Question: I’m in the process of losing weight and have been doing fairly well. However, the one thing that keeps getting to me is sweets! Somehow, even with all my best intentions to cut out sugar from my diet, I am not able to resist and keep finding myself giving in to the craving for sweets. This seems to happen most in the afternoon or when I unexpectedly come in contact with sweets, like at someone’s house or at a meeting. Can you help?
Answer: I’m sorry that sweets have been difficult for you, but I do have some suggestions that may be helpful:
1. It’s important to make sure that you don’t have an all-or-nothing mentality about sweets and desserts. Often dieters may say to themselves, “Since I have trouble controlling myself around desserts/sweets, I’m just not going to have any.” This is problematic because if dieters really like sweets, then guaranteed at some point they’ll find themselves eating them (as happens with you), and when they do they may tell themselves, “I don’t know when I’ll allow myself to eat sweets again, so I better eat as much as I can right now while I have the chance.” On the flip side, if dieters know that they can have a dessert every single day (if they plan for it), then they don’t feel the same sense of urgency to “load up” because they no longer believe that this might be their last opportunity to eat them.
2. It is so helpful to plan in advance when you’re going to have dessert and what you’re going to have. Many of our dieters end up instituting a rule about dessert for themselves: one dessert a day, and not until after dinner. Planning to eat dessert after dinner is helpful as it more easily allows dieters to turn down any sweets that they come in contact with during the day because they are able to say to themselves, “I don’t need to have this now, I’m going to have that brownie/cookie/ice cream after dinner.” If you institute a similar rule for yourself, then you don’t have to worry about what sweets you see during the day because you’ll just know: if it’s not on my plan, I’m not having it.
3. Another important piece of this is to figure out in advance what sabotaging thoughts you are likely to have about eating sweets, and come up with responses to them. Some common sabotaging thoughts are: Just this one time won’t matter; it’s just a little bit; everyone else is having it so it’s okay; I just won’t have my dessert tonight. Do any of these sound familiar to you? Dieters find it helpful when they make Response Cards with responses to these thoughts and read them throughout the day, and especially when they are going into a situation in which they are likely to be tempted.
Here is a sample response:
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to have dessert now (before dinner) because I just won’t have it later.
Response: Actually it’s NOT okay to have dessert now because if I do, I send myself the message that it’s okay to not do what I say I’m going to do; it’s not about the calories, it’s about the habit. Every single time I give in to a craving and have dessert before dinner, I increase the likelihood that I will the next time, and the time after that. Every single time I resist, I make it easier to do so the next time.
4. If afternoons are difficult for you, then it may be a good idea to figure out ahead of time: am I hungry in the afternoons or is this just a craving? If it is hunger, then it may be worth it to plan (in advance!) to have an afternoon snack and make sure that you have that food available. If it’s not hunger, then it may be worth reading your cards and your Advantages List and remind yourself why it’s worth it to not eat at that time.
And remember: the more you practice this, the easier it will get! The more and more times you prove to yourself that you can stand firm in the face of cravings (even sugar cravings) the easier it becomes to do so.