In session this week, my client, Rachel, told me that over the past few weeks she has been struggling with keeping her eating under control during dinner. Rachel, who doesn’t cook very much, has too often found herself at the end of a long day stopping at a restaurant, buying something fairly unhealthy, and then eating too much of it.
Rachel and I talked about various strategies for helping her stay on track through dinner and I suggested that she could plan in advance what she would have for dinner, and how much she would have. Like most dieters, Rachel historically has had a much easier time staying on track when she has a plan (like, for example, when she goes to a party or out to eat), so I figured that having a plan would help in this situation, too. Rachel didn’t like this idea. She told me that she never knows in advance what she’s going to want for dinner and therefore didn’t want to decide ahead of time in case it wasn’t what she was “craving” in the moment.
Once I realized that Rachel was waiting until the end of the day to make dinner decisions, I understood why she was having so much trouble. I pointed out to her that she was relying on the most unreliable Rachel to make food decisions. She was relying on end-of-the-day Rachel, who was tired, hungry, and depleted to decide what to have for dinner. We discussed the fact that beginning-of-the-day Rachel was a much better person to make food decisions. She was fresh and well-rested and entirely sure of why it was worth it to her to make healthy decisions. End-of-the-day Rachel was a different story entirely.
Once Rachel was able to view the situation from this angle, she felt more willing to at least try planning dinner in advance. She realized that losing weight was more important to her than making a spontaneous dinner decision. I asked Rachel what sabotaging thoughts she might have that would get in the way of her sticking to her plan, and these are the thoughts and responses that we came up with:
Sabotaging Thought: I don’t want to eat what’s on my plan because it’s not what I’m craving.
Response: That’s okay! I don’t always need to eat exactly what I’m most craving at any given moment. Nothing bad will happen if I can’t have exactly what I want. I can always plan to have it tomorrow. It will taste good then, too.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay not to stick to my plan because I’ll just be able to control myself if I get something different.
Response: Consider the evidence. When in the past few weeks have I been able to exert in-the-moment willpower after work? Morning Rachel made a very good dinner decision, and even though after-work Rachel doesn’t feel like sticking to it, I’ll be so glad I did once the night is over.
Sabotaging Thought: I won’t be satisfied if I can’t eat something big and unhealthy.
Response: Actually the opposite is true. When I eat something big and unhealthy, it makes me feel big and unhealthy. When I stay on track, it makes me feel so much better.
With the strategy of planning dinner in advance, and armed with Response Cards to help her stick to her plan, Rachel felt much more confident about her ability to stay on track through dinner.