My client, Rachel, was having trouble resisting cravings. While she was able to resist them much of the time, she told me in session last week that it was really hard for her and the whole experience was causing her distress. In order to figure out what was going on, I asked her to tell me in detail about a craving that she had over the past week – what she thought while she was having the craving, what she said to herself that enabled her to resist, and how she felt about it afterwards. Rachel described the following scenario to me:
Rachel’s daughter, Samantha, had a birthday that weekend and Rachel had planned a big celebratory dinner for her, including Samantha’s favorite chocolate cake. Rachel had decided in advance that she would stick to one piece of cake and she would forgo the ice cream, knowing that she was already taking in more calories at dinner than she usually would have. Once dessert rolled around, Rachel ate her piece of cake and then had a strong craving for another piece, plus some ice cream. Rachel thought to herself, “I really want more cake. It tasted so good. It stinks that I can’t have more, and I didn’t even get to experience it with the ice cream.” Rachel was able to resist the extra cake, though, telling herself, “No, you’re just not having any more. You said one piece and that’s it. You can have more another time.”
I asked Rachel how she felt after she resisted the cake and she told me, “I felt terrible! I was so resentful that I couldn’t have more.” This, I realized, is why Rachel was finding it such a painful experience to resist cravings. When she was able to resist extra food, instead of giving herself so much credit for doing so, and reminding herself of all the wonderful things she would get as a result of resisting, she was instead focusing on how deprived she felt, how much she wanted to eat the food, and how terrible it was that she couldn’t have it. Because Rachel was saying such negative things to herself, it’s no wonder she didn’t feel good about resisting.
To help reverse this, Rachel and I wrote out a script of exactly what she would say to herself when she resisted a craving. I asked Rachel to read this script every day, at least three times a day, plus every time she overcame a craving. Here is what Rachel’s script said:
Good for me for resisting this craving. I deserve so much credit for this! This will help me reach my weight loss goals which are so important to me.
When Rachel came back to see me this week, she told me that she had a much better week in terms of resisting cravings. Instead of feeling badly and deprived when she didn’t eat something, she began to feel proud of herself because she gave herself lots and lots of credit. By reading this script every time she resisted a craving, it helped Rachel begin to refocus her attention; instead of thinking about all the negatives of not eating something, she began to pay more attention to why it was worth it to her to resist. Rachel realized that resisting, and giving herself credit for doing so, felt great, and it was a good feeling that lasted (as opposed to giving in and eating something, which is a pleasure that is much, much more fleeting).
If you’re finding resisting cravings to be a painful experience, think about what you say to yourself when you resist. What are focusing on? Are you thinking about how deprived you feel for not eating it, or are you paying attention to all the great benefits you’ll get as a result of resisting? If you need to, consider writing out your own script, as Rachel did, and read it multiple times a day. Eventually these new ideas will take root in your mind and make a difference. Resisting cravings can feel great –as long as you give yourself lots of credit for when you do.