In Session with Debbie: Two Events

In session last week, my client, Jeremy, told me that he was feeling worried because he had two events to attend on Saturday night.  He explained to me that there would be a lot of food at each one and he was nervous about his ability to stay on track.  I reminded Jeremy that it’s never the situation in and of itself that would cause him to get off track –it wouldn’t be the fact that he was at an event surrounded by a lot of appetizing food that everyone else was eating that would cause him to overeat, it would be his thinking about the situation. So we needed to do two things: first, come up with a plan for how he would handle his eating, and second, figure out in advance what sabotaging thoughts he might have that would lead him to stray from this plan and come up with responses to them. 

Jeremy and I discussed the two events and decided that a reasonable course of action would be for him to have dinner at the first event and a reasonable portion of one dessert, or smaller portions of two desserts, at the second event.  Jeremy also decided to stick to water or club soda, knowing that he would rather spend his calories on food, and also because he would be driving. 

Next I asked Jeremy to think about what sabotaging thoughts he might have at either even that would lead him to get off track.  Here are the sabotaging thoughts that Jeremy came up with and our responses:

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat extra because I’m celebrating.

Response: My body doesn’t know or care that I’m celebrating; it processes all calories in the same way regardless.

 

Sabotaging Thought: I’ll make it for it later by eating less during the week.

Response:  “Making up for it later” just doesn’t work because there’s no guarantee that I’ll actually be able to get myself to eat less later on.  It also doesn’t work because if I overeat, I reinforce my giving-in muscle and make it more likely I’ll overeat the next time, and the time after that.  It’s important to continually reinforce the habit of eating consistently. It’s not about the calories, it’s about the habit.

 

Sabotaging Thought: I really want it.

Response:  It’s true, I do really want that food. But I EVEN MORE want all the benefits of losing weight (better health, fewer aches and pains, improved self-confidence, getting to feel like myself again).  Either way I’m missing out on something I want. If I overeat, I miss out on the advantages of losing weight. But if I miss out on extra food, then I GET all the advantages of losing weight. 

 

Sabotaging Thought: Everyone else is eating a lot, why can’t I?

Response:  My body doesn’t know or care what anybody around me is eating, it only knows what I eat. So just because everyone else is eating (and drinking) a lot, doesn’t mean that I can. My body doesn’t care what they’re doing.

 

Sabotaging Thought: My wife won’t know about it, so it’s okay.

Response: My wife won’t know about it, but I’ll know about it, and my body will know about it. If I overeat, I’ll negatively impact myself psychologically and physically. Psychologically because I’ll reinforce old, maladaptive habits and I’ll also feel badly and guilty about my eating.  Physically because I’ll likely feel overly full, take in too many calories, and possibly gain weight. 

Jeremy decided that he would review his eating plan, his Advantages List, and these Response Cards before each event (and during them if he felt vulnerable to overeating while he was there). 

When Jeremy came back to see me this week he reported that the events had been a success and that, with the strategies and tools we put in place, he was able to stay completely on track. This is a great example of how any situation can be handled, no matter how difficult it may seem initially, when dieters take time to formulate a plan, think about what sabotaging thoughts might get in the way of them sticking to their plans, and then coming up with responses so they don’t give in. 

In Session with Debbie: Food Gifts

My dieter, Karen, is a well-loved teacher, whose students frequently bring in treats and baked goods for her.  Karen is always very appreciative of these gestures and often brings the treats home for her husband to enjoy, too.  In session last week, Karen told me that she recently realized that her husband rarely ate the treats she brought home and that, in moments of weakness, she often ended up eating a lot of them, even when she didn’t really want them.  Karen had never had much of a sweet tooth, and it wasn’t often that sweets or baked goods would call her name.  However, since she often had a steady stream of them, supplied by her students and their appreciative parents, Karen found herself eating more and more of them both because she didn’t want to seem ungrateful and because they were “there.”  Karen told me that it seemed very rude to not eat what her students and their parents had so generously given her. 

