We hope you’re more open to the idea that eating dessert in reasonable portions is an essential component of lifetime weight loss and maintenance, but of course the question you’re probably asking is, “But how do I do it?” Learning to eat dessert in reasonable portions is a process and it takes time and practice – but it absolutely can be done.
Consider this case example: We worked with a client named Robert who, like most dieters, had a hard time stopping once he started eating dessert. Robert in particular had a thing about ice cream and he told us that whenever he had it in the house, he wasn’t able to limit himself to one portion. We discussed with Robert that it wouldn’t work to decide that he would never eat ice cream again because, since he really loved it, we he was going to eat it again (as well he should!). If he didn’t know how to eat ice cream in a controlled way, then it meant that every time he ate it he was at risk for getting off track and then not being able to recover, which would jeopardize his ability to keep weight off for good.
To help Robert learn to control ice cream, Robert first only ate ice cream out of the house. We had him plan to eat ice cream three or four times over the course of two weeks and each time he would go to the ice cream shop, order a serving of ice cream, and then leave and eat it. This helped Robert get accustomed to what it felt like only having one portion. We worked with Robert on making sure he ate the ice cream very slowly and mindfully and savored every bite. This was in stark contrast to how he usually ate ice cream, which was way too fast while almost trying not to notice how much he was eating.
We also had Robert make some Response Cards to read before and after he ate ice cream. These cards reminded him of why it was worth it to stop at one portion, how proud he would feel when he did, and how important it was that he learn to do this because it would mean he got the best of both worlds – he got to enjoy ice cream and lose weight and keep it off.
After Robert did this a few times, we then had him bring home single-sized servings of ice cream that he bought at the grocery store, but in the beginning, he only brought home one at a time. The next step was the most difficult: Robert then experimented with bringing home a box of ice cream treats and putting them in his freezer, with the goal of eating one every night. To help him achieve this goal, Robert made new Response Cards to read after he finished eating ice cream every night and others to read if at any other time in the evening he was tempted to have more than one. In these Response Cards, Robert reminded himself of how proud he had been feeling of his ability to finally stay in control around ice cream and how much he enjoyed his planned portion, and how guilty he would feel if he ate more. We also had Robert plan an activity for immediately after he finished his ice cream, so that even if he had a craving for more, he was distracted from it almost immediately. With these steps and techniques, Robert finally learned to eat ice cream and stay in control and lose weight. And he was thrilled.
If your goal is to learn to eat dessert in reasonable portions, consider taking the same steps as Robert:
- First, only eat dessert out of the house and only buy single-sized servings at a time. If the dessert you want to eat cannot be purchased in single-sized servings, buy the bigger package but immediately throw away all but one portion.
- Make Response Cards to read before and after eating the dessert that remind you why it’s worth it to you to stop at one portion, even though you’ll undoubtedly want more.
- Eat your dessert very slowly and mindfully! This is a critical step. We find that people really can be satisfied with less dessert when they’re really taking the time to savor it.
- Experiment with bringing home single-sized servings and eating it at home. Eventually try working up to bringing home larger packages (if need be) but always read Response Cards before and after eating so that you are mentally prepared.
- Plan an activity for right after you eat dessert so that you are distracted from any cravings that might arise.