Regaining Dessert Control

Today I had a session with my client, Melissa. For the past few months, Melissa has been working on not having dessert before dinner. This is a necessary skill for Melissa to implement because, like a lot of dieters, Melissa encounters dessert all day long. Whether she’s at a meeting at work, in the office kitchen, or running errands, seemingly everywhere she looks she’s presented with an opportunity to eat dessert. When Melissa didn’t have the guideline, “No dessert before dinner” in place, every time she saw dessert it was a big struggle for her to decide whether to have it. And more often than not, she ended up eating it and feeling mad at herself immediately afterward.

Initially, Melissa did very well with not having dessert before dinner (and having one reasonable portion of dessert each night). She really enjoyed the sense of control she got from turning down dessert during the day, and also enjoyed eating dessert guilt-free in the evenings. However, over the past week, Melissa told me that dessert has become troublesome again. While she hasn’t lapsed back into eating dessert before dinner, her portions after dinner have gotten too big. Melissa told me that one of the sabotaging thoughts she has that’s contributing to this is, “I’ve been depriving myself of dessert all day long, so it’s okay to have some extra now.”

I reminded Melissa that what she had been doing before the past week was eating dessert, and what she’s been doing this last week is overeating dessert. Eating dessert is part of her healthy plan, overeating dessert is not.

Melissa and I talked about the fact that when she thinks about not eating dessert before dinner, recently what she’s been paying attention to is what she’s not getting – the food. What she’s been failing to notice is everything she is getting by turning down dessert – feeling in control, feeling proud of herself, Cupcake on plate with strawberriesnot feeling guilty about her eating, reinforcing good habits, not taking in too many calories, making healthy decisions for herself, and ultimately taking steps towards achieving everything on her Advantages List.

Melissa and I discussed the importance of changing her thought from “I’ve been depriving myself of dessert all day” to “I’ve been making great choices that are both physically and psychologically healthy all day.” In doing so, she’ll be turning her focus from what she’s not getting to what she is getting.

We also discussed that since she’s been overeating dessert for the past week, her concept of a “reasonable portion” of dessert has likely become too big. If we didn’t address this, when Melissa returned to a more reasonable portion of dessert tonight, it might look small to her, instead of looking like the right amount. I reminded Melissa that what she had been doing before the past week was eating dessert, and what she’s been doing this last week is overeating dessert. Eating dessert is part of her healthy plan, overeating dessert is not. When Melissa serves herself dessert tonight, we decided that she will remind herself, “This is a reasonable portion, and it will be very satisfying when I take the time to savor it. What I was doing before was overeating dessert, and that’s just not good for me in any way, shape or form.”

By addressing Melissa’s sabotaging thinking and helping her reconceptualize a reasonable amount of dessert, both Melissa and I feel confident she can get dessert back to its rightful place – something she enjoys once a day in a reasonable amount.

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