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Finding the Perfect Weight Loss Lunch

The Anderson Method 250-calorie BLT!

The Anderson Method 250-calorie BLT!

This scrumptious BLT is one of the lunches I had regularly when I lost 140 pounds in 18 months 30 years ago. This is only one example in a whole repertoire of great meals I’ll describe below that maintain my success.

(This article first appeared in The Huffington Post)

When clients have asked me to tell them what to eat, I haven’t, because it distracts them from what they really need to do. The secret to success in permanent weight loss is in learning how to think differently and develop your own unique set of habits and preferences, with your own favorites. That’s why diets don’t work. We eventually return to our own preferences, the ways that made us overweight. I don’t give people diets because it’s not the diet that makes you successful. It’s the reprogramming technique I teach.

However, in order to dispute those who claim it’s impossible to have great meals without gaining weight or that you need to eat special concoctions or give up everything you like, I’m going to share some of my favorite meals that are not only delectable, but also keep me thin. We’ll start with lunch. We’ll cover breakfast and dinner another time.

Lunch can be the cause of obesity for many people and the main reason they fail at attempts to lose weight. If you’ve read my work, you know that the physical science of weight control is simple. Eat more calories than you burn, and you’ll get fat. Overeat and you gain weight, undereat and you lose. Getting ourselves to do this is the tricky part, and we’ll talk about that in a minute.

The reason lunch can be such a problem is that its easy to eat thousands of calories too much if you aren’t paying attention. Some of the salads at restaurants can be 1200 calories or more all by themselves. (Some women will gain weight if they eat more than 1500 calories per day!) A Whopper, fries and a coke can be 1500. Power lunches at fancy places can be 2000 calories. Same with pizza. No wonder it’s so easy to gain weight. Living large at lunch is one of the reasons we have an obesity epidemic.

My BLT shown above is only 250 calories. I make a great ham and cheese sandwich at only 270. How can that be, you say, with all that bread, mayo and bacon or ham and cheese? Easy. I use Publix reduced calorie bread at 40 calories a slice and Hellman’s low-fat mayo at 15 calories a tablespoon. Three slices of bacon is only 105 calories and ham is only 30 calories a slice. Those sandwiches look decadent and the gossips badmouth them, but they are a great deal for lunch. A Soft Beef Taco Supreme at Taco Bell is only 210 calories and a hamburg at McDonald’s is only 250. The good old-fashioned hot dog is only 250 calories, and mustard, relish and onions adds very little to it. Losing weight and keeping it off can be enjoyed with great tasting food if you decide to keep to a reasonable budget and make it a rule to never again give yourself permission to be a glutton at lunch. Don’t give yourself permission to get fat because everyone else is, or lie to yourself, telling yourself it will do no harm “just this once”. It will. To get that excess weight off and keep it off, you need to make it a habit to keep your calories within a certain budget.

One of the most important mind control techniques in behavior therapy is the simple act of planning ahead. It’s actually a form of self-hypnosis that makes success and self-control easier if you take the trouble to think ahead of what you’ll have and prepare for it. The law of expectancy is always at work in us unconsciously, and the old maxim is true: those who fail to plan are planning to fail.

If you’re eating at home, it’s easy to have those ingredients ready, but it can be done at work too, if you have a fridge and microwave. Eating at the office rather than going out or ordering in is easy and smart. It not only saves calories, but it saves you money and time too, eliminating the time to drive somewhere. At clinics I’ve worked at, I’d stock the kitchenette with the makings for sandwiches, as well as soups and Lean Cuisines, Healthy Choices, and other low calorie frozen meals. And the planning ahead I was referring to does not have to be rigid. Once you’ve learned enough about what’s possible and you’ve practiced enough, your planning can be as simple as committing to “no more than 250 calories”, or to one of the many lunch selections you know will fit into the plan.

