When we met a few weeks ago, my client, Kim was struggling to control her sugar-eating. In the past, Kim tried cutting sugar out altogether and had some success– but never long-term. Like many dieters, Kim can recall countless instances of falling into the all-or-nothing sugar trap: eating way too much sugar, cutting it out completely, then falling off the wagon and eating way too much again. Repeat.

Kim knew that while she was eating too much sugar, cutting it out entirely wasn’t the best plan, because it’s not an effective strategy long-term. When we met last week, we devised the plan of eating one reasonable portion of dessert (defined as 200 calories or fewer) per day. We came up with strategies for what she could do and say to herself once she finished dessert to make stopping easier. Kim came back this week and told me that while she had been mostly successful at reining in her sugar intake, it was still feeling really hard. Her cravings were still strong, and she constantly felt like she was fighting a battle against them.doughnut

My goal with Kim was to try to figure out why her cravings were feeling so psychologically painful and to see if there was anything we could do about it. I asked Kim what was going through her head while she was having a craving. “Is it something like, ‘This is just a craving. It’s temporary and once I turn my attention t something else, it will go away completely. And then I’ll be so proud of myself for overcoming it?’ or is it more like, ‘I hate feeling this way. This is so uncomfortable. This situation stinks?’” Kim thought about it and realized it was much closer to the latter. “I think I’m focusing on the discomfort, and maybe even telling myself that it’s permanent.” No wonder Kim was finding her cravings so hard to cope with! In telling herself that they were highly uncomfortable, and that they weren’t going to go away, she was making them seem so much worse than they actually were. And if that’s what she was telling herself, that’s probably what she was experiencing, too. Kim made the following Response Card to remind herself that cravings are temporary.

This is just a craving. It’s temporary! Cravings never last forever, and, in fact, they don’t usually last very long at all. In a matter of minutes, it’ll be gone – or even sooner if I focus on something else.  You got this!

Kim and I also discussed a situation coming up this week when she thought it would be hard to manage her sugar cravings. It would be her son’s birthday on Sunday, and she was getting a cake for him. Kim told me that her plan was to have a smaller slice than her husband and son, and she knew that if she finished first and had to sit at the table while they were still eating, that would feel difficult. Kim and I decided that her goal for Sunday would be to be the last one to finish her cake. That probably meant she’d have to eat it slowly and take small bites – but all the better for maximizing her psychological satisfaction!

Kim agreed to read her new Response Card every day this week and to continue working on eating her dessert very slowly and mindfully. She’s not 100% where she wants to be with sugar yet, but she’s definitely getting closer!

9 replies
  1. Hope Venable
    Hope Venable says:

    Very inspiring! I’m recently diagnosed with medication induced type 2 diabetes.
    Before the diagnosis I was a sugar fanatic.
    Now I’m struggling, but since reading this I have a renewed hope!
    Thank you.

  2. Julie
    Julie says:

    This sounds so simple but for those of us who have traditionally viewed “dieting” as a form of punishment, this thought process/change in mindset, can be life changing-and not just with food.

  3. A. S.
    A. S. says:

    Having hijacked Lent for an excuse to see if I could avoid “stupid sugar,” I’m now worried with Easter a few days away. I need to revisit my response cards and distraction activities. I like the idea of something less than 200 calories (or maybe 5 WW points). Cold turkey is working for Lent and I’m not sure what will work after that but I need a plan in place! Thanks for the reminders Beck Institute, that this is hard and we’re not the only ones dealing with this!

    • mhagner
      mhagner says:

      Response Cards are simply helpful ideas, messages, and responses that dieters practice reading every day and which help them respond to and overcome sabotaging thoughts.

  4. Mellissa H Fuller
    Mellissa H Fuller says:

    Today is the day. I found out about the Beck cognitive therapy program last fall. I had intended to get started with it right away. However, my husband developed a life-threatening illness and was hospitalized 60 miles from my home for over 6 weeks. I used that as an excuse to wait. Then we endured 8 weeks of home care. Two weeks ago, he had a relapse and has been hospitalized since. Yesterday, he was moved from the tertiary care center 60 miles a way to our local small hospital, also my employer. The struggle is not over, however, I can’t wait any longer. I am not just morbidly obese, but what is now called “super” obese by the medical community. I can’t afford to wait any longer. Reading just this blog has motivated me to start now! I really believe that CBT is the missing piece of the diet puzzle that I have been searching for my entire life. Please forgive the length of my msg but, I had an overwhelming need to start, now! Not tomorrow morning, but now! Thanks for listening.

  5. brenda firebaugh
    brenda firebaugh says:

    I never knew cravings would go away. It is also good to know if I want a dessert I can plan it and have a small one, not all or nothing.


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