Tonight my husband and I went out for dinner in an Italian restaurant and saw the saying, “You only live once…cheers!” on the dessert menu. It struck my eye since I was planning to write about how chronic dieters use self deception as the topic for my blog entry this week.
Dr. Judith Beck, author of The Beck Diet Solution Weight Loss Workbook, states that self-deluding thinking means, “You tell yourself things that you don’t really believe at other times.” Actually, rationalization is one of Freud’s original defense mechanisms. It involves explaining an unacceptable behavior in a rational or logical manner, avoiding the true reasons for the behavior.
It’s easy to rationalize your behaviors on a Friday night. Thoughts like, “I deserve a treat- its been a rough week,” are common. Because we are human and especially vulnerable after a long week, I encourage my weight loss clients to practice regular mind/body scans and ask these important three questions often, and especially in potentially triggering situations — “What am I thinking, what am I feeling and what is it I REALLY need right now?” With these seemingly simple questions you can go from making unconscious, self defeating choices, to mindful awareness, resulting in choices that reflect your true intentions and values (and keep you on your weight loss plan).
While “You only live once” is true, (unless of course you’re a cat), many chronic dieters interpret this to mean, “It’s OK to have the veal parmigiana and fries with gelato for dessert.” This may not happen daily, but when it occurs with any regularity you are building up what Beck calls the “giving in muscle”. She says that recognizing and correcting sabotaging thoughts is an essential skill to master to lose weight and keep it off for the long haul. She also calls it “building up the resistance muscle”.
How often do you rationalize unhealthy or unplanned food choices?
How often do you eat a larger portion size than you’d planned?
How often do you say, “It’s okay this once”?
Have you noticed that “this once” becomes too often, and suddenly you’re back where you started or worse?
When you find yourself saying, “It’s okay because….” you may be on a slippery slope. Can you identify the different ways you finish that sentence?
In cognitive therapy for permanent weight loss we call those sabotaging thoughts. Another way to think about them is as harmful thoughts. With practice you can learn to identify your harmful thoughts and replace them with helpful thoughts. Writing down your sabotaging thoughts on one side of a 3 x 5 card and noting the helpful response to it on the other side is a helpful tool. You may not need this tool every day to stay on track; but if your helpful responses are well rehearsed, you’ll be able to call them up on a day that is challenging, i.e. when you may feel lonely, bored, sad, frustrated, etc.
So next time the menu says, “You only live once….cheers”, replace it in your mind with, “Yes, so I’ll have the broiled salmon with steamed vegetables,” so that this one life you have to live is healthy and joyful for as long as possible. Oh, by the way, when the waiter asked about dessert, I happily said, “Coffee please.”
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