November 17, 2015 – Tuesday Reality Check

Good reminder – you won’t lose weight every day or even every week. That’s just the way it is. The scale failing to go down one day or one week is not a sign that you’re doing anything wrong or that it’s never going to work.

Keep pushing through, it will go down again.

November 16, 2015 – Monday Motivation

Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Remember that it’s much easier to stay on track than try to get back on track, so this week: get on track, build up some positive momentum, and next week will go so much more smoothly.

November 13, 2015 – Friday Weekend Warm-up

This weekend, if you think, “It’s okay to eat this because everyone else is eating it,” remind yourself that your body doesn’t know or care what everyone around you is eating. It ONLY knows what you eat, so that is not a valid excuse.

Treats in the Office Kitchen

One of the biggest challenges that makes staying on track with healthy eating difficult during the holidays is what dieters find when they walk into their office kitchens.  The fact of the matter is, it often seems like there is extra (tempting) food everywhere during the holidays, but the office kitchen is definitely one of the biggest culprits.  We’re not going to sugar-coat this (no pun intended): managing the office kitchen during the holidays is difficult but it absolutely can be done with three key elements:

  1. A really good plan
  2. Strategies to put that plan into action
  3. Extra determination

The first part of managing the office kitchen is having a plan.  For most dieters, it almost never works to just “wing it” (meaning, go into a situation without a firm plan and with the thought that they’ll just figure it out when the time comes) but this is especially true during the holidays. When there are so many extra temptations around, having a clear plan is critical.  When making a plan for treats at the office, it’s important that your plan is both reasonable and realistic.  If your plan is too restrictive or unreasonable, then ultimately you won’t be able to follow it anyway and will likely end up throwing it out the window and eating way more than you would have, had you made a more reasonable plan that you were able to stick with.DSC_0051

Some of our clients have plans such as: one reasonable treat a day from the office kitchen; one treat every Friday; one treat every other day; etc.  A plan that we, ourselves, use and that many of our clients have since adopted is this: no treats from the office kitchen ever (unless it’s an office party).  If there’s something in there we really want, we take a portion home and have it after dinner. This plan works so beautifully for us.  It makes it so much easier to resist treats at work because we’re able to remind ourselves, “It’s not that I’m not having this food, I’m just not having it right now. But I absolutely can have it later, and when I do, I’ll be able to really enjoy it fully without guilt.”  It also works well because we only bring home one portion at a time so even if we really want more when we’ve finished, there’s no more to be had!

Once you have your plan, you then need strategies to help you stick to it.  One extremely helpful strategy is to make Response Cards for any sabotaging thoughts you think you’re likely to have about sticking to your plan.  Here are some sample sabotaging thoughts and Response Cards.


Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay just this one time to not stick to my office holiday treats plan.

Response Card - It’s okay just this one time to not stick to my office holiday treats plan. (1)

Sabotaging Thought: I’m going to eat this unplanned treat because I just don’t care.

Response Card - I’m going to eat this unplanned treat because I just don’t care. (1)

Sabotaging Thought: It’s too hard to stick to my plan.

Response Card - It’s too hard to stick to my plan.

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat [this unplanned treat] because everyone else is.

 Response Card - It’s okay to eat [this unplanned treat] because everyone else is. (4)

Just making Response Cards and looking at them every once in a while is probably not good enough during the holidays.  Once you have your cards, it’s important to start reading them every day, at least once a day, as a matter of course. Doing so will start cementing these helpful thoughts in your head. In addition to reading them once a day, consider reading them again during difficult moments at work. If, for example, you know that 4:00 is a vulnerable time for you, set an alarm on your phone and read your cards again every day at 3:45.  Or if you know going into the office kitchen to get your lunch puts you in direct contact with tempting treats, read your cards right before venturing into the kitchen.

Another strategy that can be helpful in dealing with office treat cravings is to have distractions at the ready.  Remember that cravings really are like itches in that the more you pay attention to them, the worse they get. The moment you get really distracted is the moment the craving goes away. Having a list of distracting activities to try when a craving strikes can help you even more quickly turn your attention to something else.  Some potential distractions are: take a walk, go talk to a co-worker, call a friend or family member, write an email to someone, check news or sports headlines, look at social media, do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku puzzle, read your Response Cards, read a blog post, online shop, and so on.

