When we begin working with new dieters, we find they often have sabotaging thoughts that start with the phrase, "I'm entitled to eat this because. . . " and they fill in the blank with many different reasons: "I'm stressed/I'm upset/ I'm tired/ I'm bored/ I've been good all day/ I'm celebrating, etc."
In order to help dieters overcome these entitlement thoughts, we first help them realize that what they're feeling entitled to do (i.e., eat) is separate from their emotional state (happy/sad/bored/stressed, etc.). We remind dieters that if they're upset, they may very well be entitled to feel comfort, but if they want to receive all the benefits of permanent weight loss, their comfort can't come from food. Similarly, if dieters are feeling stressed, they may be entitled to feel calmer, but if they want to get all the benefits of permanent weight loss, relief can't come from food. In any given situation, dieters may be entitled to feel a certain way (calm, celebratory, stimulated, comforted), but that does not mean they should eat in order to achieve their desired feeling.
We also explain to dieters that their bodies don't care whether or not they're stressed, bored, celebrating, or upset; their bodies process all calories in the same way- all day, every day. Therefore, the thought, "I'm entitled to eat right now because I'm upset," is incompatible with their weight loss goals. The truth of the matter is, dieters will gain the same amount of weight from overeating regardless of how they're feeling.
We also ask dieters to think about how they feel after they give in to an entitlement (and sabotaging) thought. If they're really upset when they eat, do they ultimately feel better afterwards? Our dieters begin to realize that when they eat because they're feeling sad or stressed, they feel better only for as long as the food is in their mouths. Soon after it's gone, the guilt and regret inevitably kicks in and they end up feeling worse. When dieters are upset and want to eat, we remind them that ultimately eating will only make them feel more upset, or more stressed because now they have the additional problem of feeling bad about their eating. If they actually want to achieve feeling better, food cannot be the solution.
In session, we have dieters make Response Cards with helpful ideas on them, such as:
We have dieters practice reading these Response Cards every single day and also whenever they're feeling entitled to eat. This, and other techniques, help them respond to and overcome their entitlement, sabotaging thinking.