Karen and I discussed this situation in session and we realized one thing: Karen could not continue to eat all of the treats her students gave her and lose and maintain a healthy weight.  Karen once again stressed that it wasn’t even that she particularly wanted to eat the treats, but it seemed very ungrateful to her not to.  I asked Karen how she felt whenever a student brought in a treat, and she said that it always made her feel very good and appreciated.  I then asked Karen why she thought her students’ parents sent in treats for her, and Karen replied that they probably did so to show their appreciation to Karen and to let her know that they valued the work she was doing with their children. 

I pointed out to Karen the simple logic of what she had just stated: her students brought in baked goods and treats for her to show their appreciation and gratitude for her work, and Karen felt very appreciated and happy when she received these things – without ever putting a bite of food in her mouth.  Karen and I discussed the fact that even if she didn’t eat what her students brought in, this doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel grateful for the gesture and what it symbolizes. She experiences the purpose of the gesture whether or not she eats anything. 

Karen was able to take to heart the logic of this idea and realized that if she continued to eat all of the treats that her students brought in (even when she didn’t want to), it would actually negate the point of them in the first place because it would cause her to feel badly about herself and her eating. 

The moral of the story: if someone gives you a gift of food, you never need to actually eat the gift to accept the person’s gratitude and for the gesture to have meaning.  What happens after you accept the gift in no way takes away from the meaning behind it.

In Session with Debbie: The Drive-Through

My client, Jason, works long hours and isn’t much of a cook. When he gets off work and wants dinner, his options are usually pretty limited.  Jason often winds up going to a drive-through restaurant, and he doesn’t usually make the healthiest choices.  Jason told me that while there are healthy (or, at least, healthier) options available, he has a hard time sticking to them when the time comes to place his order.

In previous sessions, Jason and I had spent a lot of time talking about how he can stay in control when he eats out with friends.  Although Jason used to have very big and very caloric meals every time he went to a restaurant, in the past few months he has made a lot of progress in making healthier choices and not finishing everything on his plate.

In session, Jason and I discussed what strategies he has been using to stay on track at restaurants to see if any of them would translate to the drive-through.  Jason told me that the most effective strategy for him has been to look at the menu ahead of time and decide what he’ll have, and then not even look at the menu once he gets to the restaurant.  He also has a Response Card that he reads before he goes out to eat:

Every time I stick to my healthy choice I feel great after eating. Every time I veer off track and order something else, I feel guilty after eating.  Sticking to my healthy choice not only enables me to lose weight, but it makes me feel so much better.

Jason and I discussed this further and realized that this same exact strategy would be very helpful for him when going through drive-thoughs, too.  Jason decided that he would make it a policy to look at the drive-through menu online before he left work at night and decide in advance what to have.  When he got to the drive-through window, he would then place his order without looking at the posted menu, just as he does in restaurants.

Jason also came up with an additional strategy: Since he tends to frequent the same drive-throughs, he decided that for each one he would come up with a few different meal combinations and record them in his phone. That way, if he was in a rush to leave work, he wouldn’t have to spend time looking up the menu, he could just pick something from his phone.  Jason also made the following Response Card to keep in his car and read when he was waiting in line to place his order:

I’ve already decided what to order so I don’t even need to look at the menu or consider what else I might want.  The decision has been made, and sticking to this decision will make me feel so much better. It’s worth it.

With these strategies in place, Jason was finally able to stay in control both when eating out in restaurants and when going through the drive-through.

In Session with Debbie: Treats in the Office

Last week I had a session with my dieter, Joe.  Joe works in a large office and told me that this time of year, holiday treats are everywhere.  Over the past few weeks, Joe had been having a very hard time maintaining control over his sweet tooth and his sugar cravings. 

In session last week, I told Joe that one of the strategies that works well for many dieters is to make the decision to have one treat per day. It could be at any time of his choosing, but most of our clients decide to have one treat per day after dinner. That way, they get to look forward to having dessert all day long and it is easier for them to turn down treats during the day because they are able to say to themselves, “I don’t need to have this now, I know I get to have something after dinner.”  Joe thought about this and decided that that would work well for him because he really likes to have dessert after dinner with his wife, and so he knew that if he had his one treat during the day, he would really miss it in the evening. Joe and I discussed the fact that if there was something that looked really good at work, he could always take a portion of it home and have it after dinner.