You may also want to pay attention to how long your cravings actually last. Most of the dieters we work with tell us that their cravings usually last somewhere between three to fifteen minutes.  Even if your craving lasts a full fifteen minutes, it will eventually go away.  Seeing how long they last can help you remind yourself that the discomfort is temporary, and that you’re only x minutes away from success.

We know that office treats are tough to handle, but the more you work on it, the better you will get.  Make a plan, make Response Cards, and have distractions ready.  Then you’ll be ready to do battle and win!

Common Holiday Sabotaging Thoughts

Everyone knows that it’s harder to stay on track with healthy eating during the holidays, and most people assume that it’s because there are so many more parties, eating events, and treats out during this time.  While that’s accurate, it’s only part of the picture. The truth is that what really makes the holidays so hard are the sabotaging thoughts that people have that they aren’t able to respond effectively to. It’s never a party that directly gets someone off track, it’s when she has sabotaging thoughts while at the party, like, “I won’t be able to have fun unless I indulge.”  Learning to identify, in advance, what sabotaging thoughts you’re likely to have and coming up with responses to them ahead of time is the missing link between wanting to stay on track during the holidays and actually being able to do so. Below are four of the most common diet sabotaging thoughts that we hear and some helpful responses to them.  If you find any of these responses helpful, consider making your own Response Cards and reading them every single day from today until January 1st.

1. I only get this food once a year.

When dieters are telling us about a holiday meal that didn’t go as well as they’d have liked, part of the problem tends to be that they overate food and justified it with the thought that they “never get this food” or “it’s the only time of year I can eat it.”  The truth of the matter is that in this day in age, there is almost no food that can’t be bought, ordered, or made 365 days a year. While it’s true individuals many never think to make a certain food at other times during the year, or only come in contact with it organically during the holidays, that doesn’t mean that they can’t find/make/buy it at other times.  Also, it’s good to keep in mind that it’s true the holidays are only once a year, but they’re once a year every year, so it’s never the last opportunity to have something. While it is certainly fair to eat reasonable portion of favorite holiday foods, it doesn’t work to go overboard on those foods. Reminding yourself that you never need to overeat a food because you can and will have it again can help you stay on track around favorite holiday foods.

Response Card - I only get this food once a year

2. I have to do things the way I’ve always done them or someone will be disappointed.

Dieters often put themselves in traps when thinking about the holidays.  They think that they have to do things the way they’ve always done them or there will be negative consequences, such as disappointing someone or themselves. The truth of the matter is that they way they’ve always done things probably just doesn’t work, not if they’re trying to stay on track with their eating during the holidays. If dieters want this year to go better, it means they have to do things differently. While it’s true that others may be temporarily disappointed if you, say, decide to only make three kinds of Christmas cookies instead of ten, or go out and buy some holiday food to save yourself the time and energy of making it, it’s likely that the disappointment won’t be as great or as long-lasting as you’re fearing.  And they’ll get over it, probably in much less time then it will take you to lose the extra pounds you put on as a result of not making changes.  It’s important to keep in mind that traditions can always be changed and new ones can always be instituted.  If you start the tradition this year of taking a walk after Thanksgiving dinner instead of picking at leftovers, in few years that will start to feel like a time-honored tradition – and one that will help you reach your goals instead of taking your farther away from them.

Response Card - I have to do things the way I’ve always done them or someone will be disappointed.

3. I’ve already been messing up, I’ve blown it so I’ll just wait until the New Year to get back on track.

This is a thought that often plagues dieters who start out trying to have a healthy holiday season, get off track at some point, and just decide that their efforts are wasted and they might as well wait until January 1st to start working on healthy eating again.  We are here to tell you: Don’t buy into that thought! And here’s why: First of all, it is impossible to blow it for the holiday season. It just doesn’t work that way. It is possible to get off track at one party, and then get off track at the next, and then get off track again at the third. But it’s also possible to get off track at one party, recover, and do fantastically well during the rest of the parties.  There is always, always the option of recovering and making the rest of the days until January 1 great days.  And in doing so, it means that you don’t gain weight (or gain less weight), start out the New Year in a much stronger position, and likely have a happier holiday season.  Remind yourself – just because you were on the highway and missed your exit, it doesn’t mean you have to spend the rest of the day driving in the wrong direction.  You can always get off at the next exit, turn around, and get right back on track.  The same is true with dieting. Just because you make a mistake, you can always catch yourself, recover, and get right back on track. In the same way you wouldn’t’ keep driving in the wrong direction, don’t keep making mistakes!

