It is not reasonable to expect that in dieting you will never make mistakes and it’s extremely important to prove to yourself that you can slip up and recover from it right away. This way you don’t have to live in fear of making a mistake, especially since 100% perfection can only be maintained for so long.
Even if dieting didn’t have enormous benefits in terms of weight loss and better health, it would STILL be worth it because being in control of your eating feels so much better than being out of control.
Are you tired of struggling to get back on track every Monday? Are you tired of undoing all your good work from the week and undermining your progress? Keep these things in mind this weekend when making eating decisions and guaranteed Monday morning you will feel SO HAPPY you stayed in control.
We find that for many of our dieters, intuitive eating is difficult because it is far too easy to confuse hunger with other sensations – craving, thirst, boredom, stress, or simply the desire to eat. Because of this, we work with our dieters on the skill of “eating according to a schedule” so that they don’t have to rely on potentially faulty cues to know whether or not to eat.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this unplanned food because I’ll eat less and make up for it later.
Response: Looking back, when has ‘making up for it later’ EVER helped me to lose weight and keep it off? I’ve already proven to myself that this idea just doesn’t work and that spontaneous food decisions have negative consequences. Just stick to my plan and as soon as this food is out of my sight, I’ll be SO GLAD I didn’t have any.
In order to lose weight permanently, dieters can’t keep turning to food when they’re upset. Although initially difficult, dieters can learn to sooth themselves in many other ways and get to the point where, when they feel upset, they know they’re not going to eat because that would ultimately make them feel much worse. What do you do to soothe yourself when you’re upset?
Response Cards can be very effective because they remind dieters of the important ideas they will need to help them stick to their diets. Response Cards are usually one or two lines written on a 3×5 card (or a business-sized card) that dieters practice reading every day. Dieters make Response Cards for issues that come up on a day to day basis, and also ones for specific and potentially difficult situations, like going out to dinner or to a party, going on vacation, during the holidays, etc. In essence, Response Cards contain helpful responses to dieters’ sabotaging thoughts and help provide continual motivation. For example, if dieters frequently have the thought, “I have to eat this because otherwise it will go to waste,” then they may make a card that says something like, “If there is leftover food, it will go to waste in the trashcan or in my body. Either way it’s wasted.”
Response cards can also be fine-tuned over time. If dieters are struggling with emotional eating, they may make a card that says, “When I’m feeling upset, don’t eat! It won’t help solve the problem and then I’ll just feel even worse after anyway.” Once dieters figure out how to cope with negative emotions in other ways, like taking a walk, calling a friend, or listening to music, then they may make a new Response Card that reads, “When I’m feeling upset, don’t eat because it will only make me feel worse. Instead go take a walk or call mom, I’ll be so happy later that I did.”
Response Cards should be very clear and to the point so dieters immediately know what messages they are sending. Response Cards should also be strongly worded and, when needed, be very specific. Here are some examples of okay Response Cards and then how to improve them:
Response Card: If I’m feeling hungry and it’s not time to eat, resist the food so that I can stick to my plan.
Better Response Card: If I’m feeling hungry and it’s not time to eat, don’t eat! I can hold out [X] minutes until it’s time to eat again, and the food will taste so much better if I do.
Response Card: Don’t eat little bites of food that aren’t on my plan because they will sabotage my efforts.
Better Response Card: Every single bite matters. It’s not the calories, it’s the habit. I need to take every opportunity I can to strengthen my resistance muscle.
Response Card: Yes, it is unfair that I can’t eat the way everyone else is eating but I can’t let that get in the way.
Better Response Card: It’s true it’s unfair that I can’t eat everything everyone else is eating, but it would be MORE unfair if I was never able to lose weight and keep it off. I’d much rather be thin!
Response Card: It’s not okay to eat unplanned food because I will regret it later.
Better Response Card: If I eat this food I hadn’t planned, I’ll get just a few moments of pleasure but then I’ll definitely feel bad about it and be at risk for eating more.
Response Card: If I make a mistake, get back on track right away so I don’t make the situation worse.
Better Response Card: Everybody makes mistakes, it’s not the end of the world. Get back on track this minute! It’s a million times better to stop now than to keep eating more. Being on track feels so much better than feeling out of control.
What is the difference between the okay and the better Response Cards? While the “okay” ones do contain kernels of helpful ideas, they are not particularly motivating. The “better” Response Cards are very directive and remind dieters why it’s worth it to them to stick to their plans. They also draw on dieters’ past experiences and use them as helpful reminders of times when they were able to resist in the past, or times when they didn’t but wished that they had.
You wouldn’t expect to be able to run a marathon if you’ve never run a mile. Dieting is the same – don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to take too many big steps all at once. Start with a few small changes, work until you master them, and then institute more. After all, small steps eventually add up to really big ones.
Sabotaging Thought: It will be a waste of money if I go to a restaurant and don’t finish my meal.
Response: The money is spent whether I eat the food or not. I should focus on the experience of enjoying a night out and enjoying the company, not eating every bite on my plate. Besides, if I bring some home I’ll save money because I’ll have food for another meal.
When dieting feels hard, it’s important to remind yourself that it hasn’t always been this hard (it’s helpful to think about specific examples of when it felt easier and you were feeling great) and it won’t always be this hard. As long as you keep pushing through, dieting WILL get easier again.
The Beck Diet Program was developed by Dr. Judith S. Beck with Deborah Beck Busis, LCSW.
Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a leading international source for training, therapy, and resources in CBT.
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