Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Getting Back on Track Today

Q: One of my main problems is that I always say, “I will eat what I want today, then I will start tomorrow.” Then tomorrow, I say the very same thing. Seems like tomorrow never comes. What I can do to stop this destructive behavior and thinking?

A: Good question! We think that “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” is one of the more common sabotaging thoughts (up there with, “I’ve blown it for the day, I might as well continue eating whatever I want,” and “Just this one time won’t matter”). One of the reasons dieters tell themselves that they’ll start dieting tomorrow is because it helps reduce their tension about dieting. Often when dieters are off track, are feeling bad about their eating, and are acknowledging that they need to do something about it, they feel a level of tension: What am I going to do about this? When am I going to do it? By telling themselves, “I’ll start tomorrow,” that tension goes away because it means they have a plan; their questions have been answered. However, the problem with this is that the plan doesn’t usually pan out and more often than not, dieters don’t end up starting the next day.

Because dieters can’t rely on starting tomorrow, it’s important to come up with helpful responses to that sabotaging thought so that they don’t continue giving in to it. One thing that we ask dieters is, “When has ‘starting tomorrow’ ever helped you to reach your weight loss goals?” We discuss with dieters the fact that every time they have the thought, “I’ll start dieting tomorrow,” and give in to it, they make it harder for themselves to actually start dieting because they make it more likely they’ll put it off again the next day, and the day after that. Every single time they’re tempted to start tomorrow but instead force themselves to get back on track that moment, they make it more likely (and easier for themselves) to do so the next time. We also remind dieters that if yesterday they told themselves they would start tomorrow, then tomorrow is today, and it’s time to start!

We have dieters make Response Cards with these ideas on them, which they read every time they have this type of sabotaging thought. Here are some sample Response Cards:

When has ‘starting tomorrow’ ever helped me to reach my goals? Starting tomorrow just doesn’t work so I have to start today, right this moment. A week from now, a month from now, a year from now, I will be so happy I did.

Today is yesterday’s tomorrow so it’s time to start right now.

I can’t wait until tomorrow to start dieting again because if I do, it will be even harder to start. Just get back on track right now and guaranteed I won’t regret it.

It’s important to remember that getting yourself back on track right away and not waiting for tomorrow is a skill, and the more you practice it, the easier it will become. Right now your tendency to give in to that thought is probably pretty strong, so it’s easy to keep giving in. But the more and more you reinforce the habit of not giving in to that thought and of just doing what you need to do in the moment, the easier and easier it will be to do so. So remind yourself why it’s worth it to not wait for tomorrow and start practicing today!

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