When someone talks about how much they were able to restrict their eating on Thanksgiving:
Don't be that person.
You can have it so much better. You can have both a more effective weight loss journey and a more enjoyable Thanksgiving.
Someone who is able to both lose weight and maintain it for a lifetime has mastered one foundational skill: Picking their battles.
Because they pick their battles, they are able to get weight loss results at opportune times, and maintain in inopportune times.
People who fail at weight loss always get it in reverse — they miss the opportunities to mindfully and intentionally enjoy more food with friends and family. Instead, they eat more mindlessly at times when it doesn’t really add much enjoyment to their lives:
In the flipside, someone who is successful at maintaining weight loss forever, knows that it’s the mindful eating with people they love that makes a difference:
Thanksgiving Day is not the day to restrict. It’s not even a day to work on food skills in a really big way. If you want to work on a food skill, pick ONE of these:
It’s about November and December.
People fail because they eat all of the Christmas cookies that show up in the office. People fail because they give up after Thanksgiving and say “I’ll start again in the new year.” People fail because they have three holiday parties per week through all of December, and they drink at all of them.
People are successful when they choose. They eat more than normal on Thanksgiving and really enjoy it with their family. The next day, they go back to skills like eating just enough, portion sizing meals, eating 3-4 meals per day and no snacks.
One day doesn’t matter. A week or two, or a month, totally matters.
That’s an option also. GASP! What!?!?!? That’s crazy talk!
It’s true. You can actually dial it back.
Lets say you are working on seven food skills right now:
You could dial that back to two food skills for December:
You wouldn’t be putting nearly as much energy into food skills as you were maybe the last few months (where you were losing weight consistently).
Instead, you dial it back to just two. There’s a huge difference between staying in the game with two food skills, and saying “Eff it! I’m starting again in January!”
Maybe with two skills you maintain the weight you’ve lost. Maybe you even continue to lose weight. But you don’t have to put as much energy towards it.
This ability to stay in the game at a lower level is another lifetime weight loss mastery skill.
We know that the biggest predictor of weight loss failure is black and white thinking (i, j, k, l, m, n). That’s thinking things like:
It’s normal to have those thoughts. We’ve been conditioned by diet culture to think those thoughts. I repeat it’s ok to have those thoughts.
But you don’t have to act on them.
Weight loss mastery is often about having those thoughts, and practicing your food skills anyway.
A really simple skill for working through black and white food thoughts is the AND Method:
“I’m having the thought that __________ [insert black and white food thought] AND what I’m going to do is ___________ [insert food skill you are going to practice].”
This is based on a concept of fusion and defusion, from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (m, n, o, p, q, r). Fusion is essentially the state of being bullied by our thoughts. Instead, we take the perspective that it's normal to have these thoughts, and we can still take actions in line with our values in goals.
Moderation is simple. It just means practicing some of the skills and not all of them.
It’s ok to practice some sometimes. It’s ok to practice most of them other times.
If you can practice some of the skills, all of the time, you will win at weight loss. The person who gets the most practice wins. And the people who practice a little sometimes and a lot sometimes get more practice than people who practice all of them and then quit.
Remember, it's ok to have the "black and white diet thoughts," but you don't have to act on them.
Whoever gets the most practice (cumulative, not all at once) is the most successful with weight loss.
Here is your four step plan for lifetime weight loss mastery:
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(b) Brunstrom, J. M., Burn, J. F., Sell, N. R., Collingwood, J. M., Rogers, P. J., Wilkinson, L. L., ... & Ferriday, D. (2012). Episodic memory and appetite regulation in humans. PloS one, 7(12), e50707.
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(d) Mittal, D., Stevenson, R. J., Oaten, M. J., & Miller, L. A. (2011). Snacking while watching TV impairs food recall and promotes food intake on a later TV free test meal. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25(6), 871–877.
(e) Parent, M. B. (2016). Cognitive control of meal onset and meal size: Role of dorsal hippocampal-dependent episodic memory. Physiology & Behavior.
(f) Higgs, S., Williamson, A. C., Rotshtein, P., & Humphreys, G. W. (2008). Sensory-specific satiety is intact in amnesics who eat multiple meals. Psychological Science, 19(7), 623-628.
(g) Scheibehenne, B., Todd, P. M., & Wansink, B. (2010). Dining in the dark. The importance of visual cues for food consumption and satiety. Appetite, 55(3), 710-713.
(h) Robinson, E., Aveyard, P., Daley, A., Jolly, K., Lewis, A., Lycett, D., & Higgs, S. (2013). Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. The American journal of clinical nutrition, ajcn-045245.
(i) Palascha, A., van Kleef, E., & van Trijp, H. C. (2015). How does thinking in Black and White terms relate to eating behavior and weight regain?. Journal of health psychology, 20(5), 638-648.
(j) Blomquist, K. K., & Grilo, C. M. (2011). Predictive significance of changes in dietary restraint in obese patients with binge eating disorder during treatment. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 44(6), 515-523.
(k) Sairanen, E., Lappalainen, R., Lapveteläinen, A., Tolvanen, A., & Karhunen, L. (2014). Flexibility in weight management. Eating behaviors, 15(2), 218-224.
(l) Byrne, S. M., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2004). Psychological predictors of weight regain in obesity. Behaviour research and therapy, 42(11), 1341-1356.
(m) Meule, A., Westenhöfer, J., & Kübler, A. (2011). Food cravings mediate the relationship between rigid, but not flexible control of eating behavior and dieting success. Appetite, 57(3), 582-584.
(n) Smith, C. F., Williamson, D. A., Bray, G. A., & Ryan, D. H. (1999). Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite, 32(3), 295-305.
(m) Hayes, S. C., Levin, M. E., Plumb-Vilardaga, J., Villatte, J. L., & Pistorello, J. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy and contextual behavioral science: Examining the progress of a distinctive model of behavioral and cognitive therapy. Behavior therapy, 44(2), 180-198.
(n) Kishita, N., Muto, T., Ohtsuki, T., & Barnes-Holmes, D. (2014). Measuring the effect of cognitive defusion using the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure: An experimental analysis with a highly socially anxious sample. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 3(1), 8-15.
(o) Forman, E. M., Butryn, M. L., Juarascio, A. S., Bradley, L. E., Lowe, M. R., Herbert, J. D., & Shaw, J. A. (2013). The mind your health project: a randomized controlled trial of an innovative behavioral treatment for obesity. Obesity, 21(6), 1119-1126.
(p) Forman, E. M., Butryn, M. L., Manasse, S. M., Crosby, R. D., Goldstein, S. P., Wyckoff, E. P., & Thomas, J. G. (2016). Acceptance‐based versus standard behavioral treatment for obesity: Results from the mind your health randomized controlled trial. Obesity, 24(10), 2050-2056.
(q) Harris, R. The happiness trap: how to stop struggling and start living. 2008. Trumpeter, Boston.
(r) Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.