Eating out can be more of a challenge, but very doable if you think ahead about how to do things. If you do the research, you’ll find that some of the fast food places have at least one item that will work. Look them all up on their Internet sites, so you’ll know what to order the next time you hit one. Fast food places can be a disaster if you just walk in and start ordering things that sound good. However, if you go on with a plan, you’ll be dropping pounds and dress sizes before you know it. A sub, burger or taco and a diet soda will work just fine.

If you go to nicer restaurants at business lunches, it can be very easy to go through several thousand calories if you approach it as “living large”. You’ll be better off all around by ordering a simple salad and have your own dressing packets, like Walden Farms zero-calorie dressings, ready to go in your bag. You’ll make an impression as a better business person than those who overindulge and are seen as careless and wasteful. For me and my clients, fine dining works well for dinner but is a nuisance at lunch.

There is no need to give up eating things you enjoy to lose weight. In fact, one of the keys to success is creating ways of eating that are more enjoyable than the old ways that made you overweight. When the food tastes good and you know it’s making you successful, you feel a whole lot better than feeling stuffed and knowing you just made things worse. When these new ways become your preferred habits, you’re set for life. And just as there are strategies to turn lunchtime from a problem to a solution, there are strategies that are just as effective for breakfast, dinner, weekend parties and holidays too.

To Lose Weight, Think Like a Savvy Shopper

New One Hundred Dollar Bills Fresh Burger

(First published in The Huffington Post)

To lose weight permanently, what you think is a lot more important than what you eat. Thinking about calories as if they were dollars will help you lose weight more easily, so start thinking like a savvy shopper. We can teach you this and a whole toolbox of techniques that will make weight control much easier and much more enjoyable. We psychotherapists call these techniques cognitive therapy techniques and self-hypnosis. But you can think of them as common sense. Here are some ways of thinking that will help:

Calories are good, not bad, just like money is good!

The problem comes when we spend too much, more than our budget allows. We’ll go bankrupt if we are careless and irresponsible with money. If we’re that way with calories, we’ll get fat. Either outcome is painful and entirely avoidable. If we have habits of living within the budgets, we can avoid losing our good credit and avoid being overweight too.

When you find out what your metabolic rate is, you’ll find that you get a very nice paycheck every week. A woman 5’6” with average activity habits burns about 2000 calories per day or about 14,000 calories a week. If you develop the right habits, you’ll find that you can create a lifestyle where you can eat just about everything you like, even go out to dinner and parties on a regular basis, and not gain weight.

If you have an average American income, and you’re savvy, you can probably afford to go out to a nice restaurant every week or so and spend a weekend at a resort every once in a while. But if you start going out to 5-star restaurants every night and staying at 5-star resorts every weekend, you’ll probably go bankrupt sooner rather than later and then lose your house if you don’t change your spending habits. It’s the same with your caloric spending habits. If you get 14,000 calories every week, you’ll find that you can live quite well on that and not have to give up eating the things you like and doing the things you like to do. However, you’ll find that, like money, you’ll break the bank and get fat if you start living high off the hog every day. Instead, I train clients to have weekday habits that are austere, which allows you to have more relaxed habits on the weekends, so you are not deprived and not going over your budget.

Look at the price tags.

What would happen if you just charged up everything you liked at the mall without looking at the price tags? At the fancy mall near me, you’d go broke before you even made it out the door. Who, besides billionaires, would ever even consider buying everything they liked without looking to see the cost? Yet that’s what most people do everyday with food. They have no idea what the caloric cost is of the things they normally eat. I know, because I have my clients eat normally the first week of the training, but keep an accounting of the calories. They are shocked! I’ve had clients get a “coffee” on the way to work and then find out they were spending 600 calories of their day’s budget even before they had lunch, a 1200 calorie salad at lunch. They were thinking they were cutting back, but in reality, they had been blowing their whole paycheck by noon!

