Last week I had a session with my dieter, Joe. Joe works in a large office and told me that this time of year, holiday treats are everywhere. Over the past few weeks, Joe had been having a very hard time maintaining control over his sweet tooth and his sugar cravings.
In session last week, I told Joe that one of the strategies that works well for many dieters is to make the decision to have one treat per day. It could be at any time of his choosing, but most of our clients decide to have one treat per day after dinner. That way, they get to look forward to having dessert all day long and it is easier for them to turn down treats during the day because they are able to say to themselves, “I don’t need to have this now, I know I get to have something after dinner.” Joe thought about this and decided that that would work well for him because he really likes to have dessert after dinner with his wife, and so he knew that if he had his one treat during the day, he would really miss it in the evening. Joe and I discussed the fact that if there was something that looked really good at work, he could always take a portion of it home and have it after dinner.
Joe told me that while he realized that having one treat per day, after dinner, was a good plan which would help him get through the holidays without gaining weight, he knew it wouldn’t be easy to stick to. Joe and I discussed what thoughts he might have that would get in the way of him sticking to his plan and came up with Responses to them. Here are the sabotaging thoughts and response:
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay just this one time to have a treat at the office.
Response: It’s not okay just this one time! Every time matters because every time I’m either strengthening my giving-in muscle or my resistance muscle. If I give in and eat this treat now, I’ll make it so much harder to stick to my plan the next time. This time matters because every time matters so I have to stand firm and strengthen my resistance habit.
Sabotaging Thought: This treat looks really good. I just want to eat it.
Response: While I want to eat this treat right now, I so much more want all the benefits of losing weight. Even though I want it, it’s worth it to me not to eat it right now. Besides, if it’s something I really like, I can always take it home and have it later. It’s not that I can’t eat it, it’s just that I’m not going to eat it right now.
Sabotaging Thought: I can’t resist those cookies – they look too good.
Response: It’s true that it’s hard to resist but it’s not true that I can’t. There is a difference between things that are impossible and things that are hard. Telling myself I ‘can’t’ resist is really just an excuse to give in. I’ve resisted plently of cravings before, and I know I can now, too. Besides, when I give in I feel crappy and when I resist I feel great!
Sabotaging Thought: I don’t want to have to think about healthy eating right now so I’m just going to give in and have this treat.
Response: There’s no such thing as ‘not thinking about it.’ If I decide to ‘not think about it’ and eat the treat now, I’ll definitely think about it a lot later when I’m feeling guilty and badly about my eating. On the other hand, if I do put in the effort to think about it now and resist, I’ll feel so great and proud later that I did.
Sabotaging Thought: Maybe I should have just one cookie right now. I can’t decide
Response: I’ve already made the decision not to have any! There is no decision to be made in this moment. Move on and get distracted with something else.
When Joe came in to see me this week he told that things had been going really well and he was feeling much more in control both during work and after. Joe told me that there were many days that he was tempted to eat treats at the office but by reading his Response Cards each day, he was able to respond to his sabotaging thoughts and resist – and that he always felt so great about it once the craving had passed. What Joe experienced is what many dieters eventually come to experience – he found that not eating the treats (as a result of giving in to a momentary craving) felt even better than eating them because he was able to maintain his sense of control and he didn’t have any guilt or regret about his eating. Joe told me that sticking to his holiday treat plan was often not easy, but it was always 100% worth it.