It’s important to remember that just because you THINK something doesn’t mean it’s true. This weekend, if you think, “It’s okay to eat this because everyone else is /it’s just a small piece/it won’t matter/I’ll start again on Monday,” remind yourself that these are just sabotaging thoughts and not true reflections of reality.
If you go into the break room at work and see some unexpected treat, walk right out! Remind yourself that you’re not really missing out on anything because if you had never seen it, you would never have wanted it. Then remind yourself why it’s worth it to resist and all the good things that will come as a result.
I recently started working with a new dieter named Kelly. One of Kelly’s major concerns was that the holiday season would be a difficult time to begin the Beck Diet Solution program. We’ve heard from many dieters who are nervous about their ability to either start working or continue working on healthy eating during the holiday season. I discussed with Kelly that while this time may be a more challenging time to begin the program, it’s certainly not an impossible time. And, in fact, there are advantages of beginning a healthy eating program right now:
1. When dieters begin working on healthy eating during the holiday season, they will likely face difficulties early on, which will allow them to immediately begin figuring out which situations are particularly difficult for them and what areas will need the most work. If a dieter goes to a party and decides he won’t have any treats, and then winds up having one, it’s important for him to evaluate the experience and figure out what happened, why, and what he can do differently the next time (such as reading certain Response Cards before he goes). It’s also possible that his plan was too strict and that next time it would be more reasonable to plan to have one portion of dessert, instead of not having any. Because dieters will experience many similar situations during the holiday season, they can start to gain a sense of what sabotaging thoughts they’re likely to have, how they can respond to them, and what type of plan works best in various circumstances. It may take much longer to figure these things out at other times during the year because they likely won’t have such a concentrated period of parties and events.
2. Working on healthy eating during the holidays can help mitigate weight gain. Someone who is working on healthy eating during the holidays, even if she struggles with it, is much more likely to gain less weight than if she just throws in the towel—deciding to eat whatever she wants, and telling herself, “I’ll get back on track after the New Year.” Any amount of work and effort during this time is likely to pay off in the form of fewer calories consumed, even if it’s still more calories than she originally planned.
3. The holidays are a great time to start working on accepting and recovering from mistakes, since mistakes tend to occur more frequently during this time. I always remind dieters that we learn just as much from challenges as we do from successes, and dieters can right away begin to use their holiday mistakes as important learning experiences. Since no one is perfect and since everyone makes mistakes, it’s vitally important for dieters to gain confidence and grasp the fact that when they make mistakes (not if they make mistakes), they can get right back on track – and in doing so, mistakes turn into minor problems, not major lapses. Dieters will continue to make eating mistakes for the rest of their lives, and the earlier they learn to recover from them right away, the better off they are.
4. Sometimes when dieters begin this program, they enter what we call the “Honeymoon Phase,” a time when their motivation is very high and dieting is fairly easy. Unfortunately, once the Honeymoon Phase passes (as it does for everyone) dieting usually becomes more difficult for a period of time. If dieters don’t understand that this is a normal occurrence, they are at greater risk for sabotaging thoughts (“I just can’t do it;” “This is too hard;” “This isn’t working anymore”) and giving up. When dieters begin the Beck Diet Solution program during the holiday season, they are likely to be challenged from the get-go and don’t get lulled into a false sense of ease or security. Instead, they are provided right away with ample opportunities to begin working through difficult situations and gaining real confidence in their ability to maintain control in the face of challenging circumstances.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s better to just not have any treats during the holiday season.
Response: I need to get away from all-or-nothing thinking and remember to look for the middle ground. Cutting out all treats never works because I eventually end up eating them, and then usually go overboard. While it may not be reasonable to have extra holiday treats every day, it’s important plan to have reasonable amounts all throughout the holiday season.
There is NOTHING magical about losing weight and/or maintaining your weight – no one perfect combination of foods that will enable immediate and permanent weight loss, no magic bullet pill or patch. Once dieters accept this and stop looking for a quick fix, it allows them to just do what they need to do – exercise and eat in a consistent and healthy way.
