I’ve been working with The Beck Diet Solution, by Judith S. Beck, Ph.D. (hereafter BDS), first published in March 2007, and have a review of it. I’m finding the book to be helpful with my weight management journey and would recommend it to many people. BDS is a mental/psychological program and not a diet or exercise program and so can be used in conjunction with almost any of the diet and exercise plans of your choice.
First, a summary. BDS uses elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to enable you to “train your brain to think like a thin person.” While I think the quote (and subtitle) probably overstates the reach of the book, BDS does provide a set of tools to help you prepare for, select, and stick to the diet and exercise programs of your choice. BDS is divided into three major sections. The first (Chapters 1-4) is an introduction to CBT and thinking errors typically made by dieters, the second is 6 week program (Chapters 5-10) with daily mental exercises to prepare for and succeed at dieting, and the third section (Chapters 11-12) talks about weight maintenance and carrying on after the 6 week program. The book has a short bibliography with reference to the original research literature, but no footnotes.
The 6 week program makes up the bulk of the book and attempts to teach the reader the mental skills necessary for weight management. Each day examines a new diet activity or issue. The first two weeks are preparing to succeed at dieting and the remaining time is putting these skills to practice in the diet and building them to a more sophisticated and independent set of tools. These are not new tricks in the diet world and we’d recognize almost all of them. BDS is unique in the fact that it gives you CBT tools to actually help you enact these tools, by identifying the sabotaging thoughts that get in our way and at first providing responses to those thoughts and eventually teaching the reader how to find our own responses. It also prescribes daily activities through a “To Do” list to help develop those skills, habits, and thought patters we need to succeed. I also like the fact that it talks about maintenance realistically, even though it has only a couple of chapters devoted to it.
I think one major strength of this book is that, in spite of the subtitle, it doesn’t overreach with promises of fixing all your weight problems or somehow healing the weight management struggle. BDS’s goal is to get you to stick to your food/exercise plan and not to fix you. It does claim that the techniques get easier with time, but it is a long term process and that you should expect a level of effort to remain at your goal weight.
I have a history of good results with CBT and so this book really resonated with me. The exercises are giving me a chance to put my thoughts on my weight management journey and get me back in the habits that got the weight off in the first place. I’m enjoying my progress through the book.
BDS does require a lot of work from its readers to be successful, so it is probably not appropriate for someone who wants a quick read through, an ‘ah ha’ moment, and wham, success. BDS is meant to be well used, reread, and written in. I also have some doubts on its effectiveness for people who have serious eating disorders of one type or another (Beck even says this isn’t for that purpose) or people who have serious hunger issues caused by, say, insulin spikes and so on. However, if you are a head case like me and you are willing to put some work in, I find it to be a useful tool, and it is finding its way into my reference section.
So, thumbs up from me. BDS also comes in workbook form, and I have not had the opportunity to look through that edition. I’m a little late to the BDS party and Dr Judith Beck (not to be confused with Dr Martha Beck & The Four Day Win) has another book coming out in December, The Complete Beck Diet for Life, which I’m interested in checking out as well.
Finally, there is a Beck group here at 3FC where we discuss our progress through BDS. The current (Nov 2008) thread is here