My client Susan has been struggling to keep dessert contained after dinner. For the past few months, she was able to have two cookies (the serving size that fit into her day) and leave it at that. Recently, she has been having sabotaging thoughts about having additional cookies and often gives in.
First, Susan and I tried to figure out why she wanted more cookies. We knew that she had her dessert soon after dinner, so it wasn’t hunger that was urging her to eat more. Susan said that often when she finishes dessert, she starts doing whatever paperwork she hadn’t been able to get to during the day. One of the sabotaging thoughts she was having about eating more cookies was, “I’m not ready to get to work yet.” Susan realized that it wasn’t a desire for more cookies that was driving her to have more than her planned amount, it was a desire for more relaxation. While the cookies tasted good and she certainly didn’t mind eating more of them, it wasn’t the taste of the cookies she was craving. It was the extra break before starting work.
I reminded Susan that achieving everything on her Advantages List and getting more relaxation in the evening were not mutually exclusive goals. She could have both – so long as she didn’t use extra food as a means to relax. We came up with a plan to help her achieve both. First, we decided that she would start keeping her cookies in a container in the freezer so they would be hard to get to. When it was time to eat dessert, she would get out the container, take out her two cookies, and immediately put it back where it came from. That way, if she was tempted to get more, they wouldn’t be immediately available. We also decided that she would tape a Response Card to the container that said, “You don’t need more cookies, but you do need more relaxation. Eating extra cookies will make you mad at yourself; doing something else to relax will make you proud.”
Next, we agreed that after Susan finished her cookies, she wasn’t allowed to get to work for at least 15 minutes. That way, she would prove to herself that while dessert was over, relaxation was not. She decided that in those extra minutes, she could do some quilting, call a friend, listen to music, scroll through social media, write in her journal, read an article, or do something else fun and relaxing. Not only would this help her get the relaxation that she needed, but it would also get her mind off of cookies and on to something else, which would likely make the craving for more go away completely. With this plan in place, Susan was ready to get back on track with dessert!