Not Every Day Can Be Thanksgiving

I recently had a session with my client, Mark, who has lost twenty pounds and would like to lose more. Mark has set himself a reasonable calorie cap that he tries to stay under each day, although occasionally there are times when it’s reasonable for him to plan to eat extra. In session this week, Mark noted that his weight had plateaued for the past several weeks. The first thing we did was look at his calorie counts over the last month. Mark realized that there were many days when he ate over his cap. Most of them were things he had planned in advance (his birthday, a vacation with his wife, his son’s graduation, a wedding, celebrating a friend’s retirement, etc.), but they clearly added up to too many calories overall.Turkey Dinner

Unfortunately, Mark fell into the trap that many dieters fall into – treating too many days like Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving it’s absolutely reasonable for most dieters to plan to eat extra calories, simply because sticking to their normal amount isn’t realistic. And if planning extra calories happens only occasionally, it doesn’t sabotage weight loss or maintenance. However, we all have to draw the line somewhere because not every day can be Thanksgiving – i.e., an extra calorie day. While all of Mark’s extra calorie days seemed reasonable in the moment, when taken in total they were too much if he wanted to continue to lose weight.

I pointed out to Mark that he was lucky! It’s great that he has so many special occasions to celebrate, both his and those of his family and friends. But since they occur so frequently (something he hadn’t realized before), he can’t treat every one of them as an opportunity to plan to eat extra. Mark made the following Response Card to help remind him of this idea:

Not every day can be Thanksgiving! When I plan extra calories for every special event, it means I stop losing weight. Thanksgiving calories have to be the exception, not the norm for special events.

It’s likely to be hard initially for Mark to pull back his calories on days when he has a special event. But rereading his Advantages List has motivated him to commit to doing so because losing more weight is his top priority. We decided that for the next month, he wouldn’t make any exceptions to his normal calorie plan (because there are no actual Thanksgivings in the next month!) to give himself a reset and prove to himself he can stick to a calorie cap even when it feels hard. To help him do this, we decided that he’ll make very careful plans before challenging events, read Response Cards right before he goes, and really focus on his Advantages List and the enormously important reasons he has to keep the scale moving down.

Monday Motivation – December 30, 2019

Monday Motivation: It’s important to both give yourself credit for the good choices you make and not berate yourself when you make a mistake. When you beat yourself up, the only thing it does is demoralize you further, making it harder to get back on track. When you give yourself credit, it makes you feel great, makes it easier to keep doing what you’re doing, helps raise your confidence, and gives you motivation to stay on track. No matter what your eating has been like lately, it’s never too late to turn things around and start giving yourself credit for small, positive changes.

Nighttime Struggles

In session this week, my client, Rebecca, told me that nighttime (specifically the hours between dinner and bedtime) was hard for her lately. She found herself having to continually fight off cravings, and it was wearing her down. I asked Rebecca two questions: 1) Did she have a plan for exactly what she’d eat in the evening? and 2) Was she craving things that were in her house currently or things that she’d have to go out and get? Rebecca told me that she didn’t have an exact plan for the evenings (she used to make one, but that habit had somehow dropped off her radar), and that she was craving food that was in her kitchen.

Those answers did not surprise me, and I predicted that they were both at the root of her trouble. First, not having a strong plan in the evening (especially since evening has historically been Rebecca’s ice cream servingshardest time) is a recipe for trouble. If she didn’t know exactly what she was going to eat, then it’s no wonder she was having lots of cravings because everything in her kitchen felt like an option. During her quiet moments, her mind was invariably scrolling through the possibilities of all the things she could eat, and cravings were the inevitable result. Going back to planning in advance exactly what she would eat in the evening will hopefully cut out a lot of the cravings. Her brain will know exactly what she’s going to eat, and therefore can focus on one food instead of many.

Second, the fact that Rebecca craved food currently in her house likely made her cravings a lot stronger because the food was right there, easily within her reach. Cravings for food outside the house are generally easier to resist because of the effort involved in going to get them (no instant gratification!). I asked Rebecca if, in addition to not planning her evening snack, she had also lapsed into bringing too much junk food into her house. Rebecca realized that she had.

For a while, she was good at keeping things like ice cream and cookies out of her house. It wasn’t that she didn’t eat these foods, but on nights she planned to have them, she brought in single servings at a time. Keeping her house a craving-free environment was critical to Rebecca’s early success in curbing her constant nighttime eating. Again, it’s no wonder that Rebecca was struggling so much in the evening – she had way too many tempting foods right at her fingertips. Rebecca agreed to get rid of the junk food (and/or ask her husband to keep the things he wanted to have in his home office) and go back to bringing in single servings.

