Beth Spent Years on the Diet Roller Coaster
Eating Skills Put Her Back in Control
“Snacking is the big thing for me,” said Beth Aitman during a recent interview. “That’s the thing I really, really struggle with.”
If you’re a human in the age of Pringles you can probably relate.
Beth is a technical writer for a software company, but whenever she’s not glued to her computer she loves to get outdoors. “I like to spend my free time in the mountains, especially this year,” she said, “in the open air wherever possible, hiking, skiing, that kind of thing.”
But despite loving all kinds of physical activity, she never quite felt comfortable with her body.
“As long as I can remember I’ve always felt like, ‘Oh, I’m heavier than I want to be. I should try and do something about that,’” she said.
And so she would.
For a few weeks Beth would meticulously count calories. She’d limit meal sizes. She’d increase her running mileage.
“And there’s this amazingly consistent pattern of, yeah this is going really well, I’m losing tons of weight,” she said. “And then it just completely goes off track.”
“I ended up beating myself up a lot for, ‘Oh, why is it that in the afternoons in the office, I just can’t stop myself going for the biscuits?’”
First her running would suffer. “Maybe trying to run 40 miles a week and eat hardly any calories isn’t a particularly good combination,” she laughed.
Then her calorie counting would break down.
“I would eat tons of food and not really enjoy it because I’d be so hungry and I’d desperately eat everything,” she said. “I ended up beating myself up a lot for, ‘Oh, why is it that in the afternoons in the office, I just can’t stop myself going for the biscuits?’”
So she’d gain weight again until the cycle started over.
We call this the Diet Cycle of Failure. Not because people fail at dieting, but because restrictive diet rules are proven to fail for the vast majority of people.
Usually after a short period of success that makes you feel like you’re the one that blew it. That’s what Beth was experiencing.
Until last year.
That’s when she started our Eating Skills program, which introduced her to the fundamental skills for aligning your nutrition with your goals and values.
By practicing these skills Beth took control of her snacking and went from stress and self-judgement about food to feeling relaxed and confident in her eating decisions.
Here’s how she describes it:
Skills Got Beth Off the Diet Roller Coaster
Conventional diets like calorie counting work for most people for a little while—but then they fail for almost everyone.
And that roller coaster made Beth feel like it must be her fault. “I always felt like, I’m trying to do this thing and there’s something wrong with me that means I can’t do it,” she said.
Which is why the idea of Eating Skills intrigued her.
“I remember it saying something like, Hey, this is a thing that’s happening because of a skills gap,” she said. “It’s not that there’s a problem with your willpower.”
Beth knew quite a bit about skill development so that made sense to her. “So this problem that I thought was with myself and some kind of inherent thing about the way that I behave,” she said, “maybe that’s actually a structural problem I can solve.”
“It seemed super worth a go,” she said. So she decided to give it a try.
Even Imperfect Practice Helped Her Get Better
Think back to the first time you ever picked up a guitar, or drove a stick-shift, or tried to juggle. Chances are it was pretty messy at first. Because the thing about learning new skills is that you start out bad at them.
So when Beth first tried to use these brand new skills to limit snacking, it didn’t always work.
“In the early weeks it’s like, okay, I’m going to try and not snack between meals two out of the three gaps today,” she said. “And a lot of the time I wouldn’t make that.”
And her tech job didn’t make it any easier. “I’ve pretty much always worked somewhere where there is free breakfast, free lunch, and usually a huge kitchen full of snacks,” she said.
But the other thing about skill development is that as long as you practice, you get better. Even if that practice isn’t “perfect.”
“And the thing that really overcame it was that so much of the program has this emphasis around not trying to perfectly meet your goals,” she said. “As long as you try and work on it, that’s okay.”
With that foundation, Beth started making progress.
How She Broke Her Reliance on Snacking
Eating Skills teaches you a combination of skills and guidelines. Here’s what that means. The skills help you understand what your body is really telling you about food—for example are you actually hungry or are you stressed? Or tired? Or bored?
But that takes a lot of practice. So the guidelines are like flexible rules-of-thumb that serve as training wheels for the skills so you can start making progress right away.
“I think one of the huge benefits has been not going to food as the default stress reliever.”
Beth’s first big “Aha!” moment combined both.
“And actually I remember what the breakthrough there was,” she said. “It was like hey, you can totally go and have the snack. There’s nothing wrong with having a snack. The practice is pausing. The practice is not about whether or not you choose to eat afterwards, but it’s about making it that choice.”
Two things helped Beth make snacking a choice. One was a guideline that says when you feel like getting a snack, just pause for 10 minutes first. Then go get it if you want. And the second was a skill of checking in with your body and asking, “Is this really hunger or is it something else?”
