charleston, Jewish Exponent Feature
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Even though she's schooled in helping people handle their problems, when it comes to yo-yo dieting, she was no more successful at handling it than many others have been.

"I was constantly going up and down, trying to lose the same 10, 15 pounds for a long time," says Judith Beck.

The daughter of Dr. Aaron T. Beck -- the founder of cognitive therapy -- Judith is currently the director of the Beck Institute of Cognitive Therapy, and the past president of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. Additionally, she is a clinical associate professor of psychology/psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

But food was always an issue in her life -- until she learned to use her many cognitive-therapy skills, a form of talk therapy that dates to the l960s -- to help herself and others lose weight and keep it off.

That's when she decided to write a book titled The Complete Beck Diet for Life: The Five-Step Program for Permanent Weight Loss.

Based on the eating choices of the most successful dieters she has counseled, Beck's food plan integrates the cognitive behavioral approach with a tested nutritional program, complete with easy and delicious recipes.

"The reason I wrote this book was to teach dieters how to diet, how to keep going when dieting becomes difficult, how to maintain their weight loss, and how to create a flexible and healthy eating plan. Dieters need to stop putting some foods off-limits, and instead learn how to eat their favorite foods -- even candy, fries or chips -- every day," she explains.

Beck says that, when using her plan, dieting will be different: "This time you will learn cognitive-therapy skills to help you when you're feeling disappointed, discouraged, deprived and unmotivated. In my program, I have people do an experiment with food by going without food for a few hours. That way, they discover that hunger is only mildly discomforting. They find out you might feel hungry for five to 10 minutes, but the feeling does go away. Most dieters don't know that."

According to Beck, years ago in many Jewish households, babies were considered healthy if they were a bit chubby.

"Generations ago, if you were bulked up, you had more chance of surviving things like the influenza epidemic, so there was some truth in those days," she says.

But that was then; this is now.

Today, Beck eases dieters into changing their eating, one step at a time. They master one task, such as eating slowly, before they move on to the next one. They also learn how to develop plans for coping with challenging situations, such as holiday celebrations and people who "push food."

Beck previously published The Beck Diet Solution, also aimed at helping people lose weight. But from the feedback she was receiving, she discovered that one of the major reasons men and women were failing in their diets was that they simply weren't eating enough.

"For example, many people were eating only 1,200 calories a day. People can keep that up for a few weeks, a few months, even a few years, but there's no way to sustain that for the long haul. So in this book," she says, "I urge people to never go below 1,600 calories a day."

The bottom line, Beck concludes, is to learn from past mistakes: "Then learn to give yourself credit for having gotten back on track and all that you've accomplished. You should be proud."

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