Telecounseling, using the telephone to conduct legitimate counseling sessions with licensed therapists, has been occurring for close to 50 years. Telemedicine is what they call it when doctors and other healthcare providers provide services via telephone and Internet video connection. Now, it is a common practice, a clinical mode that is studied and taught to doctors and therapists, and in many cases, covered by health insurance.
As an older Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a boomer, I have been slow to accept the rapid advance of our culture into the digital age. I was even slow to accept the idea of distance counseling via telephone, without the eyeball-to-eyeball and close-up intimacy of live personal human contact. But circumstances forced the issue, with established clients sometimes homebound, and more and more people living an hour or more away who wanted to work with me. I found that counseling over the phone worked quite well, and actually had some distinct advantages over in-person sessions. No travel time, for one thing. It’s also convenient with less stress for busy people and those uncomfortable with going to a “shrink’s” office.
Today, telecounseling is routine and accepted, and the issues that were raised as potential problems, like privacy, confidentiality, compliance with the HIPPA laws, protection of personal health information and your most guarded secrets, have been answered with services that use technology and accreditation to insure those things. Counseling via phone or video calling, if done appropriately, can be as safe and effective in many cases as in-person counseling.
The same rules apply as with any healthcare services you seek. You need to make sure you are dealing with a licensed health professional in your state. You need to check what the counselor presents in their website or other public information to see if they might be a good fit. You need to be willing to invest in at least one session to see if the fit feels right. Also, you need to be prepared to try a different counselor if your first choice doesn’t feel right.
When COVID-19 hit early this year, telecounseling was a godsend. So many people needed help to cope, and distance counseling was perfect to meet the needs for social distancing and stay-at-home protocols.
Right at that time, I noticed a lot of advertising on NPR by BetterHelp, an Internet company that promised connection with licensed counselors through your computer, tablet or smartphone. I did a little checking and found they offered access to a professional counselor 24/7 via text (the counselor would respond within 24 hours if not sooner), for $40 per week and up, depending on how much service you wanted, and you could also arrange phone or video sessions.
I balked at the idea of counseling via text or chatting. I had a lot of experience as a user of social media, and I’m certain that real counseling or therapy cannot occur with texting or chatting. However, I have also served as a mental health expert in media where “ask the expert” questions were invited, and I would provide information that was very helpful to people. It was kind of like a “Dear Abby” column and it turned out to be very helpful to the people who wrote in. In fact, lots of people get lots of help with personal problems with therapeutic ideas and information they glean from books and other quality sources. That could not be called counseling, but it is in fact referred to as “bibliotherapy” when a counselor gives you a book to read. So, while it’s not counseling, communicating with a professional counselor with questions, issues and problems can be quite helpful. As one of the “Ask the Expert” experts when answering a message from those writing in about a problem, I’d sometimes suggest, after answering their question, that they connect with a professional for real counseling if it seemed like it was what they needed. As it turns out, I believe that’s what happens when you connect with a counselor at BetterHelp.
While I was spurred to write this article by BetterHelp’s community outreach, I don’t want to give the impression that I am endorsing them. I don’t know anymore about them than you’d know by reading what they say at their website. If you are interested in looking into online counseling, I’d suggest you do what I did and Google it. You’ll get pages of things to look at and there are some good articles to read from good sources like Psychology Today and The New York Times.
One thing I’ll heartily endorse is the experience of working with a counselor. I think it’s something everyone should do. Of course, it’s my life’s work, so you’d expect that I believe in the value of it. And I think it has value even if you don’t have a terribly troubling problem, like my specialty, infuriatingly stubborn weight control. In fact, talking to anyone rather than keeping everything inside is usually helpful. Sometimes though, if the person is not a professional, they can do more harm than good. It’s better to talk with someone who knows the right things to say and how to avoid making things worse.
Bill Anderson before and after his 140 lb. weight loss.
There is a way to lose weight that is scientifically proven to work. There is no wondering if it works. It’s based on irrefutably reliable science, as reliable as the law of gravity. It has never failed. If you eat this scientifically proven way to lose weight, you can have full confidence that you will lose weight, as surely as you know that things fall down, not up, when you let go of them. You can even learn how to keep it off. I know, because I was able to apply it after 25 years of failing with unhelpful diets. I finally solved my weight problem and lost 140 pounds 35 years ago. I have kept it off since and made it my mission to teach others how to do the same.
