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Nighttime Struggles

In session this week, my client, Rebecca, told me that nighttime (specifically the hours between dinner and bedtime) was hard for her lately. She found herself having to continually fight off cravings, and it was wearing her down. I asked Rebecca two questions: 1) Did she have a plan for exactly what she’d eat in the evening? and 2) Was she craving things that were in her house currently or things that she’d have to go out and get? Rebecca told me that she didn’t have an exact plan for the evenings (she used to make one, but that habit had somehow dropped off her radar), and that she was craving food that was in her kitchen.

Those answers did not surprise me, and I predicted that they were both at the root of her trouble. First, not having a strong plan in the evening (especially since evening has historically been Rebecca’s ice cream servingshardest time) is a recipe for trouble. If she didn’t know exactly what she was going to eat, then it’s no wonder she was having lots of cravings because everything in her kitchen felt like an option. During her quiet moments, her mind was invariably scrolling through the possibilities of all the things she could eat, and cravings were the inevitable result. Going back to planning in advance exactly what she would eat in the evening will hopefully cut out a lot of the cravings. Her brain will know exactly what she’s going to eat, and therefore can focus on one food instead of many.

Second, the fact that Rebecca craved food currently in her house likely made her cravings a lot stronger because the food was right there, easily within her reach. Cravings for food outside the house are generally easier to resist because of the effort involved in going to get them (no instant gratification!). I asked Rebecca if, in addition to not planning her evening snack, she had also lapsed into bringing too much junk food into her house. Rebecca realized that she had.

For a while, she was good at keeping things like ice cream and cookies out of her house. It wasn’t that she didn’t eat these foods, but on nights she planned to have them, she brought in single servings at a time. Keeping her house a craving-free environment was critical to Rebecca’s early success in curbing her constant nighttime eating. Again, it’s no wonder that Rebecca was struggling so much in the evening – she had way too many tempting foods right at her fingertips. Rebecca agreed to get rid of the junk food (and/or ask her husband to keep the things he wanted to have in his home office) and go back to bringing in single servings.

With these two action plans in place Rebecca felt much better about her ability to return to more peaceful evenings!

What a Relief

When Mark sat down in my office this week, he said, “Before we start, can I just tell you how relieved I feel?” When I said, “Of course,” Mark told me:

“I finally get it. I do. Cravings go away. I don’t have to eat to make them go away. When I’m tempted, the more I say, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to eat again at ______ o’clock, the easier and easier it gets.’ ”

I asked Mark to give me an example.

“It happened again late yesterday afternoon. A vendor brought some cookies—really big ones—to the office. I really started craving one but I said to myself, ‘No, you’ve already had your snack and you’re going to have dinner at 6:30. So no choice. Get back to work.’ I had to make a phone call and by the time it was over, the craving was gone. It was like, “Well, it’d be nice to have a cookie but I know I’m not going to have it.” I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know that I can make a craving go away, that I don’t have to give in to it. I know, I know, you’ve been telling me this all along but somehow it really clicked yesterday.”

 I asked Mark if we should write something about this on a Response Card that he could read regularly to really cement the idea in his mind. This is what he wrote:

Cravings really do go away. I don’t have to be at their mercy any more. Remember the March 30th cookie situation. When I finished the phone call, the craving had gone away.

 Mark is typical of the dieters with whom I work. It makes sense to them intellectually that cravings go away, especially when they turn their attention to something else, but they don’t really believe it in their gut—not until they’ve had repeated experiences of finding this out for themselves. And when they do, like Mark, they tend to experience a profound sense of relief.

Get Back on Track: Roxanne

Our dieters are doing well despite all of the added pressures of the holiday season.  This week, almost everyone lost weight.  In our group, we discussed how they had eaten differently during previous Christmases. One dieter, Roxanne, summed up the group’s general sentiment best, saying she used to: “Eat until I bust!”

Roxanne, 47, has been struggling with dieting since the age of 25.  At one point, she lost 25 pounds and kept it off for about 2 years. Historically Roxanne’s biggest problem has been giving into cravings.  When she felt a strong urge to eat something, she usually did, telling herself “It’s ok to eat this because… I really want it; I’ll eat it eventually; I’ll have just a little; this one time won’t matter.”  Overcoming cravings and sticking to her food plans (a skill learned on Day 13 of The Beck Diet Solution) has helped Roxanne lose a total of 33 ½ pounds so far!

chicksalad.gifRoxanne is also becoming deft at making smart food choices.  She knew that last week she would be shopping and eating out a lot more than usual and had to be extra vigilant about not taking in too many calories (Day 30).  She made a rule for herself for this holiday season:  to order a salad whenever she ate lunch out. This rule eliminated a struggle about what she would and wouldn’t allow herself to eat. She stuck fast to this rule. One day, without thinking about it, she ordered breaded, fried chicken on her salad instead of grilled chicken.  But she didn’t criticize herself. She didn’t decide that she had blown her diet and therefore should eat out of control for the rest of the day.  Instead, she was able to get back on track immediately (Day 20).  She viewed the fried chicken as a momentary slip up and continued to eat normally for the rest of day, knowing that one minor mistake would not affect her weight at the end of the week.

Despite the holiday season, Roxanne lost 2 pounds this week.