Play it Forward

In session this week, my client, Liz, told me about a situation that occurred the day before where she was tempted to get off track but didn’t. She was at the hospital while her husband was getting a short outpatient procedure, and she was feeling anxious. She went for a walk, saw a vending machine and looked at what snacks were available. She saw M&M’s, which was problematic because historically this kind of candy was what she turned to whenever she felt stressed, anxious or angry. Liz told me that she strongly considered getting the M&M’s, rationalizing that she was feeling nervous and that they would help her calm down and get through the tough waiting period.

Then Liz did something that is extraordinarily hard to do – she considered the consequences of buying and eating the M&M’s before actually doing so versus the positive consequences of not doing that. She realized that if she ate them, she would end up feeling mad at herself for exercising her giving-in muscle and not sticking to her plan. (Liz has a rule of not eating dessert before dinner). She would also risk knocking herself off track for the rest of the day. After thinking it through this way, Liz concluded that buying the M&M’s was really not worth it because – although they would taste good and perhaps distract her from her anxiety temporarily – nothing positive would ultimately come of it. On the other hand, she knew she’d very soon feel proud of herself for resisting them.

Learning to play it forward is a critical step in dieters starting to make decisions that support their goals, not decisions based on what they feel like eating in any one given moment.

This is a technique called “play it forward” – thinking through what happens after you eat something (or don’t eat something) before you ever put a bite of Jar of candiesit in your mouth. Usually when dieters are faced with eating something they want to eat, in that moment they’re thinking about how good it will taste, how much they want it, and how deprived they’ll feel if they can’t have it. What they’re not instinctively doing is playing the tape past the actual eating part and looking at what will happen once the food is gone. Or what will happen if they stick to their plan.

Because Liz was able to recognize that eating M&M’s wouldn’t be worth it in the long run, she was able to keep walking. Learning to play it forward is a critical step in dieters starting to make decisions that support their goals, not decisions based on what they feel like eating in any one given moment. The next time you’re faced with eating something that’s not on your plan: PLAY IT FORWARD! Consider how you’ll feel and where you’ll be once the food is gone, and whether that’s a place you want to end up. Then think about how you’ll feel once the desire to go off-track passes and you recognize how much credit you deserve for resisting.

3 replies
  1. Anna Gniotek
    Anna Gniotek says:

    Liz’s response to temptation is probably the most important decision for maintaining weigh loss. For me, it is key.

  2. Sharon Kay
    Sharon Kay says:

    Playing it forward is HUGE for me whenever I think about having alcohol. I am doing well 60 days without toxins and 60 days FOR me. Yes, it’s summer and we have a pool and parties and the temptations are here when people are enjoying beer and margaritas. I wear my best bikini and re-think/play-forward how I’ll feel in the morning, bloated from a drink that could turn to “Screw it, I’ve had one. I’ll have a beer, chips, salt, sodiium…and lose the wheels of the bus!!!!!, etcetera.) I awake each and every morning AFTER such days and feel fabulous when I look into the mirror and see an unpuffy face, the scale reflects my resistance muscles are working, and it is a key to my success! (As is eating sitting down, no matter what, thinking: “Dr. Beck wouldn’t approve if I eat this standing up!”) And I have a few “Dr. Beck friends,” and we laugh about it!!!!!


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