I’m reading a book called The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person by Judith Beck. This book offers a slew of techniques to control your eating based on cognitive therapy. It’s built on a 6-week schedule wherein you adopt a new facet of the program each day, essentially creating a system in which you have a response ready for any situation that might arise, a response that keeps you on the track you’ve chosen for yourself. The concept of this book appealed to me because I know what I should eat to be physically and psychologically happy and healthy (since the option to become thin was taken off the table once I hit the mid-40s), but am thwarted repeatedly by behaviors and impulses and fixations I feel little control over. I don’t need another book telling me what to eat; I need one telling me how to eat only that. Still, going through most of the chapters, I found I was already doing many of the outlined steps, such as creating a meal plan, tracking my intake, and visualizing a response to binge-triggering situations. Then I got to the Day 22 situation and sat right up in attention.
Here’s the title of the Day 22 task: Say “Oh, Well” to Disappointment. Beck related a story about her youngest child, who was put on a super-strict ketogenic diet to control epilepsy. This child maintained a high-fat, low-carb diet for 6 years (!), abstaining from all the foods that fuel most kids I know: fruit, chips, bread, granola bars—anything containing sugar or that turns to sugar quickly in the bloodstream. The technique they used to help this kid maintain this strict diet in the face of birthday cakes and pizza parties was simply that he got a star on a chart if he responded to temptation with the phrase “oh, well,” meaning “I don’t like this but I’m going to accept it and move on.”
Well! Think of how your stress levels would be affected if you used this approach not only in response to the desire for unhealthy foods but for any situation in your life. Traffic congestion, burned toast, missing a flight, ID theft, the assholery of the general public—all those irksome things you have no control over or that you do have some control over but failed at (which is worse). How calm you would be! I feel my shoulders relaxing down away from my ears just thinking about it.
By adopting the oh well response, Beck reports, “within a week or two, he completely changed his mindset. He knew for certain that there were whole categories of food he couldn’t have at all, but he accepted what he had to do and settled down.” This same process has happened for me this month, as practicing the Whole30 plan requires that acceptance, that settling down into what has to be done. Almost midway through the plan, I’ve been tempted to stray from my resolve these past few days but have found myself using the oh, well response, feeling it resonate within me, all the way through to the root of the craving. I wish I’d known about and adopted this technique years ago, for everything.