I’m old now, and I forget that young people often don’t know the basics of how to lose weight, so I’ll go over that here. And all the details are in my book.
First, The Thermodynamics
There is no mystery here, but there is lots of misunderstanding about how to lose weight and keep it off. The continuous flow of conflicting misinformation and advice leads people to think that the honest-to-God truth about how to lose weight is not yet known. But it is. The science explaining weight loss, weight gain and weight maintenance has been proven and it has not changed significantly for over 100 years.
Your body is a machine that uses fuel, like a car. Instead of burning gas, we burn food, and we measure the amount of energy in food in calories. We have fairly precise ways to measure how much fuel/calories you burn in your activities of daily living, and fairly precise ways to measure the amount of fuel/calories in the food you eat. The calorie counts of all foods are easily found, published in books and websites on the Internet. Packaged foods have the calories on the label, and many restaurants today post the calories counts, required by law.
Your body weight is the result of the caloric economics of your body, like your bank balances are a result of your financial economics. If you eat more calories than you burn, you store them as fat. With money, surpluses are good. You get rich. With calories, surpluses are bad. You get fat.
If you burn more calories than you eat, you start burning your stored surpluses. That’s great if you want to lose weight. You start to trim down. With money, burning through more than you take in results in debt or worse, going broke or even bankrupt. Very bad. Deficit spending can create problems with finances, but if you want to lose weight, deficits are great!
There is a lot of folklore and myth in the media and gossip about weight loss, so you have to be careful about what you believe. For instance, a lot of people think there are “good” calories for weight loss and “bad” calories that make you fat. Nonsense. Some think that carb and fat calories are worse than protein calories, but it’s not true. It’s true that you need good nutrition and a balanced diet to be healthy, but for weight loss purposes, all we are concerned with is the calories. Also, there’s no truth that the time of day that you eat affects whether the calories are stored or not. And the way you combine foods doesn’t matter. You can’t cancel calories if they go in your body. Activity is about the only thing you can do that will affect the way you burn calories. Like I said, the physics is simple.
There are devices that can measure your metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories) with a method called indirect calorimetry. Hospitals and universities have these machines, and some doctors have hand-held devices that are very reliable if used properly. They measure your respiratory gases and calculate the energy produced by analyzing the oxygen used and carbon dioxide produced by your body’s “internal combustion” of your food.
You could have the test done, but we use a formula called the Miflin-St. Jeor equation (MSJ) to estimate your metabolic rate at the weight you want to maintain for life. We have compared the actual test to the estimate many times, and they have been close enough to rely on for the weight loss method I devised. The Miflin-St. Jeor formula is named after the scientists who formulated and proved it accurate, and it takes into account your age, gender, weight, height, and activity. I’ve included the actual formulas below, but it’s easier to use one of the software calculators on the Internet like the one at this website: https://tdeecalculator.net
There are a number of calculators online, so I’d recommend verifying what you learn by comparing.
Three important pieces of information:
1). Use the weight you want to achieve and maintain the rest of you life. You can learn what you burn at the weight you are now to satisfy your curiosity, but the important thing to learn is how to eat like a personat the weight you want to be. To lose weight, you’ll need habits that get you substantially lower than this, and then to maintain, you’ll need habits that keep you under this, even on holidays and vacations, etc.
2). Use the activity level you know you will sustain the rest of your life. (If you don’t have an exercise habit, use the sedentary level, unless your work is the equivalent of a strenuous workout) Forget about exercising to lose weight if you’re not going to make it a lifetime habit. That’s like dieting. If it’s not the way you are going to live, you’ll just regain the weight when you normalize. So, be honest. Use sedentary if that’s the way you live.
3). Don’t take the advice and recommendations at these websites with the calculators as gospel. I am not endorsing any of them. Just use the calculators to find out how many calories you burn at the weight you want to be.
Below are the actual formulas, for those who want to do the actual calculations. You use the Miflin-St. Jeor equation to find what your resting metabolic rate is (RMR), then multiply it by your activity level. Note that weight is expressed in kilograms and height is expressed in centimeters.
