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I'm going to write a few diaries about a book I'm reading, The Four Day Win, by Martha Beck. I'm still reading it so it isn't a review, but I'm going to present what she says & we can talk about it.

She starts off discussing how the conventional wisdom is that in order to lose weight, it is as simple as (now say it with me) "eat less, move more". She says that our problem isn't that we don't know what to do, it is in the way we think. She talks about her own struggle with an eating disorder & that she never wants anyone else to go through that. Once scientists were able to map what is happening in the brain of a person with compulsive cravings, they discovered that "certain ways of thinking can literally change the structure of the brain", and that the strategies we're traditionally tried for weight loss actually make things worse. (from p. 6: "Basing a weight-loss effort on willpower does the very things to your mind & body that are virtually certain to make you fatter in the long run") And she talks about collateral benefits -- that changing your mind in the way that will lead to weight loss also leads to leading a more fulfilling life over all. Attending a "Strong Women" convention, she talked to many women who have lost significant weight, and noticed something. The weight loss/journey to health had started with a 3-5 day period where for a variety of reasons their normal patterns were disrupted and they lost weight. Four days seems to be the threshold. One to three days (or times that you do something) is you doing something new, after four days, it is not new, it is something that you do. A 4-day "win". Using the example of yoga -- doing it for 4 days, you learn the moves and now you "do" yoga. If you link 5 4-days wins of yoga-doing together, she says you'll have reached a threshold where you'll resist stopping doing yoga, that it will be easier to sustain it than to stop.

There are "forefield" and "backfield" skills, things that sit in the front of your mind, that you think about to do and ones that you do automatically, that are just incorporated into daily life. She says that the reason that eat-less-move-more conventional wisdom doesn't really work is that is isn't supported by the backfield skills we need to make it so. (Here's one place she made me laugh - telling a story about making dinner with a group of friends, one of whom had never cooked anything in her life. Literally. Nothing. Anyway, she goes on to say that trying to implement the forefield practices of weight loss without the backfield ones is like trying to add eggs to cake batter without knowing that you need to crack them first).

So, the first exercise -- pick a goal. Some behavior you haven't been able to maintain. Make it quantifiable, like "exercise every day" or "eat five 1/2 cup servings of vegetables per day". Write it down. Now notice that this is not something that you're doing. You want to do it, you've been trying to get yourself to do it, but if it worked it would already be a habit. So break this goal down into a tiny step, a teeny tiny, "turtle" step. Eye-rollingly easy. Now write that goal down: "My Ridiculously Easy Daily Goal". Now write down a daily reward -- something that you will reward yourself with every day after doing your ridiculously easy thing. It can be a small reward, because it will be daily, but it is really important that you do both -- we're talking about re-wiring your mind, so you really need to do both. And then identify a 4-day reward for when you've done the easy thing for 4 days in a row.

So, here's the text from her form for you:

My First 4-Day Win

Ridiculously Easy Goal: ___________________________
Daily Reward: _______________
Slightly Larger 4-Day Reward: ___________________
Days of my current 4-Day win
Day 1 _/_/__
Day 2 _/_/__
Day 3 _/_/__
Day 4 _/_/__

And then she says something interesting. That most people's first "win" is focused on the action phase -- eating less, moving more. And that isn't the way to lose weight. The real importance of this step isn't the substance of it, it is doing it for the first time. Get this new action under your belt. We're going to learn new skills, and have new "wins" where the substance is important, this time it is just important to do something.

She has a jump-start plan, which might be how I do this - though it involves jumping around in the book, which isn't what I like to do. The advantage is it gives you your first victory & gets you moving, which is what I need. So I'll be reading chapters 1-10  20 & 30, then jumping to the appendix with the jump start part. We've already covered three chapters.

So, in chapter 4, she starts off with a hilarious recounting of an appearance on a TV panel about weight loss. "I know I should eat celery instead of fudge, but what if I really, really want fudge?" The standard answers - have a small square of dark chocolate, and "you just don't do that!!". And the exhortation to exercise "Just do it"..... yeah. We have this belief that information & willpower should be enough, and that is obviously not the case. Beck explains the 7 stages of change, and says that most weight loss programs skip the early stages.

  1. Precontemplation (I have no intention of changing)
  1. Contemplation  
  1. Preparation (I'm getting ready to change)
  1. Action (I'm making a change)
  1. Maintenance (I'm at my goal & holding steady)
  1. Relapse

7.Termination (my work here is done)

She says that in order to sustain a change, you really have to spend adequate time in the first three stages, and used a comparison that really resonated with me: "Just as you need to set a broken bone before you can put bandages on the torn skin above it, you must correct the underlying problems before you can fix the surface issues (in this case, losing weight)." She asks some questions to help you determine which stage you're in, then says that before you skip the "precontemplation" stage (I mean, you're reading a diet book, you couldn't be in the pre contemplation stage), there's some stuff you need to read & think about.

So, my first 4-Day Win will be to get at least 30 minutes of exercise for the next 4 days. Sunday will be a challenge, because I don't normally work out Sundays, church & cooking pretty much eat up the day. But I'll get up early & at least get in a walk. Daily reward will be a frozen peppermint patty (it is about 10,000 degrees here & frozen York's patties are heavenly). 4 day reward, I'll go to the bike shop & see if they have any cute socks.

And the next part will be Stage 1: Precontemplation.

the schedule:

 June 18
                  Fri AM - WHEE Open
                  Fri PM - Wee Mama

                June 19
                  Sat AM - WHEE Open
                  Sat PM - WHEE Open

                June 20 - Father's Day
                  Sun AM - WHEE Open
                  Sun PM - WHEE Open

                June 21
                  Mon AM - WHEE Open
                  Mon PM - WHEE Open
                June 22
                  Tues AM - WHEE Open
                  Tues PM - Debbieleft

Originally posted to anotherdemocrat on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 04:31 PM PDT.


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