Joe told me that while he realized that having one treat per day, after dinner, was a good plan which would help him get through the holidays without gaining weight, he knew it wouldn’t be easy to stick to.  Joe and I discussed what thoughts he might have that would get in the way of him sticking to his plan and came up with Responses to them.  Here are the sabotaging thoughts and response:

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay just this one time to have a treat at the office.

Response: It’s not okay just this one time! Every time matters because every time I’m either strengthening my giving-in muscle or my resistance muscle.  If I give in and eat this treat now, I’ll make it so much harder to stick to my plan the next time.  This time matters because every time matters so I have to stand firm and strengthen my resistance habit.

 

Sabotaging Thought: This treat looks really good. I just want to eat it.

Response: While I want to eat this treat right now, I so much more want all the benefits of losing weight. Even though I want it, it’s worth it to me not to eat it right now. Besides, if it’s something I really like, I can always take it home and have it later. It’s not that I can’t eat it, it’s just that I’m not going to eat it right now.

 

Sabotaging Thought: I can’t resist those cookies – they look too good.

Response: It’s true that it’s hard to resist but it’s not true that I can’t.  There is a difference between things that are impossible and things that are hard. Telling myself I ‘can’t’ resist is really just an excuse to give in. I’ve resisted plently of cravings before, and I know I can now, too. Besides, when I give in I feel crappy and when I resist I feel great!

 

Sabotaging Thought: I don’t want to have to think about healthy eating right now so I’m just going to give in and have this treat.

Response: There’s no such thing as ‘not thinking about it.’ If I decide to ‘not think about it’ and eat the treat now, I’ll definitely think about it a lot later when I’m feeling guilty and badly about my eating.  On the other hand, if I do put in the effort to think about it now and resist, I’ll feel so great and proud later that I did.

 

Sabotaging Thought: Maybe I should have just one cookie right now.  I can’t decide

Response: I’ve already made the decision not to have any! There is no decision to be made in this moment.  Move on and get distracted with something else.

When Joe came in to see me this week he told that things had been going really well and he was feeling much more in control both during work and after.  Joe told me that there were many days that he was tempted to eat treats at the office but by reading his Response Cards each day, he was able to respond to his sabotaging thoughts and resist – and that he always felt so great about it once the craving had passed.  What Joe experienced is what many dieters eventually come to experience –  he found that not eating the treats (as a result of giving in to a momentary craving) felt even better than eating them because he was able to maintain his sense of control and he didn’t have any guilt or regret about his eating. Joe told me that sticking to his holiday treat plan was often not easy, but it was always 100% worth it.

In Session with Debbie: After Party Plan

This week I had a session with my dieter, Audrey, who is having a holiday-themed housewarming party on Sunday.  In session we discussed how she would handle this – although we didn’t spend very much time talking about what she would do during the actual party.  Over the last few months, Audrey has had a lot of practice going to parties and has gotten very good at doing things like making plans in advance, eating everything sitting down, not taking seconds, reading Response Cards, and saying no to food pushers.  Audrey is also a classic secret eating – she is able to control her eating when other people are around and watching, but once she is alone, staying on track becomes much more difficult. Because of this, we knew that the main struggle for Audrey would be staying on track once the party was over and everyone had left, so that is what we focused on in session. Here is the After Party Plan we came up with:

Get rid of as many leftovers as possible. Knowing that she has trouble when she has crunchy, snacky food and sweets lying around the house, Audrey decided that she would send home as many leftovers as she could with her family and friends to minimize what she had left once the party was over.

Assess what leftovers are left and make a plan.  Audrey knew that she would make her life much easier if she had a plan for each component of leftover party food and so for each one she would decide whether to keep it, throw it away, or bring it to her office the next day.

Put the office leftovers right into the trunk of her car.  Audrey knew that, even if she had a pile of leftovers specifically ear-marked for her office, there was still a chance she would get into them Sunday night if they were hanging around on her counter. Because of this, Audrey decided that out of sight-out of mind was her best strategy and so she would put the office leftovers right into the trunk of her car where she couldn’t see them or easily access them.