These estimates are very accurate, and unless you have a real metabolic disorder, like thyroid disease, you can depend on them. If you think you have a “bad metabolism” due to an unusual physical condition, check with your doctor, and get it treated if you do.
Like I said, the physics are simple. The psychology is not.
Some people think weight control is simple — just eat fewer calories than you burn. It may be simple for some people, but for most of us, it has not been simple or easy. And it was not just hard — it was impossible. For me, counting calories was miserable and impossible, as bad as the diets I had failed at. I just couldn’t get to first base to get my eating and my caloric intake right.
Over the years, I’d been advised by doctors, dietitians, coaches, teachers and friends who thought they knew what I should do. “It’s a matter of changing your lifestyle,” the smart ones would say. “You need to form good habits,” they’d say. That made sense, but doing that had been impossible for years, trying my best. I was told I had to have self-control. “OK,” I thought, how do you do that? “Just make up your mind,” they’d say. “You gotta use your will power.” “You gotta want it bad enough.” “You need to be more disciplined.”
They thought they knew how to have self-control and form good habits. It turns out they really had no idea. They had self-control and good habits, and they thought it was because they just decided to have them, with their will. That’s not the way it works. Habits and will power are created by training with behavioral psychology techniques. They had been trained with technique they were not even aware they practiced.
It wasn’t until I became thoroughly educated in behavioral science, as a behavior therapist, that I was able to succeed with weight loss. It was in learning techniques of conditioning and what I call therapeutic psychogenicsthat I learned how to change myself and have the habits, will power and lifestyle of a person with perfect weight control. These are almost magical “mind control” techniques, like hypnosis, which cause us to think, feel and behave the way we do. It’s not just a matter of making up your mind.
Here are some of the things you need to know in order to succeed:
Your new way of eating and living has to be enjoyable.We won’t do something we hate for very long, and we are hard-wired to seek pleasure.Fighting that is like fighting your need to sleep or go to the bathroom. You won’t win. Your way of eating has to include the foods you like, and the things you like to do. The first law of behaviorism is that “a behavior that is rewarded will be repeated”. It’s called conditioning with reinforcement.When we do something that feels good, drive is created (which we experience as desire, urges or cravings) to do it again. That’s how we grow habits and get addicted to things. So, we will have to learn what we can do that’s enjoyable that also fits our calorie budget. And then we need to practice it, over and over, so the choices and portions become our habits. We will also need to learn what won’t fit in the budget, and abstain from them for all time. Otherwise, we will reinforce overeating and create drive, desire and craving for the things that make us overweight.
You will have to work hard and keep an accurate written record of calories for a while, until the right eating patterns become your habit. It’s a pain, but it’s absolutely necessary. Eventually, you’ll develop a “sixth sense” about calories so that eating the right way becomes automatic. Then, eating to maintain is not hard at all. But it won’t happen unless you put the work in up front. After a while, it becomes your new normal. When you are eating what you like in the right portions and pattern rather than following some diet you want to quit, you’ll have habits that will make you become and stay the weight you want to be.
To lose weight at a rate that will be gratifying, you’ll need to reduce your caloric intake by about half, (usually to approx. 1000 for women, 1500 for men). When you start out, you’ll find that a lot of the things you’ve been eating are too high calorically to fit in that budget.In my method, we develop a lifetime habit of eating austerely during the week and more liberal on the weekend, so that the average ends up at the level that is effective. That way, you never have to deny yourself the things you like. It becomes a matter of choices, choosing the best ways to spend the budget on a weekday or a weekend day. Our objective is to learn how to eat for life, not diet for a while.We practice delayed gratification instead of self-denial. This is different than “dieting”. Diets are things we can’t wait to quit, so we can go back to “normal”, overeating and regaining. My way is a better way, something we look forward to enjoying every day. Who wants to quit something that makes you feel great every day?