The holiday season is upon us! This year, think about all the ways in which you can experience the spirit and joy of the holidays that have nothing to do with eating. Remember, there are many ways to feed your soul without feeding your mouth.
Remember – eating extra one day won’t necessarily make you gain weight, but continuing to eat extra definitely will. If you ate extra on Thanksgiving, make sure to return to normal eating today and this weekend to ensure you stay on track and feel great.
This year, consider the strategy of deciding in advance to not take seconds. This way, you won’t have to struggle after you finish eating about whether or not to get more, and you’ll likely avoid the very uncomfortable sensation of feeling overly full.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat extra because I need to taste everything I’m cooking [for Thanksgiving].
Response: There is a big difference between tasting a little for flavor and tasting just to eat. Every bite matters because every bite has calories. I can’t fool myself into thinking it doesn’t count!
If you’ve read our newsletter, our Daily Diet Solutions, or past blog postings, then you probably know that we are strong advocates of having dieters make a plan for potentially difficult situations, like events, vacations, and holidays. We push for this because we’ve found, time and again, that when dieters have a plan (even if it’s a general one), they almost always do better than when they have no plan at all and have to continually make spontaneous decisions about whether or not to eat something. Spontaneous decisions are often the hardest to control because they require a lot of on-the-spot thinking and self-discipline. Any decisions you make ahead of time (like whether or not to have dessert, and if so, how much) means you don’t have to expend the mental energy and willpower in the moment deciding what to do.
If you’re going to make a Thanksgiving plan this year, consider adding the following components:
Practice good eating habits. Especially during days when you’re spending a lot of time cooking and have food around you all day, it’s extremely easy to take in hundreds of extra calories by just grabbing a bite here and there. You can really cut down on this type of extraneous eating by continuing to make it a point to eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully. This may mean that you’re pulled away from your preparations briefly, but isn’t it worth it if it means you’ll actually get to enjoy what you’re eating and feel so much more satisfied?
Exercise. Even if you’re very busy on Thanksgiving Day, it maybe worth it to figure out, in advance, where you can carve out 15 minutes or half an hour for exercise. The point of this is less about calorie burning (although that is a good benefit), but more about taking some time for yourself during a busy day. It can also be an excellent stress reliever!
Thanksgiving Dinner. Obviously any good Thanksgiving plan will include what you will actually eat for Thanksgiving dinner. If you know what’s going to be served, then you can make a specific plan to have x amount of Turkey, salad, stuffing, potatoes, etc. If you don’t know what’s going to be served, then you can make a more general plan: x amount of Turkey, x amounts of 3 to 5 different side dishes, etc.
Set a range for alcohol/caloric beverages. It’s perfectly reasonable to plan to have alcohol/caloric beverages during Thanksgiving, but it’s important to decide in advance what your limit is so that you don’t go overboard. Consider setting a range for the day, such as planning to have 0 to 2 glasses of wine.
Decide about dessert. Again, it’s reasonable to have dessert on Thanksgiving, but decide in advance how much you’re going to have. If you know exactly what’s going to be served, then you can make a more specific plan, like “Have one small piece of pumpkin pie and one small piece of pecan pie.” If you don’t know what’s going to be served, your plan can be more general: “Have one bigger portion of dessert or 2 to 3 small portions.”
Don’t go back for more. Another helpful guideline to have during Thanksgiving is committing in advance to not having any seconds. If you plan a reasonable Thanksgiving dinner and then go back for more, you’ll likely end up feeling overly full. This year, if you want to avoid that uncomfortable feeling (and avoid possible weight gain), decide in advance what seconds, if any, you’re going to have. That way, after you finish eating, you don’t have to struggle to decide whether or not to go back for more because the decision will have already been made.
Think about the rest of the day. Since you likely won’t be eating Thanksgiving dinner until midafternoon or later, it’s important to think about what you’re going to eat before dinner begins. Many dieters find it helpful to plan in advance what to have for breakfast and lunch (and it may be smaller than normal breakfasts and lunches), and then make sure they take time to sit down and eat what they have planned. This way they don’t take in too many calories early in the day but they aren’t starving, either.
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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