Remember – your body doesn’t know how good you’ve been. Your body doesn’t know all the things you didn’t eat. It ONLY knows what you do eat, so just because you’ve been “good” all days doesn’t mean you can eat extra at night.
This weekend, if you think, “It’s okay to eat extra because everyone else is,” remind yourself that your body doesn’t know or care what everyone around you is eating, it only knows what YOU eat. What everyone around you is (or isn’t) eating is 100% irrelevant to your body, which means you can't base your eating on others.
If you’ve struggled to lose weight in the past, or if you’ve lost weight and then gained it back, it’s important to remember that what you’ve done before just doesn’t work – if it did, you'd be at the weight you want. If you want this time to be different, you have to do things differently, even if it means you lose weight more slowly.
Sabotaging Thought: I have to eat whenever I feel hungry.
Response: In reality, I really WANT to eat when I’m hungry, but I don’t need to eat [because I don’t have any medical problems]. While experiencing hunger may not be pleasant, it’s not so uncomfortable that I can’t keep doing what I’m doing. I can handle it!
If you think, “It’s okay to eat this one unplanned food, it won’t matter,” remind yourself that slip-ups usually have a more lasting effect on the rest of your day. If you allow yourself to get off track in the morning or afternoon, you’re much more likely to continue making off-track food decisions later in the day. It does matter!
Many dieters find that once they gain control over their eating, it helps them feel better, and more in control, in general. Feeling in control and on track can have a positive spillover effect into so many other areas of your life!
If you think, “It’s the weekend, I don’t want to think about healthy eating. I just want to relax and enjoy,” remind yourself that if you choose to not ‘think’ about it now, you’ll definitely think about it Monday morning when the scale has gone up and your clothes don’t fit as well. So think about it now, or think about it later, either way you’re going to think about it.
Remember, cravings are like itches. The more you pay attention to them, the worse they get but the moment you get really distracted is the moment the craving starts to go away. You NEVER need to eat to make a craving go away. Turning your attention completely to something else is just as effective.
Over the past few weeks, my dieter, Jennifer, has been working hard on all of her initial skills, like reading her Advantages List every morning (and often right before dinner, too), eating everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully, and giving herself credit. She has also been working on limiting junk food to just one portion per day, after dinner, and adding more fruits and vegetables to her diet.
In session this week, Jennifer told me that she is going on vacation with her family next week and one of their traditions is to get ice cream in the afternoon and walk around while they eat it. Jennifer really loves to do this with her family, but she was concerned because it would mean eating standing up. Jennifer and I discussed this and we agreed that, while she was on her trip, it was perfectly fine to eat ice cream standing up before dinner as long as she planned to do so in advance. I pointed out to Jennifer that wanting in the moment to eat something standing up and telling herself, “It’s okay to have just this one thing standing up, it won’t matter,” is very different from deciding in advance when and where specifically she would eat something standing up. In the first case, it would mean exercising her giving-in muscle and listening to sabotaging thoughts. In the second case, it wouldn’t be exercising her giving-in muscle at all because it would just be part of her plan.
Similarly, it’s fine for Jennifer to plan to have junk food before dinner while on vacation because she’ll be deciding to do so in advance. Again, this won’t be a case of Jennifer seeing a junk food that she really wants to eat and spontaneously deciding to have it before dinner, which would definitely strengthen her giving-in muscle. Rather, it will be a deliberate and thought-out exception to her rule.
Jennifer also decided that, once she was back from her trip, she would go right back to not having junk food before dinner and wouldn’t let exceptions filter into her everyday life. If Jennifer started eating junk food before dinner on a normal day, it would become so much harder to resist (as it was when she first started working on this skill) and every time she saw junk food she would once again enter into the painful and exhausting struggle of, “Should I have some? No, you know you shouldn’t. But it looks really good. But you don’t have it before dinner. But I had it yesterday before dinner and it was okay, so maybe now it’s okay, too, etc. etc. etc.”
So you can see that, at times, it can be 100% fine to make exceptions to your rules, as long as you decide to do so in advance and don’t give in to momentary sabotaging thoughts. But, like Jennifer, if you do decide to make an exception, it’s important to set parameters (like only having junk food before dinner on vacation) so that you’re not tempted to make an exception (and have to struggle about whether or not to) every time it comes up.
Sabotaging Thought: When I’m dieting, there are good foods that I should eat and bad foods that I should stay away from.
Response: There are no good foods and bad foods, just foods that I should eat more of and foods that I should eat less of.
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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