We need to win every day. We need a system we can trust that tells us how we did every day, so that we condition in the good habits and condition out the bad ones. That’s how programming works. You get positive feedback about your forward progress that reinforces the behavior. Most people think the scale is the way to measure your progress, but the scale is about the worst way to get feedback about how you are doing. The scale measures mainly the amount of water in your body, which can fluctuate wildly. If you believe the scale is giving you honest feedback about how you did today, you are likely to feel good when you overeat (if you are dehydrated), and feel bad when you eat properly, but are retaining water. It’s a sure way to program chaos and failure into your brain. It’s like malware. We need a way to get positive feedback every successful day to build the habits we need……. Remember what I said in my first point here. Behavioral psychology tells us that our behavior and habits are not so much a matter of choice as they are a result of conditioning. We need a rock-solid way to know we won every day. This is where faith in the science comes in handy. When you believe the reality that science tells us about the number of calories you burn, and you keep track of how many calories you took in, you’ll feel good every day you are under your burn rate, even on the weekend days. If you make a mistake, instead of saying you “blew it” and quit, you just keep track.On the days you are real low, you can visualize the chunk of fat you just burned off. (Undereating by 1000 calories burns 2/3 of a cup of body fat off your body as surely as driving 40 miles burns at least a gallon of gas.) This is reality. You can’t drive around without burning off gas, and you can’t walk around without burning off fat when you undereat. And it happens that day! If the scale says you gained, it’s giving you faulty feedback, measuring water retention. So, believe the science, not the scale, and make sure you register your win every day, whether it is a gold medal day, or just holding your own. If you keep track every day, you can win every day. Even if you screw up, you’ll still feel OK if you keep track. You’ll never have another day where you think you gained 5 pounds after eating pizza or Chinese food and soaked up 5 pounds of water like a sponge. To gain 5 pounds of body tissue in reality, you’d have to eat 17,500 calories above your burn rate. (Each pound of fat stores 3500 calories). So, even on a day where you went over, you’ll see you didn’t do that much damage, easily corrected by getting back to work.A big gain on the scale because of salty or sugary food making you retain water will disappear in a week, and then your deficits will show up.
The most important habits we need to develop are the self-programming techniques and the use of habit-forming psychological phenomena. Will power and habits are not acquired simply by deciding to have them. They are acquired through training. These self-programming techniques are proven by real science, but they often sound silly……. How could just imagining yourself like someone else be important? Or talking to yourself? Or eating what you like instead of diet food? ……Some of the techniques are a pain in the neck and don’t seem to have hypnotic power at all, like planning ahead or looking up and writing down the calories in what you eat. But there is magic in them…… Yes, it’s easier to just buy a pre-packaged diet meal plan, but it will not produce the neurologicalchanges we want. The most important work often looks silly and unimportant compared to the practical stuff, and people sometimes decide to skip what they don’t find sensical. Don’t do that. The techniques people skip are usually the most important things you need to do.
You will have to reject what America has come to accept as normal. We have grown up in a culture that has made itself obese. What we’ve come to accept as normal is an obese way of life. The habits, customs and beliefs in America are what make people obese. It’s so much a part of our life that there is a strong tendency to think they are normal, that we should be able to think and live that way and not be fat. But to succeed, we need to reject that way of thinking and living, and start swimming against the stream. The portions we have come to accept as normal in restaurants are two and three times what they need to be. The foods they sell us are as dense, calorically, as you could make food. Our society thinks eating is a form of entertainment, a hobby or pastime. It can’t be, if you want to lose weight and keep it off. We can enjoy eating, but it needs to be in a different way. I enjoy eating more than when I was chronically overweight, but it is no longer something I do to pass the time. It is not my leisure-time activity or a kind of entertainment in my free time.
Our goal is to create a new way of being, and we need to be this way the rest of our lives. Like brushing and flossing, it’s not really hard work, but we need to get up and do it every day the rest of our lives if we want the good health and happiness that results from it. There is no retiring from doing what it takes to maintain a good weight. It’s work at first, some of it hard, but after a while, it becomes easier as you develop the knowledge, the skills and the habits. Then it becomes routine. It’s a routine we need to keep.
