Jamie came into session today and reported that she had a significant experience over the weekend at an ice cream parlor. She explained to me that she had planned in advance to go and have a small size ice cream so that she could still have a drink with dinner. However, when Jamie and her friend were waiting in line at the ice cream counter, they discussed what they were going to have and her friend said he was going to have a medium-sized cup. Immediately Jamie’s sabotaging thoughts started kicking in – “If he’s having a medium, then so can I; It’s not fair that I should have to get a smaller size; I’ll enjoy it more if I get the bigger size; I know I planned to have a small but it won’t really matter if I get a medium” and so on and so on.
Jamie reported that she did not at that moment take the time to identify what thoughts she was having and come up with responses to them, and so she ended up ordering a medium despite her initial plan to get a small. I asked Jamie how she felt after finishing her ice cream and she said that she felt bad about herself and guilty because she went off plan. Jamie also believes she would have actually been happier ordering the smaller size because then she would have been able to enjoy each bite knowing she had planned for it, instead of feeling guilty about the extra ice cream she was consuming. And because Jamie continued to feel bad about the situation and let her sabotaging thoughts go unchecked, she also ended up eating more at dinner than she had planned.
Jamie and I discussed this situation in depth during her session to see what we could learn from it. First I asked Jamie if she had done any preparing before she went out for ice cream, such as reading her Advantages List or Response Cards which would remind her how and why to not give in to cravings. Jamie told me that she thought about the ideas but didn’t actually read the cards, assuming the messages were well-enough engrained. I explained to Jamie we’ve found this to be true for the majority of the dieters we work with – that just thinking about the response cards is not good enough; something about actually reading them seems to enter the brain in a different and more substantial way.
Jamie and I also discussed the paradox that she thought she would be happier with the larger size, and then ended up enjoying it less because she felt guilty about going off her plan. I reminded Jamie of her previous experience with the french fries and how good it felt to eat a smaller, planned portion, and how much she enjoyed each one. I asked Jamie if she regretted not eating more fries on that day and Jamie realized that while she did not regret not eating more fries, she did regret eating more ice cream.
Lastly, Jamie and talked about how this one experience of giving in to sabotaging thinking led her then to give in to more sabotaging thoughts later in the day. I reminded Jamie that this experience wasn’t only significant because she took in extra ice cream calories, it was also important because this one time of giving in led her to give in again later that day. Jamie agreed, saying that if she had stuck with the small ice cream, she thinks it would have been easier for her to stay on plan the rest of the day because she would be feeling good about herself and her eating and would already have experiences from that day of not giving in.
I asked Jamie to think about what she would away from this discussion and she listed:
1. It’s important to actually READ her Advantages List and Response Cards before going into a challenging situation
2. Make a new Response Card reminding her that when she sticks to her planned portion of food, she feels much better about it, is able to enjoy it more, and absolutely does not regret not eating more
3. Remember that every time does matter, and going off her plan earlier in the day strengthened her giving-in muscle and triggered her to eat off track later in the day.
I ended by giving Jamie a whole lot of credit for not allowing herself to continue eating out of hand the next day and for getting back on track. I reminded her that even experiences where she doesn’t do as well are extremely important because we can learn as much from them (and sometimes more) as from successful ones.