Friday Weekend Warm-up: In our work with dieters, we don’t use the word “cheat” because it often has a negative and moralistic undertone. Instead, we use the word “mistake” and remind dieters that when they make dieting mistakes, the only thing it says is about them is that they’re normal and human. This weekend, if you make a dieting mistake, remind yourself that it’s not a catastrophe and that it doesn’t mean you’re bad or weak person. Then get right back on track and continue having a good eating weekend.
Cravings go away either when you decide to definitely give in OR when you decide to definitely NOT give in. It's important to remember that often the uncomfortable part of a craving is really the anxiety of wondering whether or not you’re going to give in. Once you firmly decide to not give and instead do something to distract yourself, the craving starts to go away.
Fact or Fiction: If my weight is up one day, it means what I’m doing isn’t working.
Fiction. On any given day, your weight might be temporarily up for a myriad of different reasons: hormones, water retention, biological factors, etc. It’s important to remember that even if you are following your diet perfectly, your weight won’t go down every day, or even every week. All dieters have days and weeks where their weight temporarily goes up or stays the same – it’s just part of the process. Because of this, it’s important to not put too much stock on any one weigh-in. As long as you keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing, your weight will go down again.
Fact or Fiction: Calories don’t count on holidays, like Labor Day.
Fiction. Unfortunately your body has no idea that it’s Labor Day, or that it’s Thanksgiving, your birthday, or Christmas. Your body processes all calories the same, 365 days a year. However, it is perfectly reasonable to plan in advance to have an extra treat on certain days – but make sure you do so in a controlled manner so that you don’t end up taking in way too many calories.
Fact or Fiction: If I can’t follow my diet right away, it means I just can’t do it.
Fiction. Learning to diet successfully is like learning to play the piano. Nobody would expect to sit down at a piano for the very first time and play a difficult piece of music flawlessly. Of course not! They would know that they need to learn to read music, start out with scales, then move on to easy pieces of music, practice them until they get better, and eventually move on to more complicated pieces. They would also expect to hit wrong notes and make mistakes along the way, and wouldn’t think that one mistake means they should give up. Dieting is the same. You need to learn certain skills, practice them over and over again, move on to harder skills, practice them, and eventually you’ll get better and better. You’ll make mistakes along the way – but that just means you need more practice, not that you can’t do it.
Fact or Fiction: “Just this one time” is a legitimate excuse to eat something.
Fiction. Every single time counts because every time you eat something you’re not supposed to, you reinforce your tendency to give in, and make it more likely you’ll give in the next time, and the time after that. Every single time you resist unplanned food, you reinforce your tendency to stand firm and you make it more likely you’ll be able to do it the next time, and the time after that. There is never a time when you’re not reinforcing one of these two tendencies, which is why every time matters.
Fact or Fiction: If I’ve made an eating mistake, I’ve blown it for the day and might as well just start again tomorrow.
Fiction. There’s no such thing as blowing it for the day. It’s not as if you reach a certain point and your body will stop processing any additional calories. The more you continue to eat on any given day, the more weight you may gain. It’s never too late to turn a day around and start having a good eating day, because guaranteed you’ll take in fewer calories than if you keep eating out of control. And remember, being in control of your eating feels so much better than being out of control, so the moment you get yourself back on track is the moment you start feeling better.
Sabotaging Thought: I don’t want to do things like eat slowly and mindfully because I like eating while zoning out in front of the television
Response: It’s true that there are some real disadvantages of trying to lose weight, and not eating in front of the television is one of them. But I can either continue eating while zoning out OR I can get everything on my Advantages List. Which is more important to me?
You are ENTITLED to do what you need to do in order to lose weight and be healthy, as long as you're not purposely hurting other people. To be a healthier and happier person, it’s necessary to prioritize your own needs and not always put them last. Remember, you can’t be good to anyone else if you’re not good to yourself, first.
Just because losing weight is hard, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Just because starting a healthy eating plan can be scary, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. We often have to work hard and face fears to accomplish our most important goals in life – and dieting/losing weight is no different!
