Whenever I first meet with a new diet client, I always make sure to explain to them that the ultimate goal of treatment is to teach them to be their own diet coach so that they don’t need to work with me for life. In my work with dieters, there are a few things that really mark a turning point in their progress and which signify that they are on the road to ultimate success.
One such turning point is when dieters demonstrate that they are becoming their own diet coach. In a recent session, my dieter, Michelle, really proved that this was starting to happen for her. Michelle has two young daughters. Both of their birthdays happen to fall within the same week and both of their favorite treat is Michelle’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. The afternoon of her first daughter’s birthday, Michelle set out to bake chocolate chip cookies which would be served at her daughter’s birthday dinner that night, in addition to the cake she had bought. Michelle told me that she made the cookies in the late afternoon (which happens to be one of her more vulnerable times for sugar cravings) and while she was making the cookie dough, she started to get a craving to eat some, despite the rules she’s set for herself: “No junk food until after dinner” and “Eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully.” Michelle ended up giving in to sabotaging thoughts and mindlessly ate a lot of cookie dough while standing at the counter.
After this happened, Michelle felt sick from all of the cookie dough she had eaten, and she was angry with herself for giving in to a craving and breaking her rules—especially since she had previously been following them so well. This afternoon incident continued to stay with Michelle and caused her to feel out of sorts into the evening, resulting in her again giving in to sabotaging thoughts and eating a piece of birthday cake, despite having already had more than enough sweets for the day.
That night, Michelle realized that she had made several mistakes, and she knew it was worth it to her to figure out how she could correct them, especially since the same situation would reoccur just a few days later for her younger daughter’s birthday. Michelle sat down and thought about what had gone wrong and why. She realized that one of her first mistakes was not reading any Response Cards or her Advantages List before she started baking, even though she knew it could be quite difficult to resist the sweets. She also had set aside time to bake during her most vulnerable time of the day, when she is most likely to give in to sabotaging thoughts. Additionally, Michelle didn’t have a clear plan for when she was going to eat the cookies, if any, and how she would balance that with having cake, so she wasn’t able to say something to herself like, “You don’t need to eat any now, you’re going to have one soon enough after dinner.”
Michelle realized that planning was, indeed, necessary, so she set about making a plan for her upcoming cookie-baking. This was her plan:
1. Bake cookies right after lunch when I’m not hungry.
2. Read my Advantages List right before I start baking.
3. Plan to have one cookie after dinner and one half-size slice of cake. If I want more cookies, I can plan to have one the next day.
4. Remember what happened last time and how I felt. I want this time to be different!
Michelle also took the time to really think about what sabotaging thoughts got in her way the first time and made the following Response Cards to read with her Advantages List:
A few days later on her younger daughter’s birthday, Michelle carried through with her plan and the day went off without a hitch. When Michelle came into session this week, she told me this whole story and we discussed what an important milestone this was for her. Michelle had a challenging situation, she sat down and figured out what went wrong, she made new Response Cards in response to her sabotaging thoughts, and she came up with a plan to do things differently the next time. I reminded Michelle that if we had had a session right after her first cookie-baking experience, I would likely have done almost the exact same things she did on her own. This really proves that Michelle is fast on her way to becoming her own diet coach.
It’s important to keep in mind that a big marker of Michelle’s progress is not when she stops making mistakes altogether, because everyone makes mistakes from time to time. The ultimate goal is for dieters to make mistakes and then recover from them right away and figure out how to handle the situation differently in the future, which is exactly what Michelle has done