Response Card - I have to do things the way I’ve always done them or someone will be disappointed. (1)

4. I won’t be able to enjoy myself during the holidays if I have to work on healthy eating.

In reality, the opposite of this thought is usually true. When dieters decide to throw healthy eating out the window and get off track, it actually puts a negative tint on the holidays because they spend time feeling badly about their eating, worrying about gaining weight, and dealing with the nagging knowledge that they’re going to have to face up to all this in the New Year.  By contrast, when dieters work on staying on track, it often helps them feel so much better during the holidays because they feel confident in themselves and what they’re doing.  No one (at least no one we’ve ever met!) has ever gone to bed after a really great, on-track eating day and thought, “Well, I shouldn’t have done that.” It just doesn’t happen!

Response Card - I won’t be able to enjoy myself during the holidays if I have to work on healthy eating. (1)

November 12, 2015 – Think Thin Thursday Tip

Do you tend to grab snacks here and there and eat them standing up? Working on eating every bite of food sitting down can help cut out on that mindless eating that we do and never remember by the end of the day.

November 11, 2015 – Wednesday Sabotage

Sabotaging Thought: I’m really stressed out, I need to eat!

Response: I may want to eat, but I don’t need to. If I had been in a stressful situation where food wasn’t available, I’d get through it without eating. It’s worth working on finding other ways to de-stress because doing so will help me reach my weight loss goals.

In Session with Debbie: Mistakes

I’ve been working with my client, Rachel, for about a month. In session last Thursday I found out that one night earlier in the week she had gotten into her kids’ Halloween candy and ended up eating way too much of it. Rachel told me that this made her feel really terrible and made her question whether or not she could even do this thing (i.e. lose weight and keep it off). It was clear to me that Rachel was being extraordinarily hard on herself about making this mistake and she was catastrophizing, thinking that because she messed up once it meant she couldn’t ever get it right.

I first reminded Rachel that learning to diet really is like learning any other skill and that mistakes are an inevitable part of any learning experience. I asked Rachel if there was another skill she has learned in which she wasn’t terribly hard on herself when she made a mistake. Rachel told me that several years ago she taught herself to sew. “I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning and none of my early pieces turned out exactly how I wanted them to.” I asked Rachel what she did when this happened, and Rachel said that she just took time to figure out what went wrong and how to correct the mistakes the next time. “And imagine if every time you made a sewing mistake, you told yourself how terrible that was and questioned whether or not you could ever really learn to do it.” “I probably would have given up,” she told me. But because Rachel was accepting of those mistakes, she learned from them, got better, and eventually learned to sew everything she wanted to.

The reality is that thinking she’ll never make a dieting mistake is just as far-fetched and detrimental as it would have been if Rachel thought she should have learned to sew without ever making a mistake. I also asked Rachel how long she’s been struggling with her weight. “It seems like my whole life,” she told me. “At least 30 years.” I reminded Rachel that she’s only been working on these new ideas for a month¬ – and asked her if it seemed realistic to expect that she would get everything down perfectly in 30 days, after over 30 years of not doing these things. “No,” she admitted with a laugh.

I knew that it was important for Rachel to recognize ahead of time that she is going to make mistakes and she can’t have the expectation that she’ll be perfect. If she expects to be perfect, then each mistake will feel like a huge failure and demoralize her greatly. And the more demoralized she feels, the harder it will be to get back on track. If, by contrast, she makes a mistake and is kind and accepting towards herself, she’ll be in a much better position to recover immediately.

Rachel told me that she understood what I was saying but still didn’t think that she would be able to remember it when she made a mistake. I agreed with her that just hearing this one time in session likely wouldn’t make that much of a difference. What she needed to do was write down these ideas and practice reading them every single day. The more she reads them, the more they will get in her head, and that’s when it can really start to make a difference. Rachel made the following Response Card and committed to reading it every single day for the foreseeable future:

Response Card - Rachel

November 10, 2015 – Tuesday Reality Check

If secret eating is a problem for you, it can be helpful to ask yourself, “Would I eat this if someone were with me right now?” If the answer is no, then it may be worth working on overcoming the craving to eat it.

November 9, 2015 – Monday Motivation

Will losing weight/getting healthier be one of your New Year’s Resolutions? If so, why not get started on it today? Start making some small changes, master them, and then make a few more small changes. If you start today, imagine what a better place you can be in come January 1st.