In healthy eating and dieting, portion size is the key. It’s reasonable to enjoy your favorite foods, just not in huge quantities. Remember, especially if you eat out in restaurants this weekend, you likely can’t eat everything on your plate (and still lose weight) because the portions are too big. “Like” our status today if you’re committing to NOT be part of the Clean Plate Club this weekend!
In dieting, like in many things in life, it’s rarely all-or-nothing. It’s not as if you either can eat as much as you want, whenever you want or you can’t eat any food you enjoy. There is a huge middle ground! You can definitely have some favorite foods, some of the time while also enjoying all the benefits of weight loss. Remember: it’s NOT all-or-nothing.
In our work with dieters, one of the first things we let them know is this: When they start out, dieting may be fairly easy because they are highly motivated, and then as they practice their skills more and more, dieting gets easier. But at some point, dieting will get more difficult. This is normal and inevitable and it happens to everyone. We also let dieters know that when this happens, it doesn’t mean that they are doing anything wrong, and if they keep pushing through dieting will get easier again, 100% of the time. The problem is that most dieters don’t know that dieting is supposed to get hard at some point and when this happens they panic, thinking that something has gone wrong, it will continue to be this hard, and it’s just not worth it. And then what happens? They give up. But this giving up is entirely unnecessary because dieting will get easier again if they keep doing what they’re doing.
What dieters can do when the dieting gets hard:
1. Make sure that their Advantages Lists are not feeling stale. During hard times it’s usually more difficult for dieters to remember just why it’s worth it to them to put in the necessary time and energy, so it’s important that they frequently remind themselves by reading their Advantages List. However, not only is it important for dieters to read their list, it is also important for these lists to resonate with them and to feel fresh and inspiring. If dieters have been reading the same list over and over again, it may start to feel rote. To help with this, dieters try strategies like reword their list, add new items, read just the top three each day, take a few minute to really visualize some of the items, etc.
2. Think about past experiences. When dieters are going through a harder time, they often forget how good it feels when they’re in control of their eating. If dieters take time to really think about a recent experience when they stayed in control and remember not only how good it felt, but also simply the fact that they were able to do it in the first place, it can help remind them that dieting is not always so difficult and that, most of the time, it feels worth it.
3. Focus on the basics. When dieting gets rough, it can be helpful for dieters to take a few steps back and concentrate just on some of the most essential dieting skills, like reading their Advantages List, reading Response Cards, eating everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully, and giving themselves credit. Doing so can help dieters regain their focus and also feel more confident about what they’re doing because they already know they can do these things.
4. Respond to Sabotaging Thinking. Often when dieters are going through a hard time, they have lots of sabotaging thoughts like, “This is so hard, I just can’t do it,” and, “It’s not worth it to me to continue trying to lose weight.” If left unanswered, these thoughts can lead dieters to give up so it’s critical that they take time to identify what sabotaging thoughts they are having, make Response Cards, and practice reading them every day. For example, dieters can remind themselves:
The things on my Advantages List are worth fighting for so just because it’s hard doesn’t mean I should give up. I’ve worked hard and accomplished other things in my life that weren’t immediately easy, and I can do this, too.
Hard times always pass. This is temporary and as long as I keep doing what I’m doing, it will get easier again. Just keep working!
5. Make sure they are giving themselves credit. Sometimes when dieting gets difficult dieters forget to give themselves credit for all of the good things they are still doing. This is particularly likely to happen if they are only focusing on how hard or bad things feel. When going through a hard time, it’s critically important for dieters to give themselves credit because they often begin to lose their confidence and sense of self-efficacy and question whether or not they can really do everything. By recognizing the things that they are still doing, and doing well, they can fight against this and regain (or maintain) a sense of pride and achievement.
Sabotaging Thought: I’ve made a mistake on my diet, that’s so terrible! I’ve really blown it for the day.
Response: I haven’t blown it for the day because I’m entitled to make mistakes. I’m human, it’s going to happen. What I’m NOT entitled to do is let one mistake be an excuse to continue making more. Get back on track right now!
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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