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.
This week I had a session with my client, Lauren. Lauren told me that while she had a good week, one day she ended up going way over her allotted calories.
A client I worked with a few years ago recently had her second baby and was having trouble getting her eating back under control. Lara told me that during her pregnancy, she let herself eat whatever she wanted and ended up gaining more weight than was healthy. Now at six months postpartum, she’s still struggling to put the skills that we had worked on back in place.
If you’ve gotten off track with your New Year’s resolution, this is exactly what you need to do, too! Stop expecting yourself to do everything and instead figure out what feels completely doable this week. Recommit to it, do it (and give yourself so much credit for doing so!), and then add one or more things next week.
Not having a strong plan can exponentially increase the chances of getting off track because of how many spontaneous decisions you’ll have to make all day.
A realistic strategy is the most important thing to bring on vacation. Eric lists the Sabotaging Thoughts and responses to help him stay on track.
In session this week, my dieter, Jason, and I discussed an issue that he was having trouble with: Getting to sleep on time. This is a fairly common problem many of my clients face and it’s an important one to figure out. Studies show that people eat more on days they are sleep deprived than on days that they aren’t, and when people stay up too late, they often want to turn to food to help them stay awake. Both of these things were happening with Jason – he was eating too much at night to help him stay awake to watch “just one more” television show (which never turned into just one more), and he found it much harder to resist cravings and moderate his appetite following a night of missed sleep.
To help him combat his late-night ways, the first thing Jason and I did was institute a bedtime of 11:00pm. Although Jason didn’t initially love the idea of having a “bedtime,” we discussed the pros and cons of having one versus not having one, and Jason was able to see that not having some type of guideline in place for when he would get in bed was leading him to consistently stay up too late, eat too much, and sabotage his weight-loss efforts. It wasn’t worth it. Jason decided that he would also set an alarm on his phone to go off every night at 10:30. That way, it would give him a half hour to wrap things up and remind him that it would soon be time to get in bed. He also decided that he would read his Advantages List when his alarm went off to remind him of all the reasons why it worth it to him to lose weight (and, consequently, why he needed to get in bed).
Jason and I then discussed what sabotaging thoughts might get in the way of him sticking to this bedtime. Here are his thoughts and the response that we came up with:
Sabotaging Thought: I’ll watch just one more show.
Response: One more show is never just one more show. One more show doesn’t work! If it did, I would never stay up too late but I always stay up too late. No more shows.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay just this one time to stay up later than I said I would.
Response: “Just this one time” is like “just one more show” – it doesn’t work and I need to prove to myself that I do what I say I’ll do.
Sabotaging Thought: I don’t feel like going to bed right now.
Response: I may not feel like going to bed right now, but I even more don’t feel like sabotaging my weight loss efforts and having to stay overweight. It’s worth it to get in bed.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s not really that important to go to bed on time.
Response: It really is that important. Staying up too late makes me overeat both at night and the next day. Besides, on the days I do go to bed, I feel so much better the next day – rested and alert. I’ll be so happy tomorrow morning I made myself get in bed.
With these strategies in place (a set bedtime, an alarm reminding him of the impending bedtime, and reading his Advantages List and Response Cards if he was tempted to not adhere to it), Jason felt confident that he would finally be able to get himself to bed at a reasonable hour.
My client, Jason, works long hours and isn’t much of a cook. When he gets off work and wants dinner, his options are usually pretty limited. Jason often winds up going to a drive-through restaurant, and he doesn’t usually make the healthiest choices. Jason told me that while there are healthy (or, at least, healthier) options available, he has a hard time sticking to them when the time comes to place his order.
In previous sessions, Jason and I had spent a lot of time talking about how he can stay in control when he eats out with friends. Although Jason used to have very big and very caloric meals every time he went to a restaurant, in the past few months he has made a lot of progress in making healthier choices and not finishing everything on his plate.
In session, Jason and I discussed what strategies he has been using to stay on track at restaurants to see if any of them would translate to the drive-through. Jason told me that the most effective strategy for him has been to look at the menu ahead of time and decide what he’ll have, and then not even look at the menu once he gets to the restaurant. He also has a Response Card that he reads before he goes out to eat:
Every time I stick to my healthy choice I feel great after eating. Every time I veer off track and order something else, I feel guilty after eating. Sticking to my healthy choice not only enables me to lose weight, but it makes me feel so much better.
Jason and I discussed this further and realized that this same exact strategy would be very helpful for him when going through drive-thoughs, too. Jason decided that he would make it a policy to look at the drive-through menu online before he left work at night and decide in advance what to have. When he got to the drive-through window, he would then place his order without looking at the posted menu, just as he does in restaurants.
Jason also came up with an additional strategy: Since he tends to frequent the same drive-throughs, he decided that for each one he would come up with a few different meal combinations and record them in his phone. That way, if he was in a rush to leave work, he wouldn’t have to spend time looking up the menu, he could just pick something from his phone. Jason also made the following Response Card to keep in his car and read when he was waiting in line to place his order:
I’ve already decided what to order so I don’t even need to look at the menu or consider what else I might want. The decision has been made, and sticking to this decision will make me feel so much better. It’s worth it.
With these strategies in place, Jason was finally able to stay in control both when eating out in restaurants and when going through the drive-through.
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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