Sue: Part 9, Self-Criticism

Today Sue and I touched on the topic of self-criticism again. She was able to see how “beating herself up” every time she made a mistake undercut her motivation and her sense of self-efficacy. We reiterated how important it is to become problem-solving oriented, instead. “Okay, I made a mistake. What can I learn from this for next time?” Unfortunately, Sue is not only critical of her eating, she’s generally highly critical of herself, in her work, at home, socially, and so on. Her standards for herself are just too high. Fortunately, though,  she doesn’t have the idea, “I have to be self-critical or I’ll let myself go.” (If she did, we’d have her try some experiments to see if that belief were true.)

For this week, Sue’s going to make a concerted effort to note her self-critical thoughts about her eating, her body, and exercise. That’s the first step. The next step will be learning how to respond to herself in a compassionate, problem-solving way. And we’ll continue to work together so she can learn how to set reasonable standards for herself.

Sue: Part 8

Sue is doing so well, but I wanted to prepare her for making mistakes.  We reviewed the concept that mistakes are normal, and that everyone makes mistakes from time to time.  While it’s impossible to avoid mistakes altogether, I explained to Sue that what she tells herself about her mistakes is crucial to success.

I explained to Sue that if she says to herself, “This is terrible. I can’t believe I ate that. I’m so weak. I thought I could do this [stick to a diet] but I can’t,”  she’ll feel demoralized and helpless and she’ll  be likely to abandon  her efforts. But if  she says, “Big deal, I’m human, I made a mistake, I’m going to get back on track this minute, and I’m going to give myself a LOT of credit for getting back on track,” she’ll  quickly recover and it will be NO BIG DEAL. Everyone makes mistakes, whether it’s ruining a nail you’re polishing or deviating from your eating plan. I helped Sue develop the attitude:  “I can recover from mistakes—AND LEARN FROM THEM.”

Sue: Part 7, Fear of Losing Control

Sue is still afraid that if she eats something wrong, she’ll lose control and not be able to get back in control. We had the following discussion:

Sue: I’m just afraid that one false step will be the beginning of the end.

Dr. Beck: How many times in the past few months have you taken a false step?

Sue: A fair number, I guess.

Dr. Beck: And how many times did you start on the path of serious weight gain?

Sue: Never.

Dr. Beck: And why is that?

Sue: Well, it’s because I’m learning to see something as an isolated mistake. I’m learning how to get back on track right away. I’m still motivating myself by reading my list of reasons to lose weight. And other stuff.

Dr. Beck: That’s exactly right. It’s because you now know exactly what to do when you stray, and you know how to get yourself to do it.

Sue and I agreed that she needed to keep track of all the instances in which making one mistake did NOT lead to her losing control. We also agreed that this month, Sue would reread The Beck Diet Solution. She plans to take notes in the margins about what she can do if there ever does come a time when she starts to gain weight back.

This exercise will serve as a good reminder for Sue that all the skills she needs to stay on track are there in black and white, for her whole life. I think this will also provide her with a good measure of relief.

Sue: Part 6, Perseverance

Sue and I were talking about times in the past when she had started to gain weight. It appeared as though each time started with a small weight gain; then she started thinking that dieting was too hard, then she abandoned her plan.

I wanted to prepare Sue in case this same kind of thing happens in the future. I asked her whether there was anything else in her life that had been very difficult, but that she had managed to push through anyway. She gave me a perfect analogy:

Sue explained that several years ago she was headed toward being a professional singer. But she had a teacher who taught her incorrectly, and Sue actually damaged her vocal cords. Singing became very difficult and she thought about abandoning it. But she didn’t. She persevered. Eventually she found a really good teacher, who taught her very important lessons. Sue returned to practicing very hard, and was able to achieve a good measure of success as a singer.

Now Sue is going to create a Response Card to remind herself that she had the necessary perseverance and the right tools to reach her goal of becoming a singer—and this same perseverance, coupled with the tools she was learning from The Beck Diet Solution, will allow her to reach her goal of maintaining her weight loss.