Immediately throw away what leftovers she was planning to toss.  Audrey knew it might be difficult to get herself to actually throw away certain leftovers, and identified that these are the sabotaging thoughts she’s most likely to have: “I paid for it so I should eat it,” and, “I might have company over again soon so I should save the half box of crackers for then.”  To help her overcome these sabotaging thoughts, Audrey made the following Response Cards:

I’ve already paid for the food and so the money is already gone. Eating the food won’t bring the money back, it will just cause me to take in extra calories and gain weight. Just throw it out!

The cost of keeping a half box of crackers is so much higher than the cost of throwing it out and buying another one the next time I have company. If I keep it, I’ll likely end up overeating them, getting off track, and feeling badly and guilty.  It’s worth the cost of a new box of crackers to stop this from happening.

Individually portion the leftovers she was keeping and make a plan for when she would eat them.  Audrey decided that there were some leftovers that would be worth keeping because she could bring them as part of her lunch over the next week or have them for dessert in the evening. However, Audrey also knew that having large bags of snacks has been problematic in the past, so she decided that she would immediately divide the leftovers into individual portions and then wrap them up.  Audrey also knew that having highly tempting food around her apartment with no specific plan of when she would eat it was a recipe for causing lots of struggle, so she decided that she would figure out ahead of time exactly when she would have it. That way, she was much less likely to go overboard when she did eat this tempting food because she would be able to say to herself, “I don’t need to eat more now, I know I can have it again tomorrow.  And, if I wait until tomorrow, I’ll enjoy it more because I won’t feel guilty about eating it.”

Thanksgiving Night: How Do You Want To Feel?

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s high time dieters begin to think about how they’ll handle their eating on that day.  While Thanksgiving is considered by many to be a day in which it’s just too difficult to control their eating, it doesn’t have to be that way.  When we help dieters formulate their Thanksgiving plan, we always ask them to think about one important thing: How do you want to feel going to bed once Thanksgiving is over?

Asking dieters this question reminds them that the experience of Thanksgiving is not limited to the time when  they’re eating with family and friends. The experience also extends to how they feel afterwards.  Dieters often have sabotaging thoughts such as,  “If I have to limit how much I eat,  I just won’t be able to enjoy myself.” If they then overeat, they may wind up feeling sick – physically and psychologically: physically, because they consumed way too much food and psychologically, because they feel out of control and guilty for overeating.

When we ask dieters how they want to feel once Thanksgiving is over, they usually say  something along the lines of, “I want to feel full and satisfied and I also want to feel good about myself.”   We then ask, ” Will getting off track and overeating on Thanksgiving lead you to feeling that way?”  Because the answer is no, we suggest  coming up with a plan that will make them feel good.   It makes sense to dieters that they simply  can’t have it both ways: They can’t way overeat during Thanksgiving and still wind up feeling proud and in control – these are incompatible goals.

We remind dieters, that it’s not all-or-nothing. It’s not as if they can eat every bite of food that they want or they can’t eat any food that they want; in fact, there is a huge middle ground between these two extremes. While it’s true that they may not be able to eat as much of everything they want and still go to bed feeling good that night, it’s also true that they can eat reasonable portions, enjoy every bite that they take, and feel really good.

In Session with Debbie: Weekend Strategies

This week I had a session with my client, Rachel.  Historically, Rachel was a dieter who was able to eat healthfully during the week but would tend to “lose it” during the weekends.  Over the last few weeks, Rachel and I have been working hard to come up with strategies, techniques, and responses to her weekend sabotaging thoughts so that she would be able to maintain her control throughout the weekend.  When Rachel came to see me this week, she told me that things have finally turned around for her and that she’s noticed a significant change in her ability to stay on track during the weekend.  How did Rachel do this?

Rachel ate the same way she did during week days.  Rachel says one of the most important shifts she has made is finally accepting that, if she wants to lose weight and keep it off, her weekend eating just can’t be all that different from her weekday eating. Rachel started reminding herself that her body doesn’t know or care that it’s the weekend and that it will process all calories the same no matter what day of the week it is.