People who are successful at permanent weight loss don’t eat without thinking. We don’t put anything in our mouths without knowing the calories that are in it. It’s just too easy to say “yes” to a snack like a friend’s whole grain muffin (how bad could it be?) and then find out you just blew 500 calories. Look at the caloric price tags, be savvy, and if you don’t know what something costs, don’t eat it. Think of the calories like dollars and remember what your budget is.

Develop the “comfort range” of your spending habits.

Have you noticed that you’ve developed a “comfort range” with your spending habits that unconsciously helps you to stay within your means? Certain restaurants feel right, but in some 5-star places, you are uncomfortable. You might consider the 5-star place way too expensive, except for perhaps a special anniversary. They are just outside of your comfort range. It’s the same with cars and other purchases. Your knowledge about your budget and what things cost automatically keeps you within your comfort range. The car models, stores or brand names that would break the bank just don’t feel right for you. You don’t even seriously consider them. It’s an automatic unconscious mechanism, a natural savviness that affects your behavior and makes it easier to manage it.

You can develop this same kind of savvy mechanism for your weight control when you program in all the information about your caloric budget and the caloric costs of the foods you like. With enough time and work put into the training, you’ll have an “app” in your brain that will help you eat right. After a while, you won’t even consider some of the things you used to eat all the time because they are so obscenely expensive. They will be as outside of your comfort zone as the 5-star restaurant with the $80 entrees, for every day dining.

Find the best bang for your buck (calorie).

It doesn’t take long for us to start seeing food in a whole new light. Some of the things we used to relish now look like a real bad deal. “What a rip-off!”, clients say about an Outback Blooming’ Onion at 2000 calories. “What a great deal!”, they’ll say about a Red Lobster shrimp cocktail at 130 calories. Foods start to look good or bad, depending on the cost in calories. Full-fat mayo looks like a real bad buy at 100 calories per tablespoon. It’s not worth the calories when you can use low-fat mayo at 15 calories. Vegetables start looking better than they ever have, a real bargain at 50 calories a cup compared with rice at 200.

You’ll start to get incredibly skilled at creating great meals with the highest satisfaction value for the least amount of calories. You’ll use fat-free half & half and Splenda in your coffee, trading in two cups of coffee in the morning at 130 calories for two at 30. You’ll make egg-substitute vegetable omelettes for 100 calories that are just as tasty as the old 400-calorie omelets. You’ll find excellent low-calorie salad dressing for your salads and zero-calorie spray “butter” on your piles of vegetables, next to your 5-oz. sirloin. From the outside looking in, it won’t appear you are eating any less, but you’ll have cut your day’s spending from 2500 calories to 1200, and you’ll be losing weight instead of gaining.

Give yourself a break. Make it automatic. Make it easy.

Diets don’t work because we do them for a while, if you can stand it, and then we go back to our regular habits. Sometimes we try to change for good, but the old ways are comfortable and automatic, and they come back on their own. Sometimes, we intend to go back to “normal” when we are done with the diet. Either way, we return to the very habits that made us overweight.

The key to success with permanent weight loss is trading in the fat-producing habits for fit-producing habits. And the key to that is using behavioral therapy techniques, to program in habits that are more satisfying than the old ones. It’s kind of like brainwashing.

That means that you need to eat what you like to lose weight, not what you don’t really like. That means you have to create ways that are more rewarding than the old ways, not less. Feeling deprived and punished is not going to help. Behavioral psychology teaches us that we will automatically be irresistibly drawn, crave, what tickles our fancy, so we need to learn to eat what we like in a way that feels better than the old way. That means we need to reprogram our brain to generate new feelings about the foods and behaviors we’ve been addicted to as well as the ones we’ve been avoiding.

There are many complex and demanding things that you now do every day without even thinking about them. All your morning routines, including driving to work, were things you probably had to work and concentrate on to learn, and now you can do them without even thinking. You can probably do your job now flawlessly with your eyes closed, yet it takes a person months and many mistakes to learn how to do it. If you are a savvy shopper, I’ll bet you know exactly where to go in your supermarket for everything you always buy, and know exactly whether the price is right. Behavioral technique can help you do the same thing with acquiring habits that will make you thinner, and with calories, it’s even easier. The prices never go up!

