When thinking about your weekend eating, it’s helpful to consider it as a whole. For example, if you know you are eating out three times, you can ask yourself, “Of those three times, when will I have bread/alcohol/dessert?” This way you’re less likely to feel deprived at any one meal because you’ll know you’re having it at the next one.
Q: One of my main problems is that I always say, “I will eat what I want today, then I will start tomorrow.” Then tomorrow, I say the very same thing. Seems like tomorrow never comes. What I can do to stop this destructive behavior and thinking?
A: Good question! We think that “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” is one of the more common sabotaging thoughts (up there with, “I’ve blown it for the day, I might as well continue eating whatever I want,” and “Just this one time won’t matter”). One of the reasons dieters tell themselves that they’ll start dieting tomorrow is because it helps reduce their tension about dieting. Often when dieters are off track, are feeling bad about their eating, and are acknowledging that they need to do something about it, they feel a level of tension: What am I going to do about this? When am I going to do it? By telling themselves, “I’ll start tomorrow,” that tension goes away because it means they have a plan; their questions have been answered. However, the problem with this is that the plan doesn’t usually pan out and more often than not, dieters don’t end up starting the next day.
Because dieters can’t rely on starting tomorrow, it’s important to come up with helpful responses to that sabotaging thought so that they don’t continue giving in to it. One thing that we ask dieters is, “When has ‘starting tomorrow’ ever helped you to reach your weight loss goals?” We discuss with dieters the fact that every time they have the thought, “I’ll start dieting tomorrow,” and give in to it, they make it harder for themselves to actually start dieting because they make it more likely they’ll put it off again the next day, and the day after that. Every single time they’re tempted to start tomorrow but instead force themselves to get back on track that moment, they make it more likely (and easier for themselves) to do so the next time. We also remind dieters that if yesterday they told themselves they would start tomorrow, then tomorrow is today, and it’s time to start!
We have dieters make Response Cards with these ideas on them, which they read every time they have this type of sabotaging thought. Here are some sample Response Cards:
When has ‘starting tomorrow’ ever helped me to reach my goals? Starting tomorrow just doesn’t work so I have to start today, right this moment. A week from now, a month from now, a year from now, I will be so happy I did.
Today is yesterday’s tomorrow so it’s time to start right now.
I can’t wait until tomorrow to start dieting again because if I do, it will be even harder to start. Just get back on track right now and guaranteed I won’t regret it.
It’s important to remember that getting yourself back on track right away and not waiting for tomorrow is a skill, and the more you practice it, the easier it will become. Right now your tendency to give in to that thought is probably pretty strong, so it’s easy to keep giving in. But the more and more you reinforce the habit of not giving in to that thought and of just doing what you need to do in the moment, the easier and easier it will be to do so. So remind yourself why it’s worth it to not wait for tomorrow and start practicing today!
When working on losing weight, it’s important to pay attention to (and give yourself credit for) progress you make outside of the number on the scale, such as being able to more easily follow a plan, stay in control at difficult events, stand firm in the face of cravings, or exercise for longer periods of time. All of these things also prove that your hard work is PAYING OFF!
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this without counting it because I don’t know how many calories are in it.
Response: Even if I don’t know the calories, it still HAS calories, so of course it counts. Estimating the calories is so much better than not counting at all because at least I’m still being accountable for everything I eat.
As long as dieters use food as a reward, dieting can feel like punishment. Food is something to be enjoyed, but if dieters want to lose weight they have to find other ways to reward themselves so that maintaining healthy eating doesn’t feel as if they are being unkind to themselves.
In dieting (as in life) everybody makes mistakes. You’re entitled to make mistakes – but you’re not entitled to let the memory of those mistakes get in your way. Wipe your slate clean and get started right this moment!
Many dieters find it more difficult to stay in control of their eating on weekends and so it is especially important for them to remember exactly WHY it’s worth it to them to continue working hard. Dieting and healthy eating can be challenging, but its benefits are immeasurable.
Earlier this week, I had a session with my dieter, Mark. Mark had had a hard week and was struggling to get himself to do the things he knew he needed to do in order to reach his goals. Mark said that he was plagued by [sabotaging] thoughts this week such as, “This is so much work, is it worth it?” and, “I just wish I could eat whatever I want, whenever I want it.”
One of the first things I did with Mark was bring out his Advantages List – the list of all the reasons why he wants to lose weight. Mark and I went through the list, item by item, and I asked him how important each one was on a scale of 0 to 10. Some of the things Mark rated as a “10” in importance were:
- Reduce many health risks, especially for diabetes and heart disease
- Set a good example for his children
- Improve his chances exponentially of being able to watch his children grow up
- Have a good quality of life
When faced with these things, Mark admitted that he wanted to keep trying and keep working because the advantages of doing so were indisputably worth it. This was a very important exercise to do with Mark in session because if he doesn’t retain a of sense of exactly why it’s worth it to him to continue working hard, why wouldn’t he give up?
Next we tackled Mark’s second sabotaging thought: I wish I could eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I asked Mark how he felt when he ate that way, which for him means overeating (especially unhealthy foods), constantly giving in to cravings, and doing things like eating a whole pizza instead of just one or two slices. After thinking about it, Mark replied that this makes him feel “terrible, guilty, and sick.” Mark and I discussed this further, and Mark came to the realization that what he was essentially trying to hold on to was a fantasy: he always thinks that he’ll be happy when he eats whatever he wants, whenever he wants, but in fact this makes him feel just the opposite. The “eating whatever I want = happiness” idea is truly a fantasy and not grounded in reality because, in reality, that feels bad and being in control of his eating feels good.
Mark was able grasp this idea intellectually, but it still wasn’t quite hitting home for him yet. In order to help him further assimilate this idea, we discussed other ways in which Mark has given up fantasies for realities – and has been happier for doing so. Mark said that when he was younger, one of his dreams was to become a basketball star and play in the NBA. Although Mark played basketball in high school, he eventually gave up that particular fantasy when he realized his skills would never enable him to play professionally. Now a high school math teacher, Mark says that his career is extremely rewarding and important to him and he gets fulfillment from it in a way he never did from basketball.
Mark also said that he used to have a fantasy of marrying his favorite actress – but let that fantasy go completely when he met the woman who is now his wife. Mark has a healthy, happy, and stable relationship with his wife (while his fantasy woman has gone on to numerous divorces) and he knows 100% that his fantasy would never have turned into a happy reality.
Through discussing all of this, Mark was able to see that in many other areas of his life he has been able to give up impracticable fantasies in favor of realities that make him very happy and fulfilled – and his fantasy about food is no different. Mark realized that once he gave up the fantasy of being able to eat in an uncontrolled way (which never left him feeling good anyway) he would be happier because he would get very real satisfaction from being in control of his eating, struggling much less, and achieving the enormously important goals on his Advantages List.
On any given day, the number on the scale is EXACTLY what it should be, given what you ate the day before, how much energy you expended, various biological factors, etc. Even if you were perfect on your diet, the scale may not go down due to 100 different reasons.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair I can’t eat normally like everyone else.
Response: Actually, I AM eating normally for someone with my goals. And while it may not be fair I can’t eat in the same way as (some) other people, it would be so much more unfair if I couldn’t reach my goals.
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.
One Belmont Avenue, Suite 700
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004-1610