If you think, “I don’t know how many calories this has so it doesn’t count,” or “This one time doesn’t matter,” or “I can get away with eating extra right now,” remember that the only thing you’re doing is fooling yourself. Once dieters stop fooling themselves and start accepting reality, dieting gets EASIER.
Sabotaging Thought: Dieting is too overwhelming so I might as well give up.
Response: Dieting does NOT have to be overwhelming. All I have to do is work on one small change at a time, master it, and then move on to the next one. Soon enough, all the small changes will add up to really big ones.
Dieting and healthy eating can be hard, but being overweight can be even harder. Either way it may be hard, but if you put the work in towards healthy eating and dieting, you’ll get so many [more] positive results.
Often dieters think, “I wish I could eat whatever I want and as much as I want.” However, usually when dieters eat in an unrestricted way, they ultimately feel bad and out of control, but when they control and limit their eating, they feel GREAT. Remember – what you may think you want in terms of eating may not be what actually feels good.
Remember, your body doesn’t know or care whether or not it’s Memorial Day weekend. It also doesn’t know or care if the food you’re eating is free, if everyone else is eating it, or if you’re celebrating. It treats all calories the same regardless of any of these circumstances!
This week I had a session with my dieter, Amy. Amy told me that while she is excited for the long weekend, she’s also nervous because she has a lot of events over the weekend and she’s worried about how she will handle her eating.
The first thing I did was reassure Amy that she had nothing to do be nervous about. I reminded her that if she makes a mistake over the weekend, it’s not the end of the world, and she has already become adept at the skill of making a mistake and getting herself right back on track. In the event that she did get off track, I asked Amy to tell me exactly what she would do. She replied that she would:
1. Label it a “mistake” and not castrophize.
2. Read her Advantages List and some Response Cards and remind herself that she will feel so much better if she gets right back on track that minute.
3. Think about other times when she’s made mistakes and how proud and great she felt when she got right back on track.
4. Think about what sabotaging thoughts led her astray and what responses might be helpful in the future.
5. Resume normal eating for the rest of the day and give herself lots and lots of credit.
Amy and I then discussed what events she had this weekend so that we could come up with a plan. Amy reported that she is going to the beach Friday through Monday morning and will likely eat out for dinner all three nights, and then she will be attending a barbeque on Monday afternoon.
Amy and I first tackled how she will handle eating out three nights in a row while she’s at the beach. As a lover of bread, wine, and dessert, I reminded Amy that she probably couldn’t have all three at all three meals. Amy and I talked this over and we realized that it is unhelpful to think of each meal out as a separate event, because if she did, then she might feel deprived not having bread, wine, or dessert at any of one of them. Instead, we decided to conceptualize the three meals as one package deal, and figure out during which of the three Amy would have these treats. In doing so, Amy is much less likely to feel deprived at any one meal because she can say to herself, “I don’t need to have bread tonight, I’m going to have it tomorrow. And besides, tonight I’m having wine.”
Next, Amy and I talked about her strategy for the barbeque. We came up with the following guidelines:
- Look at all the food before deciding what to have.
- No nibbling and no eating standing up! Make a plate of food and deliberately sit down to eat it so I can see how much I’m having and be visually and physically satisfied.
- If we’re there for a long time, have a snack if I’m hungry but make sure to sit down and eat it mindfully.
- No dessert at the barbeque – if I really want something, I can bring it home and have it after dinner.
- No more than two drinks. Remember, I’ve already had a big weekend and I don’t need more alcohol.
- Spend time talking to people. I’m there for the social aspect, not for the food!
- Bring and read the following Response Cards:
Armed with these plans and strategies, and a renewed confidence in her ability to handle mistakes in the event that she makes any, Amy reported that she was feeling a lot less nervous and a lot more excited about the weekend to come. I reminded Amy that she has the ability to handle any eating event, especially when she has a strong plan and a firm belief in why it’s worth it to her to follow it.
If you feel overwhelmed by all of your dieting tasks, it can be helpful to take a step back and focus on just doing the basics, like reading your Advantages List and Response Cards, eating everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully, and giving yourself credit. As you build back your confidence to do those skills, you’ll then feel ready and more able to tackle the harder things.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this unplanned food because it’s just this one time.
Response: I’m fooling myself if I think this time doesn’t matter because EVERY time matters. Every time I eat off track I make it more likely I will the next time, which makes dieting harder. Every time I stick to my plan I make it more likely I will the next time, which makes dieting EASIER!
If you think, “It’s okay to eat this because I just don’t care right now,” remind yourself that you definitely WILL care later, once the situation has passed and you feel bad and guilty and have potentially jeopardized your weight loss. Because of this, not caring at any one moment is NOT a valid excuse to eat off track.
Every time you have a good eating day, you build momentum to continue having good eating days. Start the week off right by making a commitment to have a good eating day TODAY and you’ll set a positive tone for the whole week to come!
The Beck Institute Weight Management 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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