If you want to solve your weight problem, lose weight and keep it off, believe me, you can. Thousands have been successful, and the first thing they did was to start thinking differently about themselves and the food they’ve been eating. One great way is to start thinking about calories and your habits in a new savvy way. Be savvy. And start by getting my book, in paperback, Kindle, Nook, and iBook, if you haven’t already read it!

One antidepressant shown to control weight during 2-year study

(While I have always emphasized that real success in weight loss is achieved only by learning how to manage behavior like my program teaches, I have always advocated the legitimate use of medications to correct neurotransmitter disregulation that can heighten appetite, making self-control more difficult than it has to be. Here is an interesting report, first published in Science Daily.)


Group Health researchers have found that bupropion (marketed as Wellbutrin) is the only antidepressant that tends to be linked to long-term modest weight loss.

Previously, Group Health researchers showed a two-way street between depression and body weight: People with depression are more likely to be overweight, and vice versa. These researchers also found that most antidepressant medications have been linked to weight gain.

Prior research on antidepressants and weight change was limited to one year or shorter. But many people take antidepressants–the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States–for longer than a year. So for up to two years the new study followed more than 5,000 Group Health patients who started taking an antidepressant. The Journal of Clinical Medicine published it: “Long-Term Weight Change after Initiating Second-Generation Antidepressants.”

“Our study suggests that bupropion is the best initial choice of antidepressant for the vast majority of Americans who have depression and are overweight or obese,” said study leader David Arterburn, MD, MPH. He’s a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute (GHRI), a Group Health physician, and an affiliate associate professor in the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine. But in some cases, an overweight or obese patient has reasons why bupropion is not for them–like a history of seizure disorder–and it would be better for them to choose a different treatment option.

Study findings

“We found that bupropion is the only antidepressant that tends to be linked to weight loss over two years,” Dr. Arterburn said. “All other antidepressants are linked to varying degrees of weight gain.”

After two years, nonsmokers lost an average of 2.4 pounds on bupropion–compared with gaining an average of 4.6 pounds on fluoxetine (Prozac). So those who took bupropion ended up weighing 7 pounds less than did those on fluoxetine.

Unsurprisingly, that difference wasn’t seen in people who smoked tobacco. Bupropion is often used to help patients stop smoking. So smokers who take bupropion are likely to be trying to quit–and coping with the weight gain that often accompanies attempts to quit smoking.

Who should try which antidepressant?

“A large body of evidence indicates no difference in how effectively the newer antidepressants improve people’s moods,” said Dr. Arterburn’s coauthor Gregory Simon, MD, MPH, a Group Health psychiatrist, GHRI senior investigator, and research professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the UW School of Medicine. “So it makes sense for doctors and patients to choose antidepressants on the basis of their side effects, costs, and patients’ preferences–and, now, on whether patients are overweight or obese.”

Bupropion should be considered the first-line drug of choice for people who are overweight or obese, Dr. Simon said. But patients should consult their doctor about which medication is right for them, before making any changes, including starting, switching, or stopping medication.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Group Health Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Does Loving Yourself Lead to Weight Loss?

love yourself

(This article first appeared in The Huffington Post)

I’ll bet that you’ve heard that you must first love yourself to lose weight. So many of us hate being overweight, even hate ourselves for it, and we think that we need to lose weight to be able to like ourselves. But we’re told that we have it backwards, that to lose weight, we need to first love ourselves the way we are. Well, how is that possible when you don’t like yourself or if you hate yourself and what you’ve made of your life? How can you just decide, “I love me!” when everything inside you says it’s a lie? It’s impossible.

I don’t remember who first told me that I had to love myself the way I was, to love my fat body, as it was, in order to get better. It seemed crazy. She told me to hug my enormous thigh and say “I love you, thigh.” How could I do that? I hated it.