Like learning a sport or a musical instrument, you’ll have to master something that’s difficult at first, and practice. At first, like playing an instrument, it may seem very hard or impossible to practice the techniques that create self-control. Because of that, many people quit and look for an easy way. As it is with a sport or music, there is no alternative to learning and doing what’s uncomfortable and difficult at first, and then practicing it until you get good at it. That’s how it becomes second nature. Trying to avoid the difficult work only keeps you from succeeding. It does get easy, but it takes a while. Then it becomes the new normal. For me, the new normal is so much more pleasurable than the old normal. I love the game, winning every day, and I love being at my preferred weight. You will too.
William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, the author of “The Anderson Method of Permanent Weight Loss” (paperback and Kindle at Amazon, audiobook at Audible). He was obese until his early thirties when he found the solution. He lost 140 pounds, has kept it off for 35 years, and has taught thousands to successfully manage their weight.
(The author is a psychotherapist who lost 140 lbs. when he developed his unique method, and he’s kept it off for over 30 years. Read about it in his book at the right, or listen to his audiobook, free sample provided here.)
Pictured above is one of the breakfasts I had regularly while I lost 140 pounds. Its only 200 calories. It tastes great, made up of my favorite foods, keeps me going all morning, and at 1/8th of the breakfast pictured below, had me shedding pounds like crazy. Now, to maintain my loss, I eat more than the 200 calorie breakfast above, but still only a fraction of the American norm that is making people obese and sick.
This above is Denny’s Meat Lovers’ Omelette at a whopping 1730 calories. That’s the kind of thing I used to pick that made me over 300 pounds. Think about that. 200 calories versus 1730. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic.
To lose weight, you need to learn how to eat what you like, not go on a diet.
For years I have resisted giving my clients food plans or telling them what to eat. Instead, I teach them how to succeed. I know how to help people be successful at weight loss, and its almost always contrary to what they think should be done. They think they need to follow some diet and exercise plan that some personal trainer or dietician will prescribe. Nope. They need to train in methods of behavioral science. I can guarantee that my client will lose weight if they follow me.
Clients who have trained in my method and people who have read my book know that the secret to success is learning how to eat what you like and learning the behavioral techniques that change the way you think and act habitually. Success does not come from diets and exercise plans that you know will come to an end when you want to live normally again.
To learn what I teach, read my book or listen to my audiobook, pictured at the upper right.
I was put on my first diet at the age of seven, and things went downhill from there. I became a yo-yo dieter, gaining more every year, until, at the age of 33 and 330 pounds, I finally discovered the formula for success.
Then, in 1984, as a behavior therapist and addictions counselor, I discovered methods in behavioral psychology that enabled me to solve my weight problem for good. I lost 140 pounds, and I have maintained an ideal 180 lbs. ever since, for over 30 years. You may not have that much to lose, but thousands of clients and readers have learned to apply my methods to solve their weight problem. Like learning to ride a bike or play the piano it’s not effortless, but there is no maybe about it. It works. I have never had a client not lose weight following what I teach.
I have volumes of information here at my website and I’ve written a book, now an eBook and audiobook, (listen to a sample of it here) that explains everything I teach my clients. I hope it can help you too.
Here’s some of what I learned:
1) To lose and manage weight, it requires more than just learning about the calories in food and what your body needs. You need to learn how to program yourself and master that part of yourself that manufactures your desires, urges, habits and feelings.
2) Acquiring the right habits is not a matter of intellect and will power. It is a result of training and conditioning in technique from the behavioral sciences. It is a matter of learning how to reprogram yourself, your habits and your feelings.
3) Diets and exercise crusades don’t work. Doing something for a while, even if you lose weight, and then going back to “normal”, will make you worse, not better.
4) Success comes not from denying yourself pleasure and good food, but by forming habits that are more pleasurable, with food that you really like that causes you to become healthy and fit instead of overweight.
You can become successful at permanent weight loss.
Bill Anderson, creator of “The Anderson Method”, before and after his 140 lb. weight loss.
I have volumes of information here at my website (check the “Table of Contents” at the bottom left of the page) and I’ve written a book, now an eBook and audiobook, that explains everything I teach my clients. I hope it can help you too.
Is “Ideal Body Weight” important? What about the BMI?
I was not always the “Weight Loss Guru” who lost 140 pounds and kept it off for 30 years. Before I discovered how to succeed with permanent weight loss and wrote The Anderson Method, I was and out-of-control overeater for several decades, getting worse with each diet failure.
