How are you doing with sleep? With drinking water? With exercise? With self-care and taking moments to de-stress? Don’t let these things slide during the holidays. They’re even more important now with all of the extra stressors and temptations we face during this time.
Sabotaging Thought: I shouldn’t have to control my eating during the holidays.
Response: If my goal is to gain weight during the holidays, then it’s true, I absolutely don’t have to control my eating. But if my goal is to lose weight or even maintain my weight, then I do. Not working on healthy eating and maintaining my weight are, unfortunately, pretty mutually exclusive goals during the holidays so I need to figure out what is most important to me
Yesterday I had a session with Jennifer, whom you read about in our previous blog post. One of the main topics of our session this week was rehashing how it went in her first week of enforcing the “no treats from the office kitchen” guideline. In short: She was awesome! Jennifer was able to stick to the guideline the entire week and didn’t eat a bite of unplanned food while at the office. Jennifer also lost two pounds over the past week, although the primary goal was really for her to at least maintain her weight and feel more in control of her eating. The weight loss was a bonus but the real reward was how on track Jennifer felt all week.
Jennifer told me that she learned a few things last week that she now knows will be integral in continuing to stay on track with her eating this December. First, Jennifer has been bringing all the food she’s planning to eat each day to work with her, so that she doesn’t have the excuse of not having a prepared snack as a reason to go and get something from the office kitchen. While bringing all her food is not always 100% necessary most of the year, during December when the office treats are so much more abundant and tempting, it’s a requisite in helping Jennifer to stick to her plan.
Jennifer also found that reading her Response Cards made a huge difference in helping her resist office treats. Whenever the cravings hit (which usually for her was around 11:00am and 3:00pm) she would first go and read her Response Cards and remind herself, over and over again, why it was worth it to stand firm; how proud she would feel when she did; how eating the treat wouldn’t be as enjoyable as she was imagining it would be anyway because she would definitely feel guilty about it. Jennifer told me that some cravings were stronger than others, but generally they would last for about 15 minutes at most, and many of them lasted for a few minutes or less. Just knowing that she was going to have cravings, expecting it to happen, but also knowing that they would pass, helped Jennifer enormously in getting through them. She reminded herself, “I’m only 15 minutes away from success.” Meaning, in 15 minutes (or less!) Jennifer would be exactly where she wanted to be – on track and feeling great.
Jennifer and I also discussed that, while there were some hard moments every day in resisting the office treats, most of the time she felt relatively at peace in terms of her food cravings. This is very different from when we first started working together. When Jennifer first came to see me, she was in a self-described state of “mental anguish” most of the time. She was constantly fighting food cravings and feeling badly about what she was eating, feeling out of control, and very worried about her weight. The only periods of relief she had from this was when she was actually eating, but most of the time it was really hard. Now just the opposite is true. Most of the time Jennifer feels good about what she’s doing, punctuated by moments of its feeling really hard when her cravings hit, but the vast majority of hours are ones in which she feels at peace. Jennifer has gained an understanding that those hard moments are the price she pays for feeling calm most of the time, and it is a cost she is 100% willing to pay.
With one really strong week under her belt and additional knowledge and experience to apply to this week, Jennifer is feeling more armed and ready than ever before to take on the office kitchen.
Unfortunately our bodies don’t know what we don’t eat, they only know what we do. So just because we were ‘so good’ and turned down cookies 10 times, doesn’t necessarily mean we can have them the 11th time. Extra food is extra food, even if you’ve been resisting it all day.
We’re right in the thick of the holiday season, so now is a good time to take a few minutes and take stock of how things are going. What have you been doing well so far? What could you improve upon? It’s important to give ourselves credit for our successes and make a plan for how we’ll handle our difficulties. Make a few goals for this week so that this can be your strongest week yet!
If you make an eating mistake and have the sabotaging thought, “I’ve blown it for the weekend, I’ll start again on Monday,” remind yourself that the calories never stop adding up, and the more you eat the more you will gain. Getting yourself back in control right away will stop you from gaining weight and help you feel good about your eating for the rest of the weekend.
If, during the holiday season, you feel sad that you can’t eat “normally” like everyone else, remind yourself that you ARE eating normally for someone with your weight loss/weight maintenance goals. Studies show that most people gain weight during the holidays, so if you don’t want to gain weight, then you definitely don’t want to eat like everyone else!
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.
If you have the thought, “It’s okay to eat this because I just don’t care right now,” remind yourself that you definitely WILL care later, once the situation has passed and you’re feeling guilty and worried about jeopardizing your weight loss. Don’t let temporary moments of not caring be an excuse to eat off track.
This week I had a session with my client, Jennifer. Jennifer told me about a very troubling email she got from her work a few days ago. The email said that, for the entire month of December, her office was organizing a system in which people would sign up and one person would bring in a treat every single day. Jennifer told me that when she read this email, her heart sank because she knew that all it meant was that there would be so many tempting and potentially sabotaging treats around for an entire month.
I first reassured Jennifer that she absolutely could handle this situation, but what she needed was a really strong plan and some helpful Response Cards. Jennifer and I discussed possible plans for how she would handle this influx of office treats, and she decided that the plan she’d like to work on would be to not have any treats at the office, but if it was something she really wanted, bring a portion of it home and have it after dinner in place of the dessert she usually had. Jennifer thought that this was the best plan because she told me that she passes the office kitchen at least several times a day when she goes to pick up something from the printer, and she didn’t want the burden of, each time she passed, having to decide whether or not to have a treat (and therefore having to work on resisting it).
I reminded Jennifer that the good news was that this plan was entirely doable, as long as she was properly prepared. Eating is not automatic, so it would never be the situation directly that would mean Jennifer didn’t stick to her plan, it would be her thinking about the situation. It wouldn’t be the fact that Jennifer was having a bad day and wanted to treat herself with sugar that automatically meant she gave in and had a treat at the office, it would be her saying to herself, “Because I’m having a bad day, it’s okay to eat a treat at the office to make myself feel better.” I discussed with Jennifer that what we had to do was, as best we could, think through all the situations and accompanying sabotaging thoughts she might have over the next month and come up with responses to them so that she would know exactly what to say to herself when the situation arose.
Here are some of the thoughts and responses that Jennifer and I came up with:
1. I’m having a hard day so I deserve a treat.
2. I’m just going to give in and have this treat.
3. This treat looks so good. Just give in and have it.
4. This treat looks so good; I want to have it.
5. I can’t say no to the person pushing food on me.
6. I’ll just have some now and then I won’t have any dessert after dinner.
As a second part of the plan, Jennifer committed to reading these cards at least twice a day for the next month (first thing in the morning and again after lunch) plus anytime during the day when she felt vulnerable. With a strong plan and strong responses, Jennifer felt much more ready to take on the month of December.
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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