Q: There are so many treats in my office right now, and although I try hard to resist them, it’s so hard this time of year. Any suggestions on what I can do to get through the holiday season without getting off track with my eating?
A: We know this time of year can be particularly hard for people who are working on losing weight or maintaining their weight. In answer to your question, let me tell you about what I do and what works for me.
I have a rule for myself that makes life so much easier: no junk food before dinner. Before I started working on losing weight, and then maintaining my weight loss, I certainly did not have this rule and would eat junk food and desserts several times a day, often whenever it was offered to me or I came in contact with it. Even after I lost weight, I still didn’t have this rule, but would try hard not to eat much (if any) junk food during the day. However, when I began working at the Beck Institute, limiting my daily junk food consumption became harder because there were often treats in our office kitchen. To make matters worse, my office is right across from the kitchen and I go in there several times a day to refill my water cup. For the first few months, I found going into the kitchen to be a hard experience because I would see all the treats in there, want them, and then engage in the struggle of saying to myself things like, “Oh those brownies look really good/But you know you shouldn’t have one/How about if I just have a small piece/No, you know it’s about the habit, not about the calories/But just this one time won’t matter/Every time matters, don’t fool yourself,” etc. Because this was happening to me on a daily basis (and, often on a multiple times a day basis), I quickly realized that something had to change because I didn’t want the struggle to continue. So what did I do? I made a rule for myself: No junk food before dinner. No exceptions. If I saw something in the office kitchen that I really wanted, I could take a piece home and have it after dinner.
Right after I made this rule, life got easier. I no longer had to think about whether or not to eat the treats every time I went into the kitchen because I knew I wasn’t having any. The decision had already been made. In the beginning, of course, there were still times that I was highly tempted by the treats, and my sabotaging thoughts tried to convince me that just one time, or just one bite, wouldn’t matter. But every time I had that thought, I strongly reminded myself that every time does matter and every bite does matter because if I gave in once, then I would be much more likely to give in again. I knew that if I opened the door to exceptions one time, then I would be tempted to open it over and over again, and thus my rule wouldn’t work anymore. Every time I was tempted to eat a treat during the day, I would remind myself, “No, you’re not eating this now. The decision has already been made. Don’t even think about it.” I would also remind myself, “You don’t need to eat it now! If you really want it, bring it home and have it after dinner. Besides, you’ll enjoy it much more then because you won’t feel guilty about eating it.”
The more I proved to myself that no matter what I wasn’t going to eat treats from the kitchen while at work, it started to get easier and easier to resist them. I am grateful all the time for this rule because it means that I can go into the office kitchen as many times a day as I need to, and I don’t have to worry about what I might see in there. I don’t have to worry about engaging in a painful “Should I eat this/Should I not eat this” struggle with myself because I know: I just don’t eat it at work.
This rule becomes even more important during the holiday season when our office is overloaded with treats. Even though, in theory, there are more temptations to eat all the treats during the holiday season, I am more committed than ever to my rule right now because I know that if I gave in, life would get harder again, and it’s just not worth it to me. Every time I’m tempted when I walk in the kitchen, I remind myself over and over again, “It’s not worth eating this now because the only thing it will do is increase my struggles and make life harder. It’s worth it to continue resisting because it means I’ll be able to maintain my weight and have an easier life.”