In my last blog post, I detailed a session I had with my dieter, Amy, in which we focused on her mindset and plan for her upcoming birthday. When Amy returned for her session this week, we first discussed how things went on her birthday. Amy reported that it had all gone “amazingly well” and that she followed her birthday plan exactly as it was laid out.
Debbie: Last week we discussed some of the sabotaging thoughts you’ve experienced on previous birthdays. The thought, “I won’t be able to enjoy my birthday if I stay in control of my eating,” seemed particularly strong. Did that come up this time?
Amy: It did, actually, when I was reviewing my plan before the guests came—I was thinking, “This just doesn’t seem like enough for my birthday.”
Debbie: And were you able to respond to that thought?
Amy: Yes, I did. I reminded myself that I still get to eat two pieces of dessert. . . that I’ll be full after two pieces anyway, and that I really don’t need more food, whether or not it’s my birthday.
Debbie: That’s great! Did reminding yourself about these things help?
Amy: It did, and I also read my Response Cards which helped.
Debbie: Great. Were there other times throughout the night when you had sabotaging thoughts?
Amy: The only other time was after I had two pieces of dessert. I was looking at this really delicious cake that my sister had made and I was thinking, “I really want to have another slice. I know that cake tastes so good.”
Debbie: What did you do when you had that thought?
Amy: I excused myself and went to the bathroom to read my cards – again. And I kept thinking, “You won’t be happy when you go to bed tonight if you eat more cake. You’ve done so well all evening; don’t give in now.”
Debbie: And so you were able to resist?
Amy: I was, and once everybody left and all the leftovers had been put away, I was really happy I did.
Debbie: So, this may seem like an obvious question, but looking back – do you regret not eating more cake that night?
Amy: No! Not at all. And it was one of the first birthdays I can remember in which I went to bed not feeling stuffed. . . and instead, feeling really good about my eating. It was great.
Amy did really well on her birthday, although, as we predicted in our previous session, she did experience sabotaging thoughts. However, because we had taken time in advance to formulate responses to possible sabotaging thoughts and she had taken the time to prepare before her party, she was able to effectively respond to them and not give in. And, Amy experienced what most dieters eventually find to be true: once the event was over, she didn’t regret not eating more. In fact, instead of feeling deprived, she felt proud of herself for the things she didn’t eat because she was able to go to bed feeling good about herself and her eating.
Amy next told me about a challenging experience she had later that week. Two evenings after her birthday, she was reading before bed and found herself thinking about (and having a craving for) the leftover cake that she had wrapped up and put in the freezer after her party. Amy told me that she struggled for a while about whether or not to give in to her craving, but ultimately her sabotaging thoughts got the better of her; she ended up going downstairs and eating a large piece of cake.
Amy and I discussed this situation in more depth, including the sabotaging thoughts that led her to give in to a craving that night. Amy realized that one of her strongest sabotaging thoughts was, simply: “That cake was so good. I really want to eat some of it right now.” I asked Amy what her plan was supposed to have been for the leftover cake and she responded, “I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought about it.” Amy and I discussed this further and we realized that one of the reasons she was unable to effectively respond to her sabotaging thoughts that night was because she didn’t have a plan for when she was going to enjoy the rest of the cake. Because she didn’t have a plan, she was unable to say to herself (something like), “Even though I want to eat the cake right now, I’m planning on having it tomorrow, and I can definitely wait until then. Besides, if I eat it tomorrow when I’ve planned to, I will be able to enjoy it so much more because I won’t feel guilty about it.”
Amy and I then came up with a new rule for her: whenever she has a highly tempting food in her house, she is going to make a plan for when she’s going to eat it. We agreed that this will make it so much easier to resist cravings that arise at any one given moment, because she will know exactly when she does get to eat it.
This session with Amy is a good example of the importance of both successes and challenging “slip ups”. Even though Amy ended up giving in to a craving, we learned something very important from her experience. And we were able to figure out an important guideline for her which will help her handle similar challenges more easily in the future.