Soon after we are born, we discover that we must “measure up” to be OK, to be praised and rewarded. Often, when we don’t, we are scolded and punished. Then, later, we discover that to be accepted by our peers, we have to be a certain way, act a certain way, and look a certain way. Otherwise, we are rejected, or worse, teased and tormented. If we are good at “making the grade”, we are showered with acceptance and love, and assisted in life. If we don’t, we are punished by parents and teachers, and rejected, teased and tormented by our peers. Instead of being loved, we are not only disliked, but hated -scorned. We get abused rather than showered with affection and given opportunity and assistance by those in our world.

This is the system most of us learn. It is “the way things work” that we learn to deal with, and it never occurs to us to change it. How could we? It’s reality. It’s the way the world works.

So, we adopt this system ourselves. We judge everything we encounter, and if it measures up, we accept it. If it doesn’t, we reject it. If it’s really wonderful, we love it and shower it with praise and whatever we can give it. If it’s awful, we treat it with scorn, withhold our love, and maybe even trash it, kick it to the curb. This is how we regard everyone and everything we encounter. This is the way we think and treat everything in our lives — including ourselves.

It is the unusual person who encounters something ugly and rotten and hugs it, who forgives those who have committed the sins of our society. We want to punish! Sure, there are those who preach about loving our enemies and forgiving those who have committed the worst sins, but nobody except saints takes that seriously. Those who break the rules and fail to live up to our standards deserve to be scorned and punished. That’s just the way it is. They deserve it. And in our culture that worships physical beauty and success, there is hardly anything worse than a big fat failure. And that’s what I was at age 33 at 320 pounds, a diet failure for 25 years.

The weight loss industry preys on people who hate being overweight and often hate themselves for failing to fix it. Most people believe that the way to earn their self-respect and like themselves is to correct this flaw, to lose the weight and become a weight loss success. Then they would be able to like themselves. And this idea is promoted and accepted. And the truth is that it is wonderful to become successful at it. You feel so much better about yourself. It can’t be denied. However, to maintain the belief you must succeed in order to be OK and lovable, that only success and beauty should be loved while ugliness and failure should be hated, is a trap. It’s a trap I was caught in until I changed what I believed.

The problem is, we don’t take good care of things we hate. We throw them out, or under the bus. However, we bend over backwards to take care of the things we love. If we have an adorable little puppy that we love, we give it everything it needs and more. We lavish it with love and toys. But if we are given a snarling mangy stray to take care of, we are more apt to take it to the pound and leave it. That’s the way we’ve become. It’s normal. It doesn’t make us the devil, but the truth is, we don’t help things we hate recover from whatever affliction they suffer. When we confront ourselves and our faults and failures, we tend to hate. We are more apt to beat ourselves up or let ourselves go without what we need to get better.

If we are to thrive and get better, to recover from our flaws and failures, we need to be nurtured and helped, not neglected and abused. That loving behavior has to come from a conscious decision to be loving and forgiving when confronting those things that are not beautiful and successful, instead of judging and punishing. That doesn’t mean that you let the mangy stray sleep in your bed and bite you, but that you realize there is probably a reason it’s the way it is and you start treating it right instead of abusing it, and you see that it gets what it needs to thrive. That means that you make a conscious decision to not only be loving and forgiving to others, but to yourself as well, to love yourself like the puppy, not because you earned it, but because it needs it to be OK, because you need it to be OK.

In my early thirties, I had failed so many times at permanent weight loss that I gave up on the idea. I left that dream behind. But then I bought into this way of thinking that embraced love and forgiveness instead of judging and punishing. I decided that not only others needed to be loved regardless of their conditions, but that I also was worthy of that consideration, even though a big fat failure. I decided to love that body, the poor thing, and be kind about my faults and failures instead of mad and mean. Coincidently, I started being able to make changes and get better.

