A dieter recently said to us, “For the first time I was able to go shopping and fit into everything I tried on and I actually LIKED what a saw in the mirror. It was the best feeling ever.” It’s important to remember just WHY you’re working on healthy eating and all of the amazing advantages that you get in doing so.
If you think, “ It’s not fair I can’t be spontaneous with my eating on weekends,” remind yourself, “ I can still be spontaneous in many other non-food ways. Besides, all the benefits of weight loss feel so much BETTER, and for so much LONGER, than any one spontaneous decision to eat.” “Like” our status today if you’re making the commitment to stay on track this weekend!
Question: I’m in the process of losing weight and have been doing fairly well. However, the one thing that keeps getting to me is sweets! Somehow, even with all my best intentions to cut out sugar from my diet, I am not able to resist and keep finding myself giving in to the craving for sweets. This seems to happen most in the afternoon or when I unexpectedly come in contact with sweets, like at someone’s house or at a meeting. Can you help?
Answer: I’m sorry that sweets have been difficult for you, but I do have some suggestions that may be helpful:
1. It’s important to make sure that you don’t have an all-or-nothing mentality about sweets and desserts. Often dieters may say to themselves, “Since I have trouble controlling myself around desserts/sweets, I’m just not going to have any.” This is problematic because if dieters really like sweets, then guaranteed at some point they’ll find themselves eating them (as happens with you), and when they do they may tell themselves, “I don’t know when I’ll allow myself to eat sweets again, so I better eat as much as I can right now while I have the chance.” On the flip side, if dieters know that they can have a dessert every single day (if they plan for it), then they don’t feel the same sense of urgency to “load up” because they no longer believe that this might be their last opportunity to eat them.
2. It is so helpful to plan in advance when you’re going to have dessert and what you’re going to have. Many of our dieters end up instituting a rule about dessert for themselves: one dessert a day, and not until after dinner. Planning to eat dessert after dinner is helpful as it more easily allows dieters to turn down any sweets that they come in contact with during the day because they are able to say to themselves, “I don’t need to have this now, I’m going to have that brownie/cookie/ice cream after dinner.” If you institute a similar rule for yourself, then you don’t have to worry about what sweets you see during the day because you’ll just know: if it’s not on my plan, I’m not having it.
3. Another important piece of this is to figure out in advance what sabotaging thoughts you are likely to have about eating sweets, and come up with responses to them. Some common sabotaging thoughts are: Just this one time won’t matter; it’s just a little bit; everyone else is having it so it’s okay; I just won’t have my dessert tonight. Do any of these sound familiar to you? Dieters find it helpful when they make Response Cards with responses to these thoughts and read them throughout the day, and especially when they are going into a situation in which they are likely to be tempted.
Here is a sample response:
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to have dessert now (before dinner) because I just won’t have it later.
Response: Actually it’s NOT okay to have dessert now because if I do, I send myself the message that it’s okay to not do what I say I’m going to do; it’s not about the calories, it’s about the habit. Every single time I give in to a craving and have dessert before dinner, I increase the likelihood that I will the next time, and the time after that. Every single time I resist, I make it easier to do so the next time.
4. If afternoons are difficult for you, then it may be a good idea to figure out ahead of time: am I hungry in the afternoons or is this just a craving? If it is hunger, then it may be worth it to plan (in advance!) to have an afternoon snack and make sure that you have that food available. If it’s not hunger, then it may be worth reading your cards and your Advantages List and remind yourself why it’s worth it to not eat at that time.
And remember: the more you practice this, the easier it will get! The more and more times you prove to yourself that you can stand firm in the face of cravings (even sugar cravings) the easier it becomes to do so.
It’s important to make sure the diet you choose to follow isn’t overly restrictive and doesn’t cut out your favorite foods because guaranteed that is not a diet you will stick to for the long term. Besides, when has following that type of diet in the past EVER helped you to lose weight and keep it off?
Sabotaging Thought: Since I’m eating pizza, I need to eat as much as possible because I don’t know when I can have it again.
Response: Actually, I can plan to eat pizza EVERY SINGLE day if I want. This is not like other “diets” because I am not depriving myself of foods I like; instead I’m just planning in advance when to have them. I don’t need to be in a “last meal” mindset because there is NOTHING I can’t ever eat again.
While resisting a craving might be uncomfortable in the MOMENT, giving in to that craving and then feeling bad about yourself and your eating will be uncomfortable for so much longer.
When you're trying to diet and eat healthfully, it's important to remember that it's possible to successfully navigate ANY situation, regardless of the circumstances. While some situations are harder than others, nothing is impossible.
Many dieters think, “I’ll wait to start doing new things until I’ve lost weight.” This is counterproductive because expanding your activities lifts your mood and gives you many non-food-related opportunities for pleasure and satisfaction. This weekend, don’t wait to try new things – start right away! You never know where it might take you.
While it’s often important to respond to your sabotaging thoughts so they don’t get the best of you, there are other times, like if you keep having the same thought over and over again, when it’s best to just ignore them. If, for example, every time you go to get coffee you think, “I really want one of those donuts,” it can be helpful to say, “That’s just a sabotaging thought. Pay no attention to it and move on.”
Sabotaging Thought: I’m going to eat whatever I feel like right now because I don’t want to think about dieting.
Response: Actually, the only thing I’ll be doing is POSTPONING when I’ll think about dieting because if I go off track now, guaranteed I’ll spend a lot of time thinking and feeling bad about it later. So either I think about it now, stay on track, and feel great, or I get off track, think about it later, and feel bad. Either way I’ll still be thinking about it.
The Beck Diet Program was developed by Dr. Judith S. Beck with Deborah Beck Busis, LCSW.
Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a leading international source for training, therapy, and resources in CBT.
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