Trick, Not Treat

This week, my client Julie told me that she had gotten a little off track the previous night and had eaten too many cookies. Julie had been working on one planned dessert every night, which wasn’t always easy for her to stick to. She had previously been eating dessert throughout the day, but she had made big progress. We talked through what happened the night before, and she realized she had the sabotaging thought, “I’ve been so good at just having one dessert recently, so it’s okay to have a little extra tonight.” This type of thinking is very common: often, my clients feel justified in having extra, unplanned food as a reward for having done so well.cookies in a bowl

I reminded Julie that by having extra dessert, what she was doing in that moment was rewarding her hard work by undoing her hard work. She was rewarding great, on-track behavior by exercising her giving-in muscle, strengthening unhealthy habits (using food as a reward, eating beyond fullness, not sticking to her plan), and jeopardizing her weight loss. We discussed how, in virtually no other area of life, we would think it made sense to reward progress by undoing it. For example, when Julie was learning to drive and had months of accident-free driving, would she “reward” herself by purposely getting in an accident? Of course not!

Julie and I discussed that when she’s doing well and consistently making on-track food decisions, she absolutely does deserve a reward. She doesn’t, however, deserve a reward that ultimately sabotages her, like extra, unplanned food. Julie made the following Response Card to help her remember these ideas:

When I’m doing really well, I do deserve a treat. I don’t deserve to use extra, unplanned food as a treat because that’s really a trick, not a treat. I can’t reward hard work by undoing it!

Julie and I made a list of some other things she could try that would really be a treat, and not a trick: getting a new candle, buying a new book, scheduling a massage, or picking out a fun, new recipe to try that week. All of these things will help reward Julie for her hard work without undoing any of her progress!

Friday Weekend Warm-up – September 18, 2020

Friday Weekend Warm-up: If you eat out this weekend and stay in control, give yourself a lot of credit. When you get home, don’t say to yourself, “I was so good, now I deserve to treat myself,” because you will undo all your hard work. Losing weight is the best treat! 

Thursday Think Tip – September 17, 2020

Thursday Think Tip: Staying on track – while it can feel very difficult in the moment – is actually a stress-reducer overall, because it gives you something to feel really proud about and makes you feel in control. 

Wednesday Sabotage – September 16, 2020

Wednesday Sabotage: I’m exhausted, but I have work to do, so I can’t sleep. I’ll eat to give me energy. 

Response: Even though I feel exhausted, it doesn’t mean I can’t push through and still get my work done. If I eat every time I feel tired, it’s likely I won’t be able to lose weight.  

Tuesday Reality Check – September 15, 2020

Tuesday Reality Check: If you make a dieting mistake, it’s important to label it as such. It’s a mistake, not a catastrophe. The worse you make it seem in your head, the harder it will be to recover from. If you recognize that it’s just a small mistake and everyone makes mistakes, it won’t be such a hard leap to get right back on track. 

Monday Motivation – September 14, 2020

Monday Motivation: Remember, it’s a combination of all the “little” things – like resisting an unplanned snack, making it a priority to eat sitting down, going for a walk when you feel stressed – that will make you lose weight. It’s all the daily things that lead up to BIG weight loss! 

Friday Weekend Warm-up – September 11, 2020

Friday Weekend Warm-up: If you come in contact with food pushers this weekend, remember that in terms of your eating, you only have to answer to yourself. Don’t let comments or predicted reactions from others influence how you eat. You’re working on healthy eating because it’s an important goal for YOU. You don’t need to explain or answer to anybody else about this! 

Thursday Think Tip – September 10, 2020

Thursday Think Tip: If you think, “I’m going to try to eat extra to see what I can get away with,” remind yourself that the only thing you’ll really ‘get away with’ is either not losing weight or losing it much more slowly. 

Wednesday Sabotage – September 9, 2020

Wednesday Sabotage: It’s okay to eat this because I’m having a bad day. 

Response: It’s not okay to eat extra, because although my mind knows I’m having a bad day, my body doesn’t. Besides, if I overeat, I’ll feel badly and guilty, which will make me even more unhappy. If I stay on track with my eating, it’s highly likely my day will start to feel better, not worse. 

Tuesday Reality Check – September 8, 2020

Tuesday Reality Check: When clients tell us, “I had a really hard week,” we ask them, “Was it hard for every single hour of every single day?” The answer is always no. Don’t let the memory of several hard times influence your perception of the week as a whole.