Studies show that a lot of snacking has nothing to do with being hungry. It’s often a reaction to stress, exhaustion, or physical discomfort.
So when Beth started pausing and checking in she discovered a lot.
Sometimes she noticed she was stressed about something at work. Sometimes she hadn’t been outside all day and actually wanted to go for a walk. And sometimes she really was hungry and would go get something to eat.
But one particular moment really drove this lesson home for her.
She was working in her home office one afternoon and felt the urge to get a snack. When she checked in with her body she noticed her shoulders were tense and she was sort of hunched over her keyboard.
“And I suddenly realized sometimes I would just get freezing in the afternoon and I’d feel awful,” she said. “It sounds so stupid but I thought I was hungry and I was just cold.”
She started making herself a hot water bottle instead of a snack and felt much better.
“And I think one of the huge benefits has been not going to food as the default stress reliever,” she said, “and realizing instead how much it helps to just look after myself.”
Full, Balanced Plates “Solved So Many Problems”
Beth’s past diets all focused on limiting calories. “I’d be like, if I can keep my lunch to 500 calories then I can have 200 calories for a snack,” she said. “And then of course an hour later if you’ve eaten a plate of cucumber, it’s not going to do very much for you.”
So one guideline that was particularly helpful for her was plating balanced meals.
This just says to aim for about 50% veggies and fruit, 25% protein, and 25% carbs on your plate with about a tablespoon of fat. Not only did this take away the anxiety of counting every last calorie, it also gave Beth permission to eat until she was actually full.
“That solved so many problems for me,” said Beth. “I can’t stress how much simpler it feels.”
But recently that simplicity was put to the test.
Beth was working on a big launch at work. Hard deadlines. Lots of stress. “Normally in this kind of week I would have gone through piles of chocolate,” she said. “I would have been super stressed out and just kind of nibbling at things to make me feel better.”
But this time she had a simple plan. “The only thing that I’m going to try to do is make myself two square meals a day,” she said. “I’m going to try to have a proper, big lunch and a big dinner.”
And when the stressful moments came, the moments when usually she’d be running to the fridge, she often found that she didn’t actually want any food.
“And this was crazy to me, that with a bit of planning—this is what I’m going to eat, let’s prep for that—I realized I wasn’t hungry at all,” she said.
Making it Automatic Gave Her Stress-Free Results
Think back to when you were learning to ride a bike. It’s pretty scary. Every little bump or change of direction threatens to sprawl you out on the pavement.
But eventually you got okay at it.
Then you got good.
Maybe you got really good.
Now getting on a bike and cruising the neighborhood is actually relaxing. That’s how skill development works. At first it’s impossible. Eventually it’s automatic.
By the end of Eating Skills that’s what started happening for Beth.
“This is a genuine light at the end of the tunnel, the idea that I can permanently have a good relationship with food.”
“These eating skills are just part of the way I approach food now,” she said. “This is something that you’re going to have to work hard on, but then eventually it’s something you have under your belt and it becomes a skill that you can just use and have available.”
And once those skills started becoming second nature, her stress around food began to evaporate.
“I don’t think I ever noticed how stressed this whole thing made me, trying to eat less and also with exercise,” she said. “The stress of trying to hold yourself up to something that you structurally can’t achieve. And now suddenly I have this immense freedom of—oh, I can do that and this is fine and it’s not stressful, it’s not hard work.”
What that meant for Beth is that her lifelong roller coaster of gaining and losing weight finally evened out.
“I think this is the first time in my life, doing this program, that my weight has stayed stable,” she said. “It was this real breakthrough of like oh, maybe actually I’m pretty happy with where I’m at after all. Because if I can eat like this forever then I don’t have to be stressed about it.”
Beth will be the first to tell you that she hasn’t fully mastered her eating skills. In fact she’s working through the program again to shore up her weak spots.
But it’s given her a path that actually works for her without all the stress, guilt, and deprivation of conventional diets.
“Self-compassion is the one thing I wouldn’t have expected at all and I never thought of that up front as something I was aiming for,” she said. “This is a genuine light at the end of the tunnel, the idea that I can permanently have a good relationship with food.”
Make it Second Nature to Eat the Way You Want
The skills that Beth used to beat snacking and de-stress her food life aren’t complicated. But they take practice.
That’s why the 20-week Eating Skills program includes expert coaching, so you get the reinforcement and support you need to make real change.
Some people do Eating Skills to lose weight. Some want to gain weight or boost their performance. A lot of people just want a simpler way to eat well without having to jump through all the conflicting diet hoops out there.
So if you want to simplify your nutrition and still make more progress on your goals, click below to get all the details.
Make Good Nutrition an Effortless Part of Your Life
Over a few weeks of coaching, learning, and practice you’ll build the skills to hit your nutrition goals with less stress and more enjoyment and satisfaction.