When my dieter, Janine, came in to session this week she told me that she had a hard time getting her dieting tasks done over the past week. Her three kids had all been away at summer camp and returned home last week, and Janine suddenly found herself in a whirlwind of doctors’ appointments, preseason sports practice, and end of summer get-togethers. Janine told me that with so much suddenly going on, she found that her dieting skills just seemed to fall by the wayside because she didn’t have enough time to get them done.
One of the first things I did with Janine was bring out the checklist she fills out every night with the dieting skills she’s working on that week. We went through the checklist, item by item, and discussed how long, in general, each one takes. Janine realized that nothing on her checklist takes all that much time, and, in fact, many of them take almost no time (like eating everything sitting down, giving herself credit, reading her Advantages List, limiting junk food to one time per day, etc.) In doing this, Janine was able to see that it wasn’t really a lack of time that kept her from practicing her dieting skills; rather it was a lack of focus. With so much else going on, Janine was not able to make dieting one of her top priorities and therefore did not have the energy or focus to commit to it. Janine and I had the following conversation:
Janine: I don’t know, this week was so busy, I’m just not sure I’ll be able to find the time and energy to focus on it this coming week, too.
Debbie: If you remember, when we first starting working together it was hard for you then, too, to prioritize dieting because you had a lot going on. But we sat down and figured out how you could make it a top priority, which you then did because it was worth it to you to do so at the time. Is it worth it to you now to make this a top priority?
Janine: Yes, definitely.
Debbie: Why is it worth it?
Janine: Because I’m tired of not liking the way I look. I’m tired of not having enough energy, of not wanting to get dressed because I don’t like my clothes, of feeling heavy in my body, of worrying about my health.
Debbie: So, with those things in mind, is it worth it to you to make a commitment to focus on your dieting skills this week?
Janine: Well, yes and no.
Debbie: What’s the “no”?
Janine: Well, I really do have a lot of other things going on that need my attention. And I don’t always feel like working on this. And I like eating a lot of junk food.
Debbie: And what’s the “yes”?
Janine: The yes is everything I just said – wanting to look better, feel better, have better health, and so many other things.
Debbie: So this is an important question and the answer is entirely up to you: which is more important to you – the reasons to make a commitment to focus on dieting or the reasons not to make a commitment.
Janine: Well, when you put it like that, the reasons to do it are more important. No question. I have to do it.
Debbie: Okay, so I’m going to ask you again: Is it worth it to you to make a commitment to focus on your dieting skills this week?
Janine: Yes, it’s worth it.
Debbie: Are you sure?
This conversation was important for us to have because when Janine’s life got busy, she lost the focus necessary to accomplish her dieting skills and she wasn’t thinking about why it was worth it to her to regain it. I knew that in order for Janine to have a better week, she needed to be sure of her commitment to dieting, which would then make it much easier for her to focus on prioritizing and accomplishing her diet tasks and skills. Janine made the following Response Card to read this week:
Similar to what I did with Janine, whenever dieters lose focus, it’s important for them to ask themselves:
- Why do I want to regain my focus?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- With the advantages and disadvantages in mind, which are more important to me?
If dieters decide that the advantages of regaining focus (and, therefore, of continuing to lose or maintain weight) outweigh the disadvantages, then it becomes easier for them to recommit to doing what they need to do because it helps them realize that the reasons not to do it are just not as important.