"You only live once....!"
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
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 inaccurate 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
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."
Email Ellen at email@example.com and learn what to do about What’s Eating You.
Ellen is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco and Redwood City, California. She specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and incorporates the use of mindfulness into the treatment of depression, anxiety, and emotional overeating. She runs a holistic weight loss program called Center for Thoughtful Weight Loss, www.thoughtfulweightloss.com.
Copyright © 2010 Ellen N. Resnick, LCSW