People who have difficulties in losing weight or keeping it off display a pattern of thinking errors that are associated with overeating. We always tell our dieters: Just because you think something doesn't mean it's true. Some common thinking errors (and helpful responses to them) include:
All-or-Nothing Thinking (when dieters see things as completely one way or the other when there is really a broad range in between)
Sabotaging Thought: Either I'm completely perfect on my diet or I've completely failed.
Helpful Response: No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. It doesn't make sense to let one mistake derail me completely. I just need to refocus, recover immediately, and then I'll be right back on track.
Self-Deluding Thinking (when dieters rationalize eating something they know they shouldn't)
Sabotaging Thought: It won't count if I eat this because nobody is watching.
Helpful Response: Of course it counts. Whenever I take in calories it counts. My body doesn't know or care whether or not I'm eating alone or in front of 100 people; it processes food the same way.
Discounting the Positive (when dieters unreasonably discount their positive actions or qualities and do not give themselves credit)
Sabotaging Thought: It doesn't matter that I'm now instituting positive eating behaviors; I should have been using these techniques all along.
Helpful Response: I couldn't have done these things; I didn't know how before. I deserve credit for every positive eating behavior, and giving myself the credit I deserve is crucially important in building up my confidence and sense of self-efficacy.
Negative Fortune-Telling (when dieters make a negative prediction without recognizing that it is not the only possible outcome)
Sabotaging Thought: I won't be able to resist eating desserts at the party so I might as well not even try.
Helpful Response: No one will force me to eat. I've stayed in control at other parties and I can do the same for this one if I prepare myself in advance, including using the skills I learned and planning to have a reasonable amount of dessert.
Positive Fortune-Telling (dieters are overly optimistic about the most likely outcome)
Sabotaging Thought: I can get the larger bag of potato chips because I'll be able to have one serving, stop, and feel satisfied.
Helpful Response: History has shown me that stopping at one serving can be very difficult and I almost always want more. To save myself the mental struggle, it's worth it to get the smaller bag with only one serving.
Jumping to Conclusions (when dieters take one observation and assume it only has one possible implication)
Sabotaging Thought: Because I didn't lose weight this week, it must mean that this program isn't working for me.
Helpful Response: People just don't lose weight every single week, even if their eating has been exactly the same. There are a lot of physiological reasons why this is so. I need a lot more data in order to see whether or not my weight loss has plateaued, and even if it has, there are things I can do to start making it go down again.
Mind Reading (when dieters are sure they know what others are thinking, even in the absence of compelling data)
Sabotaging Thought: Everyone will think negatively of me if I eat differently.
Helpful Response: It's actually likely that some people will be proud of me for losing weight and eating more healthfully. It's also likely that a lot of people won't even notice my eating at all, or if they do, they won't think about it one way or the other. Losing weight is more important to me than trying to make sure that no one is critical.
Irrelevance (dieters link two unrelated concepts)
Sabotaging Thought: It's okay to eat this because I'm really upset.
Helpful Response: Just because I'm upset, it does not mean I need to eat. Yes, I do deserve to calm down and be comforted but I don't deserve to eat off track, feel bad about myself, and possibly gain weight. People without a weight problem manage to calm themselves down without turning to food and I can learn to do the same thing.
Adapted from The Beck Diet Solution Weight Loss Workbook. � J Beck, 2007.