I’d have a moment of truth on a regular basis, usually after some health crisis. “This time I really mean it,” I’d say. “I gotta lose weight.” One time, as I approached age 30, I was in the doctor’s office on a follow-up to a “medical event” due to my weight. I was around 300 pounds after years of yo-yo dieting, and this serious health crisis in my late twenties really scared me. I was determined to change, I swore to the doctor.
“What weight do you think you should be?”, the doctor asked.
I thought for a moment and said “I’d be happy at 225”.
“No!”, he said. “You need to be under 185! 225 is way too much.” He handed me his dietician’s diet and sent me home feeling defeated even before I started.
Ignore people telling you what to weigh. Dismiss them. It’s not their body or their life. It’s none of their business!
That doctor was a jerk. And he weighed about 250 himself! He did me no favors discouraging me. Weighing 225 would have been a lot better than weighing 300. He might have helped if he had been encouraging. He discouraged me when I was open to change and set me back. I tried his dietician’s diet for about a day and gave up, like all the other times. I hated it, felt hopeless, and continued my unhealthy ways.
Sometime later, I learned how to succeed at permanent weight loss through principles he and his dietician knew nothing about. One of the important things I learned is that to be successful, you’ve got to work to be the weight you want to be, with foods and behavior patterns that you prefer, not someone else.
Pick a weight that you think you’d be happy with, and shoot for that. When you get there, you can decide if you want to lose more. That’s what I did, and it worked out fine.
You can become any weight you want to be, if it’s what YOU want.
You can’t lose weight to make someone else happy. You’ve got to do it for yourself. You’ve got to do it in ways you can live with.
I discovered methods to lose weight that are guaranteed to work when you learn and apply them, no if, ands or buts. They are based on the irrefutably reliable sciences of physiology and thermodynamics, and I discovered the psychotherapeutic techniques to make them possible to apply. Because I was doing it for myself, with my own chosen goals, foods, and eating patterns, I was able to muster the power to achieve them.
Don’t buy into “Ideal Body Weight” worship.
“Ideal body weight” was an idea cooked up by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in 1943 and embraced by the medical community. You saw it on that chart at the doctor’s office. It had the height and weight listed, and the standards we were all held to. It was developed as a result of actuarial studies that determined at what weight we had the lowest morbidity and mortality, what the very healthiest weight was for our height and frame size. There were also simple formulas that more or less coincided with the correlations the Metlife statistics revealed, changing a bit here and there over the years. Click here and scroll down the page to see the common formulas. Roughly, they equated to: 1) For women: 100 pounds for the first 5 feet of height, plus 5 pounds per inch over 5 feet, and 2) For men- 106 pounds for the first 5 feet of height plus 6 pounds per inch over 5 feet.
You’ll notice (perhaps with horror, as I did) that these are really skinny weights! At 320 pounds, I could not even imagine myself at 180 or so. Most of my 5’4″ female clients are in shock when they hear they “should” weigh 120. They just about give up hope hearing that.
The reality is that you do not have to be the “Ideal Body Weight” to be healthy. Many people who are 20% or more above their IBW are perfectly healthy. Get to the weight you’d be happy with and then go to your doctor and find out what your bloodwork and vitals say. See what he or she says about your health at that weight. The heck with the ideal. Get to a happy weight. If the doctor says you need to lose more, ask why, and ask for the evidence that says it’s healthier. We know that real obesity, 150% of the IBW or more, is unhealthy, but the weight you’d be happy with? Where’s the proof that it is not OK?
How about BMI, the “Body Mass Index” that is used today?
The BMI is another measure that I can’t stand. Click here to see the BMI chart. It says I’m overweight at 6′ and 184 lbs.! An insult! It says my 5’4″ client is overweight at 128 lbs.! What an outrage!
Honestly, do we need these charts to tell if we need to lose weight? To be healthier? To be happier? I don’t think so.
Forget thinking you need to be at the weight the charts say. The heck with them. Just think about the weight you’d like to be, what weight you’d be happy with. Follow me, and you’ll get there. Then you can decide if you want to lose more weight. That’s what I did. With the right approach, using real science, reaching a healthy happy weight and maintaining it is absolutely possible, even enjoyable!