Friday Weekend Warm-up: Remember, come Monday morning, you’ll look back at your weekend and feel PROUD of the times you stayed in control, not regretful. You likely won’t think, “I should have had an extra slice of chocolate cake,” or “I should have had a second glass of wine.” It just will not happen!
This week, my client Jennifer told me that while her days have been going well, things have been falling apart around dinner. The first question I asked Jennifer was, “Are you planning dinner in advance, or are you getting to dinner time and then trying to figure out what to eat?” Jennifer told me that most nights it was the latter. She often thought about making a dinner meal plan but resisted the idea because she didn’t want to feel hemmed in. She wanted to be able to eat whatever she was craving that night for dinner and not something she had predetermined earlier in the week.
While I sympathized with this desire, I reminded Jennifer that in-the-moment decisions are the hardest to make effectively. In-the-moment decisions require us to use our “hot” brains, an id-driven brain that mostly focuses on what it wants in the moment and doesn’t take other goals into account. Future-oriented decisions, by contrast, allow us to use our “cool” brains, a rational brain that thinks through big goals and consequences and makes decisions based on them. It’s not a guarantee that an in-the-moment decision will lead us awry, but it is far more likely.
It’s no surprise that dinners haven’t been going well for Jennifer. End-of-the-day Jennifer, when she was tired and worn out, was not a great Jennifer to be making dinner decisions. Morning Jennifer was a great Jennifer to be making decisions! Morning Jennifer was fresh and sharp and could formulate how a successful day should go. Even though Jennifer understood this intellectually, something was still standing in her way. She still didn’t like the idea of planning dinners in advance.
I asked Jennifer if she ever planned in advance or if she always waited until the last minute to make dinner decisions, and she said that sometimes she and her partner would decide in advance what to have for dinner. “How does that usually work out?” I asked her. “Are you happy when you get to dinner, or are you resisting the plan?” Jennifer told me that usually she was fine with the plan, and it sometimes was helpful because she and her partner often get frustrated with each other trying to figure out dinner every night.
I said to Jennifer, “I wonder, then, if the idea of planning dinner in advance is actually worse than the reality of doing so. The idea of planning dinner in advance makes you feel trapped, but the reality is that it keeps the peace between you and your partner, and it means you feel on track all evening long.” We discussed this idea more, and Jennifer was able to see that this was probably the case, at least some of the time. The idea of not being able to make spontaneous dinner decisions was worse than the reality. She made a Response Card to remind herself.
Jennifer also admitted that even though she resists making dinner decisions in advance, she often ends up eating the same things anyway, so it wouldn’t be that much of a hassle to make the plan more formalized, and that way it would cut down on tensions with her partner, she could make sure to have the food that she needed, and she increased her likelihood of staying on track all day. We also agreed that she should have an escape clause: for the first week, at least, if she really doesn’t want what she planned to have for dinner, then she didn’t need to have it! We decided that she would put some backup meals in her freezer that she could pull out if this happened.
I reminded Jennifer of one more thing: the reason to start planning dinners in advance was not to take away her freedom. It was because not planning in advance wasn’t working for her, and doing so would be in the service of a greater goal: achieving everything on her Advantages List. She would be doing it for hugely important reasons. Jennifer made a Response Card to remind her of this idea, too.
Thursday Think Tip: If you think, “If I can’t stay on track now, how will I ever be able to do it in the future?” remind yourself, “Being off track is NOT an indication that I can’t do it (now or in the future), it’s simply a sign that I need more practice. Like any skill, the more I practice, the better I’ll get. This is no different!”
Wednesday Sabotage: I just want to eat without consequence.
Response: Oh, well! I don’t like that I can’t eat without consequences but I can’t change that fact (not if I want to lose weight and keep it off). I need to stop struggling against it, accept that this is the way it is, and move on.
Tuesday Reality Check: If you make an eating mistake and start to catastrophize, ask yourself, “What would I say to my best friend if she told me about a mistake she made?” Chances are you’d be more compassionate to a friend than you would be to yourself. When working on changing your eating habits, you’ll make many, many mistakes. It’s important to be compassionate to yourself so that you’re able to learn from them and move on.
Monday Motivation: Working on healthy eating is generally easy in the beginning because motivation is high, but at some point (whether in three weeks or three months), it gets harder. This is completely NORMAL, and it happens to everyone. As long as you keep at it, it will get easier again. But, if you’re still riding the new year, new you high – keep the streak going! Make that motivation last as long as possible.
Friday Weekend Warm-up: “I really regret eating healthy today,” said NO ONE EVER! This weekend, focus on healthy eating. You won’t regret it!
Thursday Think Tip: It’s critically important to be tuned in to your thoughts, so you can learn what your common sabotaging thoughts are and come up with responses to them. The next time you eat something unplanned or that you know you probably shouldn’t, ask yourself, “What was just going through my head? What did I say to myself? ‘I know I shouldn’t eat this but it’s okay because…?’”
Wednesday Sabotage: It’s okay to eat this because it’s healthy.
Response: I can gain weight eating all healthy foods, too. Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it doesn’t have calories. Eating healthy foods is a great thing to strive for, but I have to make sure that whatever I eat (healthy or not) fits in with my overall day.
Tuesday Reality Check: Did you get off track with things like exercise, meditation, or meal planning during the busy holiday season? If so, TODAY IS THE DAY to restart!
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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