It’s been 30 years now since I lost my excess 140 pounds, which is a wonderful thing. But I’ve come to know that the more important change I’ve made is the way I think and the way I am on the inside. The outside counts for something, but it’s not the end-all, be-all, and often times we can’t change those conditions we find ourselves in. What makes us better is deciding to love ourselves no matter what. We need that. And when we do that, sometimes we open the door to miracles.

Read my book and maybe a miracle will open for you!

Diet Drinks Shown Superior to Water For Weight Loss and Weight Control

Diet soda or water?

Diet soda or water?

I have been highly criticized for advocating the use of diet drinks (artificially sweetened zero-calorie drinks) and artificial sweeteners, and I’ve been maligned for contradicting claims that diet drinks actually interfere with permanent weight loss, adversely affecting metabolism and increasing hunger. Now there’s solid scientific proof that validates what I’ve been saying. New research published in the February 2016 scientific journal Obesity confirms that diet drinks are an effective tool for permanent weight loss.

A team of researchers from the University of Colorado, University of Florida and Temple University followed 303 overweight and obese people for a year, half of them instructed to drink at least 24 ounces of water per day (but no diet drinks) and half of them instructed to drink at least 24 ounces of diet drinks per day. At the end of the year, the researchers concluded that diet drinks were “superior for weight loss and weight maintenance” and that they “can be an effective tool for weight loss and maintenance within the context of a weight management program.”

For years I have strongly recommended diet drinks, along with the behavioral techniques I used for my own 140 pound loss, now maintained for 30 years. I and my patients have reported that diet drinks are a big help for permanent weight loss and been scolded for it. But we were right all along.

Among the findings:

1) During the initial 12-week weight loss period, the diet drinkers lost over 50% more than the water drinkers.

2) During the 40-week maintenance period, the water drinkers regained more than twice as much as the diet drinkers, so that at the end of the study, the diet drinkers lost almost 3 times as much as the water drinkers, and avoided the big regain.

3) Waist circumference in both groups decreased, but the diet drinkers lost significantly more girth than the water drinkers.

4) The diet drinkers experienced a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure while the water drinkers saw no change.

5) Subjects in the water group reported feeling significantly more hunger while the diet drink group reported no increase in hunger.

These results debunk the theories that diet drinks somehow cause weight gain instead of weight loss and that they interfere adversely with metabolism or increase hunger.

All study participants engaged in the same comprehensive cognitive-behavioral weight loss intervention, but half followed instructions to drink 24 ounces of diet drinks per day, and half followed instructions to drink water instead. The diet drinkers could drink more than that if they wanted (water too), and the water drinkers could drink more water, but not diet drinks. A computer-generated randomization schedule assigned participants to the groups, stratified by sex, to assure equal distribution of women and men to each group.

Both groups attended meetings that were led by registered dietitians or clinical psychologists and were instructed on behavioral weight loss strategies. The meetings and program that both groups followed were exactly the same, except for the difference of diet drinks. They attended 12 weekly meetings at first, during the weight loss period of their study, followed by 9 monthly meetings during the maintenance portion. Examples of topics include self-monitoring, portion sizes, reading food labels, physical activity and insights into weight loss maintenance from the National Weight Control Registry.

I want to emphasize that I encourage drinking lots of water to all my readers and patients but advise using diet drinks as a substitute for all soft drinks. Water is the most important of the six essential nutrients and consuming copious amounts of water is essential to good health.

I also want to emphasize that diet drinks or any of the products, medications or procedures I have advocated are not, by themselves, a “magic bullet” for weight loss or weight control. Behavioral change, accomplished by application of an eclectic blend of behavioral therapy technique, is the only “miracle cure” that exists, if personal change and permanent weight loss is thought to be a miracle. However, there are many tools in the tool box of success in permanent weight loss, and diet drinks are one of the most important.

William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He solved his own long-time weight problem, losing 140 pounds 30 years ago and has kept it off since. He is the author of The Anderson Method.