Feeling Good vs. Good Consequences

This week I had a session with my dieter, Rachel. Rachel told me that overall things have been going well. Previously, Rachel struggled a lot with overeating in the afternoons, but she has gotten that under control. The one thing she was still really struggling with was sugar. She told me that in the evenings, she’d just been eating too many sweets. Her husband keeps desserts around, and despite her vow not to, most evenings Rachel would veer off her plan and overeat the sweets in the kitchen. “The funny thing is, it doesn’t even feel good,” Rachel told me. “It makes me feel bloated and lethargic and increases my cravings. I don’t like the way I feel when I’m having too much sugar. I don’t know why I do it!”

piece of cakeI discussed with Rachel that although eating a lot of sugar tasted good, it didn’t ultimately make her feel good (and it stopped her from really being able to lose weight). When she thinks about eating more sugar, she’s focusing on the taste, not the consequences that follow. This is extremely common. Especially when it comes to eating, people fail to consider the consequences and think only about the momentary experience. “There must be some good analogy for this,” I told her. “Can you think of any other examples in your life where you want to do something but don’t because of the consequences?”

Rachel came up with the perfect analogy: “It’s like yelling at your boss,” she said. “In the moment it would feel really good, but you wouldn’t do it because the consequences would be terrible.” Rachel made a Response Card to remind her of the idea that overeating dessert was like yelling at her boss: very satisfying in the moment but absolutely 100% not worth it.

Rachel and I also came up with a few more strategies to help her get her sugar cravings under control. First, she would ask her husband to keep his desserts in his study, a room she rarely enters. That way, they will be out of sight and out of mind. We also decided Rachel would plan her dessert in advance every day, and not make any spontaneous dessert decisions. She would read Response Cards every night right before she had dessert, and again afterward, if she was tempted to eat more. She would work hard to make decisions based on the consequences of overeating dessert, not on how eating more would taste in the moment.

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