Monday Motivation: It takes less willpower to stick to an eating decision that you’ve made ahead of time than it does to try to use willpower in the moment to make a good decision. This week, focus on planning in advance and you’ll save yourself a lot of struggle.
I’ve been working with my client Emily for a few months now. In session last week, she told me about an experience she had eating pizza with her family in which she got off track, ended up eating too much, and felt overly stuffed (and mad at herself). She said, “I can’t seem to control myself around pizza, so I don’t think I should have it anymore.” I reminded Emily that just because she doesn’t yet know how to eat pizza in an on-track way, doesn’t mean she can’t learn.
In fact, it is critical for Emily to prove to herself that she can do it. She loves pizza, has no medical reason not to eat it, and at some point in the future she will want to eat it again. If she doesn’t know how to eat it in a controlled way, she will likely get off track.
This is a notion we try to build with all our clients – that there’s nothing they can eat when they’re off track that they can’t also eat when they’re on track. And it’s important for long-term success for them to prove to themselves they can enjoy their favorite foods while also enjoying staying on track and feeling in control. Otherwise, they’ll always be at risk for getting off track while around foods they think they “shouldn’t” eat (but likely love!).
In session last week, Emily and I made a plan for pizza. We decided that she would have it the next night and since the slices weren’t very big, we decided two pieces was a reasonable amount. Emily and I discussed what would help her stick to her amount and she made this card to read before and after her pizza:
Pizza Action Plan
- Eat two pieces
- Eat them slowly and mindfully and give myself LOTS of credit for stopping.
- When I finish my two pieces, remember: I just go to enjoy pizza! And I didn’t have to feel guilty about eating it! But don’t fool myself into thinking that if I eat more it will taste nearly as good as the two I just had. Whenever I eat beyond a reasonable amount, I feel guilty even as I’m eating it, and I wind up physically feeling stuffed. It’s 100 percent worth it to stop here and prove to myself I can eat pizza in an on-track way.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes. During those 10 minutes, I will: call my sister, organize a drawer, pick out the kids’ clothes for the week, do a five-minute stretching routine or a five-minute meditation, or go for a walk.
- When the timer goes off, assess my level of pizza cravings. Most likely, it will have gone away!
When I met with Emily this week, she was so proud of herself! Tor the first time in a very long time, she was able to stick to her pizza plan and felt great about it. She felt empowered and realized that she now had tools in her arsenal to help her enjoy her favorite foods and still stay on track. She even made a similar card for herself and experimented with having chocolate for the first time in a while (she had been avoiding it due to fear of getting off track). This was successful, too!
Emily was starting to prove something critical to herself: with the right plan and the right tools, eating any food and staying on track is not only possible, it’s important.
Friday Weekend Warm-up: How did everyone fare yesterday? If you stayed in control – GREAT! Give yourself lots and lots of credit and keep doing what you’re doing. If you got off track – move on! Make the commitment to getting back on track THIS MINUTE and give yourself lots of credit for doing so.
Thursday Think Tip: Happy Thanksgiving! Remember, today is ultimately a day for giving thanks for the blessings in your life. What food you do or don’t eat will not take away from that.
Wednesday Sabotage: I don’t need to make a plan for Thanksgiving this year.
Response: Of course I do! Just because Thanksgiving looks different this year doesn’t mean I should rely on spontaneous eating decisions! Plan in advance what I’m going to eat and I’ll hugely increase my likelihood of staying on track.
Tuesday Reality Check: If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you undoubtedly won’t be able to eat all of the holiday food you want, in whatever quantities you want. HOWEVER, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a plan for when and how you will enjoy certain treats, and in doing so you will be able to enjoy holiday food, enjoy staying in control, AND enjoy all the advantages of losing weight (or at least not gaining right now).
Monday Motivation: This week, focus on giving yourself credit! Really point out to yourself and notice the things that are going well (not just the things that may still need more work). We ask you to do this several times throughout the year because it’s so incredibly important.
Friday Weekend Warm-up: With the holidays right around the corner, it might be time to start brushing up on some of your skills. Have you been eating everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully? Reading your Advantages List? Responding to sabotaging thinking? Giving yourself credit? Making time and energy for dieting? If not, make a commitment to work on your basic skills this weekend to help get you in the right mindset.
Thursday Think Tip: Thanksgiving is only a week away! If you think, “I’ll feel really deprived if I don’t get to eat everything on the table,” remind yourself, “If I keep telling myself that I’m going to feel deprived, I definitely will. Instead of concentrating on the things I’m not eating, I need to focus on enjoying what I am eating and spending time with my loved ones (if I’m able to do that this year).”
Wednesday Sabotage: I’ve made an eating mistake, so I shouldn’t eat anything for the rest of the day.
Response: When I make a mistake, don’t plan not to eat! I don’t deserve punishment. It was only a mistake.
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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