Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dieting, Weight Loss & PSYCHOLOGY - Melissa's BREAKTHROUGH

One March afternoon in the spring of 2004, a client by the name of Melissa moped into my office for her weekly appointment. Melissa initially sought weight loss counseling because she weighed just over three hundred pounds.

"How'd it go this week?" I queried as we sat down for her consultation.
"Terrible." Disappointment, self-disapproval and her profound sense of failure oozed from her being. She gazed at the floor and avoided eye contact.
"Terrible, huh." I repeated. I was thinking that I have heard this hundreds, maybe thousands of times in my almost twenty years in practice helping people lose weight.
"What was so terrible? If I may ask..."
"It was my son's birthday week, and I had a piece of birthday cake. Then we went out for Mexican food, and I had some chips. I completely blew the diet."
"Ok," I responded in a soft tone that lets my clients know I am confident in my ability to help them. "May I ask you a couple of questions?"
"Sure," she muttered looking up only to reach for a tissue.
"In our work together, we've talked less about dieting and more about eating a minimum of five to six times per day. How many times did you eat in an average day this week?"
"Four to five." She dabbed the makeup at the corners of her eyes with the tissue.
"Ok... first... that's up from one to two times per day before you and I started working together.
That alone is definitely movement in the direction you want to go, right?"
"I guess." My acknowledgment clearly did NOT make her feel better.
"So that's about thirty eating events for the week, two were off target. How did the other twenty-eight stack up? Were they on target? Not on target?"
"No, they were pretty much on target."
I paused being sure that we made eye contact to drive the communication home, "Melissa, do you realize what you are telling me? Twenty-eight of your thirty eating events for the week were on target... but you had a terrible week?"
Understanding that the evidence simply weighed too heavily in my favor, she relented. "Yeah, I guess that doesn't make sense, does it?"
"No, it really doesn't. But in your defense, this is the way you have been trained to think by our compadres in the weight loss and diet industry - one 'mistake', and you have failed. You have 'broken' your diet. One 'mistake' completely and totally negates whatever you did that was on target."
I paused for emphasis. "Does it feel better when you realize that you were over ninety percent on target?"
"A LOT better. I didn't realize... I had no idea." she had stopped crying. "I have never thought of it like that." "I know. This is VERY common. This is one of the most important things that I help people with through this weight loss counseling. But that's not all, Melissa," I continued. "Last year and the year before, your son had a birthday week, right?"
"Yeah?" she wondered where I was going.
"Were you on a 'diet'?"
"What percentage of your diet would you say was on target during those weeks?"
"Oh... maybe ten percent if it was a good week," she countered with a little more spark. She put the tissue down.
"So... not only were you twenty-eight of thirty on target through a relatively difficult week this week. You were over ninety percent on target in contrast with maybe ten percent last year and the year before during the same week!"
She sat up. "Wow," she muttered in an understated tone. It seemed that she was a bit perplexed. "Wow!" Melissa was more animated now. "I guess that's pretty significant, huh?" she said with a calculated certainty. "Then I did good, didn't I," she had seen her accomplishment with clarity for the first time.
"From ten percent on target to ninety percent on target? I'd say so," I confirmed.
Melissa was alert, engaged and excited about her newly revealed accomplishment!

Is the psychological context in which the weight control endeavor is "held" important? It is BEYOND "important" - it is CRITICAL! Which Melissa is more likely to succeed at lifelong weight control? The Melissa disempowered and defeated Melissa who moped into my office or the Melissa who was empowered and accomplished a few minutes later?

That's the way it looks from here at The Castle.

Gary Avignon, a psychotherapist of almost 20 years (known affectionately as The Weight Wizard), specializes with food, nutrition and weight issues. He is the author of a revolutionary new book, Weight Wizardry 101: Introduction to The Psychology of Successful Weight Control. YOU can nab Chapter One, "The Single Biggest Secret That Causes Diet Failure", for *FREE* for a limited time at


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