been proven (Brownell & Rodin, 1994). However, being seriously
overweight is clearly unhealthy.
If consumption is a personal concern for you as it is for me (I'm on
a 100-year diet), the task is to permanently modify your eating and
exercise habits. Caution: Some researchers (Foreyt, 1994) believe it
is unethical to suggest any diet plan because "diets just don't work."
It's true that crash diets, diet pills, fasting, short-term exercise
programs help you lose weight but the effects are often only
temporary. No diet has been developed that is dependably effective
over a long period of time. When the controlled diet is over, gradually
our cravings for sweets, fatty food, large helpings, etc. overpower our
will power (unless we watch it very vigilantly). Most participants, at
least 95%, are back to their original weights one to three years after
terminating a commercial weight loss program. But, often it isn't the
diet plan that fails, it is the maintenance plan. So, after working hard
to reduce your weight or drinking or smoking, you must be just as
diligent to maintain your gains (see chapter 2 and "relapse prevention"
Actually, there may be more hope than previously thought.
Recently, low-calorie-diet programs providing intensive education
(emphasizing some of the self-control methods described below) are
getting good long-term results (Brownell & Rodin, 1994; Masters,
Burish, Hollon & Rimm, 1987). Most encouraging, however, has been a
finding by Consumer Reports that 25% of 90,000 readers reported
losing weight on their own and keeping it off! The successful dieters
probably made many attempts to lose weight. Nevertheless, these
results are almost 5 times better than the weight loss outcomes
reported by weight loss programs. Don't give up.
Here is a review of the behavioral methods for changing behavior.
The illustrations used here focus on altering your "oral" habits, but all
these methods can be applied to all behaviors:
1. Change your environment: Buy only limited amounts of
wholesome food, no sweets, soft drinks, alcohol, or high-fat food. This
is easier if you never shop when you are very hungry and limit yourself
to exactly what is on your shopping list, no matter how cheap the ice
cream is. Avoid situations where you will be pressured to eat, drink,
swallow, or smoke something you don't really want, such as bars,
parties, dinners, certain friends or relatives, etc., at least until you are
under good control. (Some people are in better control when they are
with people, so arrange that.)
Warning signs can be very effective. Place a picture of a fat person
on the refrigerator or a picture of lung cancer on each cigarette pack.
Write a reminder on each cigarette in the pack, e.g. "bad breath,"
"heart attack," "cough," "cancer," "early death," "8 years," and the
names of people who will miss you when you die 8 years before you
would have without cigarettes!