Amy came in this week feeling quite defeated. Although she had previously been doing quite well with making food plans and sticking to them, she had been on a business trip earlier this week and hadn’t been able to write down her food. She viewed the trip as a complete “failure,” which left her feeling demoralized and unmotivated. As soon as I heard this, I realized very quickly that Amy was probably catastrophizing the trip, and viewing it as much worse than it actually was. I asked Amy what she had done right on the trip, and initially she couldn’t think of anything. I then asked her if she had practiced any of her other skills during the trip. After thinking about it, Amy admitted that she was still very conscious of eating everything slowly, sitting down, and while enjoying every bite. Even though she ate at restaurants for every meal, Amy said that she always worked hard to make smart food decisions and never finished the whole portion she was served. She also consistently resisted the cookies and muffins that were served throughout the day as snacks, and she always chose fresh fruit for dessert instead. And because of all these things she was doing right, Amy didn’t gain a single pound on her trip.
It can be hard to believe that in light of all these things, Amy could have viewed this trip as a complete failure, but this happens often to dieters. They tend to focus only on the things they are doing wrong, or not as well, and completely discount all of the many, many things they are doing right. I asked Amy to take another, more objective look at her trip. When squarely faced with a list of all the things she deserved credit for, Amy was able to realize that the trip wasn’t a failure even a little bit – in fact, for the most part it was actually a huge success. Once she stopped catastrophizing and put the trip in perspective, Amy immediately felt better and even more confident about her ability to handle trips in the future.