Tuesday Reality Check: Are you buying things at the grocery store in case you might want them over the next week? Is having those things at home taxing your resistance muscle? If so, leave the struggle at the store! Stop buying them and save yourself hours of struggle over the next weeks.
Monday Motivation: This is undeniably a hard and strange time. If you’re having thoughts like, “I can’t focus on healthy eating right now,” remind yourself that healthy eating is important now more than ever! Being healthy and feeling in control is extra important when life is hard and there are so many factors out of our control.
Intuitive eating is a great concept, but we find that for many people who have struggled with their eating, their intuition can be unreliable. It urges them to eat when they’re bored. It tells them to eat when they’re stressed, anxious, celebrating or angry. Their intuition doesn’t differentiate between hunger, being tired or having a craving. For this reason, we work with many of our clients on eating according to a set schedule throughout the day. In doing so, they rely on the clock and their predetermined eating structure to tell them when to eat, not what is going on internally.
Because of this, many of our clients find themselves in the position of wanting to eat but it not being time to eat. What motivates this desire to eat? It could be one of 100 different things: hunger, stress, boredom, fatigue, anxiety, anger, wanting to procrastinate, sadness, loneliness and so on. Here are three things that we work with clients on doing when they want to eat but it’s not yet time.
My client Jason found that his mind often strayed to what food was in his kitchen mid-morning. He’d already had a good breakfast, and lunch usually wasn’t for at least another hour or two, yet Jason found himself with very strong food cravings many mornings. Jason and I discussed what was typically happening around the time of his food cravings, and he realized it was usually right around when he was figuring out his work schedule for the day and trying to figure out how to accomplish everything he needed to do. We determined that the desire to eat wasn’t about hunger, it was about stress and/or having trouble getting work started. Jason came up with the strategy of doing a 10-minute mindfulness meditation every day after breakfast and before he started work, to help get centered and focused for the day. He found within the first week that this made a huge difference in getting through the mornings without wanting to eat.
Go for a walk/get some exercise
My client Rachel found that she had developed a food “witching hour” – usually around 4 or 5 p.m., during which her food cravings were very strong and she had a hard time not going into the kitchen and eating snack after snack. Like many people, Rachel is now working from home and we realized that much of her “witching hour” food cravings were not actually about a craving for food, it was Rachel’s brain craving a transition from her work day to her evening. In the past, Rachel would walk home most days (which took her about 25 minutes) and without even meaning to, that walk was likely the signal that her workday was over. We decided that every day (weather permitting) at 4:30 Rachel would go out for a walk (or do yoga inside if she needed to). This way, not only would she be out of the house and away from the kitchen, she would be giving herself a transition between work and home and getting in some exercise.
Read Response Cards and do a distracting activity
My client Jen was struggling to maintain control over her eating in the evenings. After dinner and getting her kids to bed, Jen would settle in front of the television with her husband and just want to eat and eat. For Jen, we did two things. First, we instituted a set evening snack time of 8:30 p.m. This was the midpoint for her between settling in for the evening and going to bed. When Jen was tempted to eat before her snack time, the first thing she would do was read Response Cards and remind herself exactly why it was worth it to her to wait. Then, she would do an activity. While watching TV with her husband was great, it still left enough of Jen’s mind idle, and when her mind was idle, it turned to food. We decided that while she watched TV, she would do another activity to fully engage her brain, like an adult coloring book, knitting or playing a game on her phone.
If you are struggling with wanting to eat too often throughout the day, consider if any of these strategies might work for you, too.
Friday Weekend Warm-up: You can eat a slice of cake in 5 bites or 20 bites. Either way it’s the same amount of food, but you get to enjoy it 15 more times when you eat slowly and in smaller bites, which can greatly increase your satisfaction. This weekend: focus on eating more slowly, more mindfully, and taking smaller bites!
Think Thin Thursday: If you’re having trouble getting yourself to stop eating something because it tastes really good, remind yourself that stopping comes with some huge benefits – you get to feel in control and on track, you don’t take in too many calories, you enable yourself to lose weight, you don’t ruin the ruin the enjoyment of the eating experience by overeating, etc. Stopping isn’t a negative!
Wednesday Sabotage: The scale isn’t moving. This is so discouraging, maybe I’ll give up.
Response: While it’s true it’s discouraging when the scale doesn’t move, it doesn’t mean I should give up. If I give up, it will never move down (and it’s almost guaranteed to move up). If I keep doing what I’m doing, it will eventually move down, and when it does, I’ll be so glad I stuck with it.
Tuesday Reality Check: Losing weight takes FOCUS; it doesn’t just happen. If you’re struggling, take a moment to think about whether or not you’ve been putting enough time and energy into it. Remember, if it’s not a top priority, chances are excellent it’s not going to happen.
Monday Motivation: It’s undeniably true that there are disadvantages to losing weight – not eating as much as you want, whenever you want, having to watch portions, not eating or drinking the same things as other people may be, but it’s important to compare those to the advantages of losing weight – better health, improved self-confidence, increased mobility, better quality of life (in so many ways), etc. Ask yourself: which is more important to me?
Friday Weekend Warm-up: This weekend, make sure you have reasonable expectations! If you expect to be able to eat like everyone around you, then you’ll wind up feeling deprived. Keep in mind that you are eating in a completely normal way – for someone who is trying to lose weight and/or keep it off.
Think Thin Thursday: It takes less willpower to stick to an eating decision that you’ve made ahead of time than it does to try to use willpower in the moment to make a good decision. Plan in advance!
The Beck Diet Program was developed by Dr. Judith S. Beck with Deborah Beck Busis, LCSW.
Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a leading international source for training, therapy, and resources in CBT.
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