In session this week, my client, Tom, told me that over the weekend he’d eaten an unplanned snack in the middle of the day. Tom, like many of my clients, follows an eating schedule.
While it’s true that there were some things that had started to really slip (he all but stopped giving himself credit, started eating standing up again, started taking much bigger portions at meals, especially dinner, and stopped counting calories), it wasn’t true that everything was going poorly. In fact, when Mike looked at this list, he realized that a lot of things were still going well – he just wasn’t acknowledging or giving himself credit for them.
My client, Megan, has been getting off track in the evening hours. She told me in session this week that she’s generally doing really well during the day, but ends up snacking too much in the hours between dinner and bed. I asked Megan what thought she might be having around that time, and she said, “It’s probably, ‘I need something.’ ” Megan admitted that it wasn’t necessarily that she was hungry in that moment (she knew that if she had already eaten all her calories then her body has had enough food), but it was her mind that was feeling unsatisfied.
This week, I had a session with my client, Grace. Grace told me that over the past few weeks she has been struggling to stay on track, particularly in the evenings. I asked Grace what sabotaging thoughts she was having in the evenings, and it was usually something like, “You’ve been working so much and had a hard day, you deserve this.”
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.
Halloween is just around the corner! It’s important to start thinking about what plans and Response Cards you need to navigate it successfully!
Recently I had a session with my client, Jenny. Among others skills, Jenny and I are working on her not having dessert before dinner. In session, Jenny told me that she was distressed because although she was able to resist dessert before dinner, on many occasions she was really tempted earlier in the day and wanted to give in. “I shouldn’t be having these thoughts!” she said to me. In a previous session, Jenny had told me that she had committed to going on a run with a friend one day after work. Although she was really tempted to cancel, Jenny ended up going. I reminded Jenny of this during our session and I asked her, “Did you feel really bad about having thoughts about cancelling the run?” Jenny thought about it and said that, no, she didn’t feel bad about it. Read more
Over the weekend I want to a holiday party. And I got off track. Yes, even professional diet coaches make mistakes. The party started at 2:00pm and I ate (a healthy and satisfying) lunch before I left. My plan for the party was: no alcohol (in part because I was driving) and just raw vegetables (which I was pretty sure they would have), and then once I got home, eat a good dinner and have dessert. The first hour or so of the party went smoothly. I was able to stick easily to my no alcohol rule and I didn’t even go look at the food. Then, a while later, I found myself sitting around the food table talking to people. It seemed like everyone around me was eating from the delicious looking spread. They did have raw vegetables, and for a while I was able to limit myself to just that by placing the bowl of carrots and cauliflower directly in front of me.
But after a while, my resistance seemed to go down and I started eating the junk food. What were my sabotaging thoughts? It wasn’t, “Everyone else is eating it so I can, too,” because I know that my body doesn’t know or care what anybody around me is eating, it only knows what I eat. It wasn’t even, “It’s the holidays and I should be able to indulge,” because I knew that I had many more holiday-related events coming up where I was planning to eat more food than just vegetables. I think it started with, “Just a little bit is okay,” and as frequently happens, a little bit turned into more, and then even more. Before I knew it, I found myself taking chip after chip and even eating the candy that I had already decided I would take home and have after dinner. I was most definitely off track.
And then I remembered a situation one of my dieters was in a few years ago. She was at a party at a bar and got off track by eating too many of the bar snacks being passed around. Instead of just thinking, “I’ve blown it for the party, I might as well keep eating and get back on track when I get home/at the end of the day/tomorrow/the day after tomorrow,” she went to the bathroom, read her Advantages List and Response Cards, refocused, and didn’t eat anything else for the rest of the party. I have recounted this story countless times to my clients as a reminder that it’s possible to gain control in the middle of a party and that they never need to wait even one more moment to get back on track. With that in my mind, I realized that if my client could do it, I could, too. I made the decision that I would get back on track right that moment, and just like my client, not eat anything else for the rest of the party. And that’s exactly what I did.