Rachel stuck to a weekend eating schedule. One strategy that really helped Rachel gain control over her eating during the week was following a set schedule of eating. This enabled her to cut out the all-day grazing she used to do because she had defined times for when she would eat and when she wouldn’t. Initially, Rachel resisted following this schedule during the weekend, saying that she wanted her weekends to have more spontaneity.  Rachel found, however, that not having an eating schedule on the weekend led her back to constantly grazing in the kitchen and continually asking herself, “Should I have eat now?” This meant that she struggled with whether or not to eat so much more often than she did during the week – and it also meant that she took in many more calories.  Rachel realized that it was worth giving up her eating spontaneity (but not necessarily her activity spontaneity) if it meant she regained her sense of peace!

Rachel began exercising at least once during the weekend. Rachel was always good at getting herself to exercise during the week, but she used to think that weekends were an excuse to not move a muscle. Rachel knew that, on the days she exercised during the week, it made her feel better, more energized, and more easily able to stick to healthy eating.  Rachel realized that not exercising on the weekend played into her “unhealthy weekend” mindset, and that getting herself to do at least 30 minutes of walking outside, either Saturday or Sunday, made her feel just as good as it did during the week.  Rachel changed her thought from, “Exercising on the weekend will make my weekend worse,” to, “Exercising on the weekend will make me feel great, just as it does during the week. It makes my weekend better, not worse.”

Rachel got out of the kitchen when it wasn’t a time to eat.  During the week, Rachel works in an office and can’t spend the whole day hanging out in her work kitchen.  During the weekend, however, Rachel was in the habit of spending a lot of time in her kitchen because it’s one of her favorite rooms in her house. Rachel realized that this was really working against her because the more time she spent in her kitchen, the harder it was for her not to think about food and eating.  Rachel instead set up a nice area for herself in her living room, with a new chair she really liked, and decided that, at least for the time being, the kitchen would only be for eating, not for hanging out. This made a huge difference for Rachel because once she wasn’t constantly looking at food, it made it easier to focus on other things.

Halloween Survival Guide

We sent this out last year (if you want to receive our free e-newsletter, you can sign up here), but there are probably people who haven’t seen it before and/or people who would benefit from reading it again! Here are some Halloween-specific strategies that will help you stick to your plan this October 31st and the days surrounding it.

Remember: Candy is available year-round! Dieters tend to load up and eat lots of candy on Halloween, saying to themselves, “Well, it only occurs once a year.”  That’s true, but Halloween is once a year, every year, and candy is available every day of the year. Drug stores and supermarkets sell fun-sized candy bars year-round, so you don’t need to load up now. You can buy candy any time.

Don’t buy candy until you need it. This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it’s an important one. Many people buy Halloween candy a few weeks in advance, perhaps rationalizing that “it will be good to have that task over with,” “I won’t have to worry about stores running out,” and “I can get the candy on sale.” And then what usually happens? They end up eating some (or all) of it before the big day. Even when dieters are able to wait to break into the candy until Halloween itself, it can be a daily struggle to resist. There is a very simple solution to this problem: Don’t purchase candy in advance.  Even if it adds a small amount of cost or an additional chore on your already busy October 31st, isn’t it worth not having to worry about giving in and expending the mental energy to resist until it’s time?

Buy candy that you don’t like so much in bulk and just a single serving of your favorite candy.  You’ll obviously have the most trouble resisting your favorite candy, so buy candy in bulk that you don’t enjoy as much—you’ll have an easier time resisting it, and when Halloween is over, it will probably be easier for you to throw away the leftovers, give them away, or donate them. You can and should buy a single-serving of the candy you like the most. This way, you’ll be able to savor your favorite candy without worrying about having to stop yourself from going back for more.

Remember, the Halloween experience lasts for longer than one day. Even though the holiday itself is just a day, it is highly likely that you will come in contact with Halloween treats on the days leading up to and following October 31st.  Be on the lookout for the common sabotaging thought, “I’m going to eat a lot of extra candy on Halloween, but it’s okay because it’s only one day.” This thought does not take into account the candy that you come in contact with before Halloween, the candy you might have left over, the candy in your office kitchen, at your friends’ homes, and at the parties and events you attend, before and after October 31st.  If you’re making a plan for Halloween, it’s important to factor in the days before and after, too.

