Entitlement vs. Treat

Most of the clients I work with have “slippery slope” habits – old habits that they’ve managed to leave behind but continue to be vulnerable to reactivating. For some, it’s once again starting to leave the serving dishes on the dinner table and taking seconds. For others, it’s forgetting to prioritize making a healthy lunch and falling back into just snacking in the afternoons. My client Erin’s habit is drinking wine during the week.

When we first started working together, Erin was drinking wine most nights. We added up the calories from her two-glass-per-day habit, and she realized she was consuming more than 2,000 calories each week in alcohol. No wonder she was having trouble losing weight! Erin worked hard to deliberately cut out wine on weekdays, instead enjoying it just on weekends. Doing so had a lot of benefits – she always woke up with a clear head and her sleep improved during the week, she felt better about the amount of alcohol she was drinking, and, of course, she started losing weight.Woman holding a glass of wine

When I met with Erin this week, she was feeling frustrated because not only had her weight loss stalled, but she had actually gained a few pounds. We discussed what might be contributing to this. I asked her, “Is there anything you’re doing now that you weren’t doing when you were losing weight? Or anything you aren’t doing now that you were doing before?” It didn’t take Erin long to realize that wine had crept back in, and she was now drinking it close to every night again, not just on weekends. For Erin, the creep was pretty slow, so she didn’t really notice it as it was happening. Before long, she had reactivated her old habit of daily wine consumption.

We discussed that in order to start losing weight again, she would likely have to cut back on the amount of wine calories she consumed each week. Erin acknowledged that this was true, but the thought of it felt really hard. Wine had once again entered her “entitlement” category – something she felt entitled to have every night. If she couldn’t have it, she felt deprived. The opposite of the entitlement category is the “treat” category – something someone doesn’t expect to have every night and, instead, views it as a treat or a bonus when she does.

I reminded Erin that once she gets used to having wine only on weekends again, it would shift from the entitlement category to the treat category, and not having it every night wouldn’t feel so hard. Erin thought back and realized that after about a week of only having wine during the weekends, she typically didn’t even think about it during the week. Most nights, it didn’t feel hard at all.

To take wine out of the entitlement category and into the treat one, Erin and I decided that she would create a new nightly ritual. Instead of pouring herself a glass of wine, she would brew some special tea that she really loves and do a five-minute meditation. That way, she would still get to drink something she enjoyed and that felt special, feel relaxation and stress relief from the meditation, and not sabotage any other goals. A win/win!

Friday Weekend Warm-up – February 26, 2021

Friday Weekend Warm-up: If you’ve had a hard week, you might be tempted to eat to de-stress and make yourself feel better. Remember that you’re entitled to feel better and you’re entitled to take care of yourself, but you’re also entitled to get everything on your Advantages List, so you have to find other ways to comfort yourself.

Thursday Think Tip – February 25, 2021

Thursday Think Tip: If you find yourself trying to rationalize eating something: “It’s okay because I’ll just have a little; I won’t eat anything later; I had a small lunch, etc.,” consider using that as a cue to NOT eat. Remind yourself, “Once the situation has passed, I won’t be sorry I didn’t eat it.”

Wednesday Sabotage – February 24, 2021

Wednesday Sabotage: I always forget to drink enough water during the day.

Response: I need to set up a reminder system! Try setting an alarm on my phone. Or putting three rubber bands on my water bottle and every time I empty it, take a rubber band off. Once I build the habit, it will get a lot easier to continue drinking water consistently.

Tuesday Reality Check – February 23, 2021

Tuesday Reality Check: When you’re eating dinner, keep the serving dishes off the table! Having more food immediately available greatly increases the chances that you’ll eat extra.

Monday Motivation – February 22, 2021

Monday Motivation: Whenever you have an experience where you stayed in control of your eating and felt really good about it, make sure you write it down! Reading these cards will help motivate you when you’re feeling down and remind you that you CAN do it, and when you do, it feels great.

Friday Weekend Warm-up – February 19, 2021

Friday Weekend Warm-up: This weekend, focus on good sleep hygiene. Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do to support your weight loss efforts.

Thursday Think Tip – February 18, 2021

Thursday Think Tip: Negative emotions are a part of life. They’re not bad; they’re a part of being human. Often people think, “If I’m upset, I have to do something about it.” The reality is that you don’t need to do anything to make them go away. They always crest, like a wave, and then start to come down. You don’t have to be afraid of your feelings.

Wednesday Sabotage – February 17, 2021

Wednesday Sabotage: I start out counting calories but always end up petering out by the end of the day.

Response: While counting SOME calories is great, chances are I won’t be able to lose weight unless I do the whole day. It’s like running 24 miles of 26.2 marathon. It’s a lot of work but unless I run the last 2.2 I don’t get my finisher’s medal. Today I’m going to do the whole thing!

Tuesday Reality Check – February 16, 2021

Tuesday Reality Check: Eating too little during the day and too much at night go hand in hand. Not only are you likely overly hungry, but you may also be telling yourself, “Since I didn’t eat much all day, it’s okay to eat extra right now.” Eating reasonably throughout the day is one major thing you can start doing to control nighttime eating.