Imagine this: it’s the dawn of a new diet. You awaken refreshed and excited, for today is the first day of the New You, who is totally committed to adopting a new relationship to food—one that will lead to lifelong health and weight loss. This time it’s for real—nothing can stop you. In fact, a week into this new deal, you’re still going strong and have lost a few pounds to boot!
“This is so easy,” you muse. “I’ve finally got it!” You drop a dress size and revel in complements from friends and coworkers. Your cohorts are also very impressed at the Huge Mega Salad you manage to put away everyday while they throw down double-decker hoagies with lo-fat mayo and diet coke.
Then, one day, while steeping your morning mug of gunpowder green in the office kitchenette, you notice a plateful of white chocolate macadamia cookies, just left of the water cooler—not your favorite, but still they caught your eye, and hey, it’s been weeks since you had anything remotely similar. Besides, it’s all about moderation, right?
Dear Reader, you don’t need an advanced degree in probability theory to vaticinate this happy beginning’s sad denouement. In fact, in this scenario, during the final struggle between reason and desire, between dietary control and gustatory chaos, between prefrontal cortex and amygdala, all you can manage to tell yourself is, “I just gotta stick to my diet. If I just stick to my diet, I’ll lose weight. Stay focused!”
But does this line of thinking work? Has this thought train ever gotten you anywhere but right back at the station, where you started? In the moment, when you’ve just stepped off the bulging scale or finished off half a pizza, “I just gotta. . .” might sooth some internal angst, but when the proverbial shit hits the fan (again) and you’re faced with yet another cheese tray or dessert bar, “I gotta” won’t get it.
The Art of Reflection & Revision (aka, R&R)
Instead, let’s try this. Returning to our scenario, specifically to my favorite part, I mean, the white chocolate macadamia cookie part, in which you are basking in the afterglow of a sugar high of one, then two, then—well who the hell an remember how many you actually ate? By lunch, of course, the afterglow has transmogrified into the bloated, guilt-ridden aftermath of regret and self-condemnation, the very incunabulum of “I gotta….!” and numerous other empty promises.
Well, this time WILL be different because as soon as the mind produces “I just gotta stick to my food plan,” you will respond with an R&R. The R&R is very simple and requires only that you answer two questions: 1. What went wrong? (reflection) and 2. What could I have done differently to prevent this from happening? (revision)
Ok, let’s apply an R&R to our current situation.
What went wrong? (reflection) Two remediable issues pop out at me. The first is that this dieter allowed her thoughts to derail her good intentions—in particular, the thought, “I haven’t had a cookie in weeks!” Please check out blog post “My Fave Anti-Craving Strategy—Revealed!” to learn more about this thinking error and how to fix it.
The second problem is the lack of an “if/then” strategy. More on this later. First let’s examine the second R (revision):
What could she have done differently? She could have responded to the unhelpful thought, “I haven’t had a cookie in weeks!” with something like, “True, and that’s why I’m getting all these compliments about my weight loss. And that’s why my fasting blood sugar has gone down. If I want these trends to continue, I should walk away right now. I’ll be so happy later if I don’t have even one of those fattening bad boys!”
And the “if/then” strategy”? That will be covered in my next post—just a few days from now, I promise.
The Down Low
When you fall off your food plan, conduct a thorough and thoughtful R&R: Where did I go wrong? and What could I have done differently?
Remember, the R&R is only ONE tool for helping you stay on your diet. The more tools you employ, the greater the likelihood of long-term success! If you’re tired of going it alone, check out my 10-week phone coaching program.