Get rid of left overs!  If extra candy is in your house, you’re likely to be tempted to eat it at some point.  If you want to avoid having to resist leftovers, there are plenty of ways to get rid of them. Give them away, donate them, bring them in to work, or simply throw them away.  If you have the sabotaging thought, “I can’t throw the candy away because it would be a waste of money,” remind yourself, “Either way the money is already gone. Eating the candy won’t bring it back.”  One way or another, if you can limit your amount of exposure to leftover candy, you’ll make it so much easier on yourself.  And if your kids go trick-or-treating, it’s also a good idea to immediately get rid of the candy they don’t like or can’t eat. If you keep it around, you may end up eating it or struggling to resist it.  Remember, even though it may cost you a bit, in the long-run, you’ll probably  end up saving yourself thousands of calories by getting rid of extra Halloween candy and instead buying yourself a single serving of your favorite candy that you’ve planned to eat. This will help guarantee that you enjoy your favorite treat, when you really want it, and without the guilt.

Are You a Social Eater or a Secret Eater?

In my work with dieters, I find that many of them tend to fall into either the category of “Social Eaters” or “Secret Eaters.”  Social eaters are those who have a lot of trouble staying in control when they are out and eating with other people.  They are highly influenced by what everyone around them is eating and drinking and often feel deprived if they don’t eat in the same way.  By contrast, secret eaters often have a much easier time staying in control when they are eating in front of other people and tend to lose it when they are back at home, alone.  Regardless of which type of eater you may be (and some dieters fall into both categories), your greatest defense is figuring out in advance what sabotaging thoughts you’re likely to have in either situation and come up with responses to them.  Here are some examples:

Social eating sabotaging thoughts

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this because everyone around me is eating it.

Response: My body doesn’t know or care what everyone around me is eating; it only knows what I eat. So just because everyone around me is eating a lot, doesn’t necessarily mean that I can.

Sabotaging Thought: I’ll be deprived if I can’t eat what everyone around me is eating.

Response: Either way I’m deprived. Either I’m deprived of some food some of the time (but not all food, all of the time), or I’m deprived of all the benefits of losing weight. Which would be the bigger deprivation?

Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair I can’t eat normally like everyone else.

Response: I have to redefine my definition of “normal” eating. In fact, I am eating 100% normally for someone of my age and my gender with my weight loss goals.

Secret eating sabotaging thoughts

Sabotaging Thought: I was so good when I was out and there so much food I didn’t eat, so it’s okay to eat this now.

Response: My body doesn’t know all the food I didn’t eat, it only knows what I do eat. So just because I turned down lots of food before doesn’t mean that I can eat extra now.

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this because no one is watching.

Response: Although it may feel okay to eat extra because I’m alone, the reality is that my body doesn’t know if 100 people are watching me eat or if no one is watching me eat, it processes all calories the same. So it’s absolutely irrelevant whether or not I’m alone when I overeat – overeating is overeating.

Whether you’re a social eater or a secret eater, another helpful technique is to make a plan, in advance, of what you’ll eat in those situations. For social eaters, if you know you’re going out to dinner with friends, decide in advance what you’re going to eat and then respond to sabotaging thoughts in the moment to ensure that you stick to your plan. Remember that, if you want to lose weight, what everyone else around you is eating has no bearing on what you eat. Stick to your plan and you’ll be so happy, once the event is over, that you did.

For social eaters, plan in advance what, if anything, you’ll eat when you arrive back home.  If your plan is to eat nothing, avoid the kitchen entirely.  If your plan is to have either a snack or a mug of hot tea when you get home, get everything together before you leave (for example, put a tea bag in a mug on your table) so that way when you get home, it will be easy to remember exactly what your plan is and you won’t have to go rooting in the cupboards.  Respond to sabotaging thoughts that would encourage you to eat something you hadn’t planned to eat.  Stick to your plan and you’ll be so happy, once the night is over, that you did.

