Sometimes the old adage, “out of sight, out of mind,” can be extremely useful for dieters to keep in mind. Take the dieter who walks into the break room at work to get a cup of coffee and suddenly sees a box of donuts on the table. She might immediately think, “Those look so good, I really want to have one.” Let’s say the dieter resists and then goes back to her desk with her coffee. She might then spend the next few minutes or hours thinking, “I really want one of those donuts,” or “it’s not fair that I can’t have a donut,” and mentally struggling with whether or not to go back for one. The interesting thing about this (extremely common) scenario is that if the dieter had never walked into the break room and seen the donuts, she probably would never have wanted one in the first place and she definitely wouldn’t have had to think about whether or not to have one for the next few hours. In situations like this we remind dieters that they are not really being deprived of a donut because if they had not seen them, the possibility would never have existed.
Jamie had a situation similar to this over the weekend when she attended a friend’s wedding. Jamie told me she went into the wedding with the plan of having one or two glasses of wine, only raw vegetables during cocktail hour, eating about half of her entrée, and having a small piece of cake for dessert. This was her plan because she knew that the food would be rich and even taking in that amount would be more than she would normally eat. Jamie stuck to her plan during cocktail hour and dinner and then got busy dancing and talking to her friends. Jamie was having a great time and at some point someone mentioned to her that the desserts were out but were in separate room. Jamie realized at that moment that she hadn’t even remembered her plan to have a small piece of cake because she hadn’t seen the desserts and therefore hadn’t thought about it (which she found surprising as she loves wedding cake).
At that point Jamie had to decide whether or not to actually go into the dessert room to seek it out. Jamie thought about it and realized that because the wedding cake wasn’t prominently displayed, her natural association between weddings and cake broke, which proved to Jamie that part of the reason she always had wedding cake was because she saw everyone else eating it. Jamie also thought about the fact that if she did go into the dessert room, likely she would be confronted with a lot more desserts that she would be able to eat and might end up feeling deprived. Because at that moment Jamie wasn’t feeling deprived since she wasn’t looking at all the desserts she wasn’t eating, and because she was also feeling good about what she had eaten, Jamie decided to forgo the dessert room and continue having fun.
Jamie and I discussed this situation in session and how powerful “out of sight, out of mind,” can be because by not seeing the desserts, it was easy for her not to have any. Jamie anticipated my first question and told me that looking back now, she was definitely not sorry she didn’t have any cake and instead felt proud of herself for how well she did at the wedding. Jamie and I discussed what she can learn from this situation and I helped her write a new Response Card so that she could remember this experience. Jamie’s card said, “If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have wanted it anyway. Just pretend it doesn’t exist and move on – I’ll be so happy later if I do.”