With these two action plans in place Rebecca felt much better about her ability to return to more peaceful evenings!

Friday Weekend Warm-up – December 13, 2019

Friday Weekend Warm-up: Make sure you eat regular meals this weekend. Don’t allow yourself to just graze throughout the day. Grazing is the absolute best way to take in the most calories with the least amount of satisfaction. Sit down, eat real meals, and you’ll feel much more satisfied while taking in less food overall.

If You Want It, Plan It!

This week I met with my client, Lauren. Lauren has been doing well the last few months, feeling very focused and in control of her eating. Lauren told me about a breakfast she had with friends the day before in which she made healthy decisions, including forgoing a pancake even though she really wanted one. I asked Lauren the same question I often ask dieters in this type of situation: “Now that the situation/temptation is over, are you sorry you didn’t have the pancake?” Lauren thought about it for a moment and said, “Not exactly. I’m glad I made good decisions, but a pancake really would have been good.”

This was an interesting reply, because 19 out of 20 times I ask clients this (or maybe even more frequently than that!), the answer is a resounding, “No! I’m glad I didn’t give in.” Most times whenStack of pancakes on a plate dieters are faced with eating something that’s not on their plan, it’s a momentary craving. The food looks good. They wish they could eat it, but once they leave the restaurant, or the party, or the snack room at work, they forget about the food entirely. The fact that Lauren was still thinking about the pancake–and wanting one–was worth paying attention to.

I discussed with Lauren that if she really wanted a pancake but repeatedly denied herself one, what she would be doing (purposely or not) was sending herself the message, “You can’t have this food you really want.” In my experience, when dieters’ brains hear that message enough, eventually they will rebel against it. This doesn’t happen when they see a food that looks good and resist it once, moving on with their day, but it absolutely happens when dieters resist a food they want and continue to think about that specific food. If they don’t plan for when they can have it, it usually causes them to feel deprived and increases the likelihood that they will rebel against their plans.

Lauren understood this concept and agreed that having a pancake soon would be important, if only to prove that she’s not depriving herself of pancakes in general. Instead, she will tell herself that she’s simply not having them unless she plans to in advance. Lauren decided that she would have a pancake when she had brunch with her grandchildren over the weekend – and that she would make sure to eat it slowly and mindfully and really enjoy it!

Thanksgiving Night: How Do You Want to Feel?

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, dieters should begin to think about how they’ll handle their eating on that day. While Thanksgiving is considered by many to be a day in which it’s just too difficult to control their eating, it doesn’t have to be that way. When we help dieters formulate their Thanksgiving plan, we always ask them to think about one important thing: How do you want to feel going to bed once Thanksgiving is over?

Asking dieters this question reminds them that the experience of Thanksgiving is not limited to the time when they’re eating with family and friends. The experience also extends to how they feel afterwards. Dieters often have sabotaging thoughts such as, “If I have to limit how much I eat, I just won’t be able to enjoy myself.” If they then overeat, they may wind up feeling sick both People eating Thanksgiving dinnerphysically and psychologically: physically because they consumed way too much food, and psychologically because they feel out of control and guilty for overeating.

When we ask dieters how they want to feel once Thanksgiving is over, they usually say something along the lines of, “I want to feel full and satisfied and I also want to feel good about myself.”  We then ask, ”Will getting off track and overeating on Thanksgiving lead you to feeling that way?” Because the answer is no, we suggest coming up with a plan that will make them feel good. It makes sense to dieters that they simply can’t have it both ways: They can’t overeat during Thanksgiving and still wind up feeling proud and in control – these are incompatible goals.

We remind dieters that it’s not all-or-nothing – it’s not as if they can eat every bite of food that they want or they can’t eat any food that they want. In fact, there is a huge middle ground between these two extremes. While it’s true that they may not be able to eat as much of everything they want and still go to bed feeling good that night, it’s also true that they can eat reasonable portions, enjoy every bite that they take, and feel really good.

Halloween Survival Guide

Halloween is just around the corner! It’s important to start thinking about what plans and Response Cards you need to navigate it successfully!

Regaining Dessert Control

Today I had a session with my client, Melissa. For the past few months, Melissa has been working on not having dessert before dinner. This is a necessary skill for Melissa to implement because, like a lot of dieters, Melissa encounters dessert all day long.

Off-Track Mode

Dieters get into “off-track mode” when they get off track, the scale has gone up, and they believe they are helpless in the face of their weight problem.

Two Minutes Versus Sixteen Hours

Jen realized that she was sacrificing around 16 hours of feeling good for a maximum of two minutes of enjoying a taste – not a trade she wanted to make!