In Session with Debbie: Getting Through a Hard Time

My dieter, Diane, is going through a hard time. In session she told me that, over the past week, it has been much harder for her to get herself to do what she needs to do, and she hasn’t been as focused on skills like eating everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully.  I told Diane what I tell every dieter going through a hard time: hard times are normal, they happen to everyone, but they always pass and things will get easier again.

In order to help this hard time go away more quickly, Diane and I first discussed how she could get herself to be more focused on her skills.  Diane said that part of the reason she was having trouble getting herself to eat sitting down is because she was having sabotaging thoughts like, “It’s just some grapes, so it’s really okay to eat them while I’m walking to my car.”  I reminded Diane what she used to remember very clearly – that it’s not about the calories, it’s about the habit.

“Every time you eat something standing up,” I told her, “whether it has 20 calories or 2,000 calories, you’re still reinforcing the habit of giving in and making it more likely you’ll give in the next time, too.”  Diane and I discussed that not only was eating sitting down every single time important to reinforce the habit of sitting down, but it was also important because every time she ate standing up, she reinforced the more general habit of giving in and sent herself the message, “It’s okay to not do what I say I’m going to do.”  Because Diane was going through a hard time, it was particularly important for her to focus on small, as well as big habits, because once she allowed leniency in one area, it would quickly extend to other areas, making it much harder for her to do what she needs to do.

Diane told me that she had also been having sabotaging thoughts about not wanting to follow the “rules” and feeling rebellious.  “I don’t know,” she said, “I just don’t feel like following the rules lately. I guess I want more freedom.”   To help with this, I said to Diane, “If you think about it, we’ve never used the word ‘rules’ in session, and part of why you’re struggling with this right now may be because you’re using that word with yourself.  I wonder if, when you say that you don’t feel like following the rules, it brings back memories of being a kid and having rules imposed on you by sources of authority – and usually those rules were things you didn’t want to do and weren’t happy about.  Right now, it’s completely different. No one is imposing these diet rules on you. Instead, these are thing you’re doing for yourself in the service of reaching really, really important goals.”  Diane agreed that it would be helpful for her to remind herself that these are not like the rules she had to follow as a child, and that if she didn’t practice good eating habits, the only person she’d be rebelling against is herself.

Next, Diane and I discussed her wanting ‘freedom.’  “Let’s talk about you feeling a lack of freedom,” I said to her. “You’ve already lost 30 pounds. Let’s think back to what your life was like 30 pounds heavier.  How much freedom did lack when you had to carry around 30 extra pounds? How much freedom did you have when you had to stop midway up a flight of stairs to catch your breath, or when you couldn’t easily take the laundry down to the basement? How much freedom did you have when you felt at the mercy of your hunger and cravings, and when you spent so much time thinking about needing  to make changes but felt helpless to do so? How much freedom did you feel when you went to your closet to find something to wear and worried about whether or not something would fit?”

Diane and I discussed the fact that, while she now doesn’t have the freedom of eating everything she wants whenever she wants it, she does have the even greater freedom that comes from not being at the mercy of her hunger and cravings, from knowing that she can wear anything in her closet, from not worrying that people will judge her based on what she eats, and from going into a party or event and not being concerned about how she’ll be able to stay on track.

Diane told me that this was all very helpful, but the last thing that was still on her mind was the persistent question she had lately about whether or not it was really worth it to her keep working on healthy eating.  I asked Diane if she wanted to return to her old weight and gain back 30 pounds (or more) and she told me that she definitively did not.  “Therefore,” I said to her, “we know that it’s worth it, if for no other reason than you not wanting to go back to the way things were.”  I also discussed with Diane that when she is not going through a hard time and when she is consistently doing well and on track, she doesn’t struggle with this question of whether or not it’s worth it, because she just knows that it is.  “Because of this,” I said to her, “It’s not even worth engaging in the mental struggle of questioning whether or not it’s worth it. We know that it is, and we know that once the hard time passes, you won’t doubt this anymore.  So whenever you have the thought, ‘is it worth it?’ just strongly remind yourself that it is and move on.”

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