Tired, anxious, food obsessed: It's just another day in the dieting lives of two Lisas who've lost about 40 pounds each—and gained it right back. (In the case of one Lisa, more than once.) Now what? Martha Beck has a simple explanation for why most dieters fail—and a new way to achieve lasting Thinner Peace.
The Lisas do not have the time or energy to stay thin. They agree on that point from minute one of our mutual project. Lisa Romeo, a 47-year-old part-time freelance writer and former public relations executive, now a candidate for an MFA degree, and Lisa Kogan , O 's 45-year-old writer at large, have each lost, then regained, more than 40 pounds. They say they're excited to get in shape again. They sound as if they'd be as excited if I beat them with a crowbar.

"I've yo-yoed more times than I want to remember," says Lisa Romeo. "I'm always positive I won't rebound, but then life gets busy and the weight comes back." For her part, Lisa Kogan says: "Staying thin is just another source of stress for me."

I empathize completely. These women are combining motherhood and professional life, caring for elderly relatives, juggling infinite responsibilities. Adding a fitness program to such a schedule is like packing a piano on a mountain-climbing expedition. On the other hand…

Not having time or energy for weight loss makes no sense. Does it take more time or energy to eat fish than prime rib? No. Do the Lisas lack access to healthy food? No. Are they short on information? Lord, no—like most dieters, they're walking weight loss encyclopedias. The problem they and the rest of us weight watchers have isn't that we don't know what to do; it's that we don't do what we know. Why not? The most fundamental answer isn't in our fast food restaurants or overstocked refrigerators. It's in our heads.

Fattening Thoughts

The way we eat reflects the way we think, and the way the Lisas think keeps making them fat. The same is true for other failed dieters. Every time we drop weight without changing our psychology, we may be changing our brains so that we become more prone to overeating. The only way to beat the relapse syndrome is to both eat and think differently.

I've been studying this topic for years, doing endless reading and consuming entire cheesecakes to…um…subjectively observe the dynamics of binge eating. The thing about research is that it often leads you to a solution. That's why I'm now coaching the Lisas, and why, after spending years in the diet trenches, I'm confident I can teach them to lose weight permanently. As I talk to both Lisas about their struggle with weight relapse, I recognize two thought patterns typical of dieters, which are two sides of the same coin: the "I Need More Nurturing" syndrome and the mind-set that says, "I Need No Nurturing."

As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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