Jamie came into session today and told me about a great experience she had with eating out the night before. She reported that she deliberately did several important things in preparation of going out to eat, which greatly contributed to her feeling of success. First, Jamie asked her friend if they could pick the restaurant ahead of time so that she would be able to look at the menu online and make preemptive food decisions. While she was looking at the menu earlier in the day, Jamie knew that she wanted to incorporate a reasonable portion french fries into her dinner because she loved them at this particular restaurant. Because of this choice, Jamie also definitively decided not to take anything from the bread basket when it was served although she knew that, in the moment, this wouldn’t be easy. Another thing Jamie did was make sure she got to the restaurant a few minutes early and used that time to read her Advantages List and also a response card that she had made about saying no to the bread basket. By doing this, Jamie ensured that it would be front and center in her mind why it was worth it to her to stay on track during dinner.
Jamie told me that at the restaurant she didn’t even bother looking at the menu because she didn’t want to be tempted into ording something she hadn’t planned for. Jamie ordered what she had previously decided to, and then when the bread basket came out she was able to remind herself of why she wasn’t going to have any. Jamie told me that she was surprised to find it wasn’t very difficult for her to stay away from the bread, but that she thought deciding ahead of time not to have any really did make it easier. Not so easy was when Jamie’s food came and she looked at the huge pile of french fries on her plate, knowing that she could not stick to her diet and eat them all. Jamie said that her sabotaging thoughts immediately began popping up urging her to jump in and eat them [this one time won’t matter; I’m having dinner out, I can treat myself; I did so well turning down the bread that I deserve more fries; I won’t be able to enjoy myself unless I eat all of them]. Jamie reminded herself strongly that it was worth it to her to not eat the whole portion because not only would she feel sick and mad at herself after, but she would also be giving into her resistance muscle and making it more likely that she would do the same thing in the future. Jamie also told herself that it was imperative that she prove to herself that she could eat fries and stay in control and she had NO CHOICE about not eating them all.
Throughout dinner Jamie was careful to divide her attention between talking with her friend and eating her food. Jamie knew that if she did not pay attention to her food she would wind up eating more than she had planned and she wouldn’t be able to enjoy what she did eat nearly as much. Jamie was also cognizant of the condiments she used with dinner and did not fool herself into thinking that these things did not contribute to the calorie count of her meal.
Because Jamie had thoroughly prepared herself ahead of time, she was able to stick to a very reasonable portion of fries and she was able to notice and enjoy every single one that she did eat, which enabled her to not feel deprived. Jamie and I discussed this situation in session and listed all of the many things that she deserved credit for. I asked Jamie if, looking back, she regretted not eating all of her fries or not taking from the bread basket and Jamie answered that she absolutely did not regret it; rather she felt incredibly proud of herself that she was able to stay in control and enjoy everything she ate. Jamie and I discussed this paradox – that dieters think they’ll be happy if they can eat any food they want in whatever quantity they want, when in reality most find that the exact opposite is true. This certainly was true for Jamie because actually restricting her bread and french fry intake allowed her to enjoy her meal more, knowing that she was staying in control and would still feel good about it later.