I ended up staying at the party for several more hours and didn’t leave until after 8:00pm. By the time I left the party, I was hungry again and looking forward to dinner – but I knew I wouldn’t eat it until I got home. As I was leaving the party, I took a moment to reflect back on my experience and give myself a whole lot of credit. I acknowledged how great it was that I was able to get back on track and what a triumph it was that I managed, after getting off track, to stop eating completely and actually leave hungry. What could have turned out to be a bad experience in which I continued to eat off track for the rest of the party (and potentially the rest of the day), and felt really badly about it, turned into a major success. Although I had overeaten earlier in the party, because I recovered and got right back on track, it became an experience I was proud of, not one I regretted.
The moral of the story is that even diet coaches get off track from time to time. We’re not perfect, no one is perfect. But a mistake doesn’t have to be a painful thing. In fact, a mistake that you recover from right away can turn out to be something that makes you feel even stronger and more confident, instead of less, because it gives you the opportunity to prove to yourself that you can bounce back right away. If you get off track during the holiday season, get right back on. Just like my dieter did at her party, and just like I did at mine, you never need to wait even one more moment to get back on track. And remember – the moment you get back on track is the moment you start feeling good again.
In my work with dieters, I find that many of them tend to fall into either the category of “Social Eaters” or “Secret Eaters.” Social eaters are those who have a lot of trouble staying in control when they are out and eating with other people. They are highly influenced by what everyone around them is eating and drinking and often feel deprived if they don’t eat in the same way. By contrast, secret eaters often have a much easier time staying in control when they are eating in front of other people and tend to lose it when they are back at home, alone. Regardless of which type of eater you may be (and some dieters fall into both categories), your greatest defense is figuring out in advance what sabotaging thoughts you’re likely to have in either situation and come up with responses to them. Here are some examples:
Social eating sabotaging thoughts
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this because everyone around me is eating it.
Response: My body doesn’t know or care what everyone around me is eating; it only knows what I eat. So just because everyone around me is eating a lot, doesn’t necessarily mean that I can.
Sabotaging Thought: I’ll be deprived if I can’t eat what everyone around me is eating.
Response: Either way I’m deprived. Either I’m deprived of some food some of the time (but not all food, all of the time), or I’m deprived of all the benefits of losing weight. Which would be the bigger deprivation?
Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair I can’t eat normally like everyone else.
Response: I have to redefine my definition of “normal” eating. In fact, I am eating 100% normally for someone of my age and my gender with my weight loss goals.
Secret eating sabotaging thoughts
Sabotaging Thought: I was so good when I was out and there so much food I didn’t eat, so it’s okay to eat this now.
Response: My body doesn’t know all the food I didn’t eat, it only knows what I do eat. So just because I turned down lots of food before doesn’t mean that I can eat extra now.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this because no one is watching.
Response: Although it may feel okay to eat extra because I’m alone, the reality is that my body doesn’t know if 100 people are watching me eat or if no one is watching me eat, it processes all calories the same. So it’s absolutely irrelevant whether or not I’m alone when I overeat – overeating is overeating.
Whether you’re a social eater or a secret eater, another helpful technique is to make a plan, in advance, of what you’ll eat in those situations. For social eaters, if you know you’re going out to dinner with friends, decide in advance what you’re going to eat and then respond to sabotaging thoughts in the moment to ensure that you stick to your plan. Remember that, if you want to lose weight, what everyone else around you is eating has no bearing on what you eat. Stick to your plan and you’ll be so happy, once the event is over, that you did.
For social eaters, plan in advance what, if anything, you’ll eat when you arrive back home. If your plan is to eat nothing, avoid the kitchen entirely. If your plan is to have either a snack or a mug of hot tea when you get home, get everything together before you leave (for example, put a tea bag in a mug on your table) so that way when you get home, it will be easy to remember exactly what your plan is and you won’t have to go rooting in the cupboards. Respond to sabotaging thoughts that would encourage you to eat something you hadn’t planned to eat. Stick to your plan and you’ll be so happy, once the night is over, that you did.
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.
One Belmont Avenue, Suite 700
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004-1610