Compulsive eating, without any doubt, comes under the heading of lack of self-control. So, if you’re a compulsive eater—can’t stop yourself from eating so much and just have to have that food treat, then you’re not exercising self-control.
Having enough control over yourself is complicated. It is not something that you either have or don’t have—but it can look like that. For some who have little control by the time they reach adulthood, lack of self-control has gotten to be a character trait. For most people, though, their capacity for being self-regulated is less a matter of who they are than what situation they’re in. In other words, most people have self-control when they need it, but show a lack of self-control in certain situations.
When it comes to the weight-loss process, self-control is a must. Lack of self-control is what makes weight-loss progress such an iffy proposition for people—both kinds—character trait and situational.
Making a plan to lose weight, as you can see, must include what it will take you to exercise self-control. Learning to have more control can be accomplished by setting self-control goals right along with your weight-loss goals.
- A common goal: “I will stop eating when I’ve eaten a normal portion. (I may have to redefine what is a normal portion.”)
- The plan: “I’ll do this at every meal, whether I eat home or eat out.” I’ll start slowly by doing this at breakfast. Depending how I do at the end of a week, I’ll add lunch to the plan. And then a week later, dinner, as well.”
- The reinforcement (aka reward): “I’ll write down my feelings of pride and self-esteem after each time I do this.” (intrinsic reward) “I’ll ask my husband to write down his feelings about me when he sees me do this.” (extrinsic reward) “I’ll also give myself a small, but meaningful (non-food) gift each time I reach 10 or more successes in a row.” (another extrinsic reward)
- Practice: “Since I’ll be practicing every day, I’ll have 7 practice sessions the first week, 14 the second week, and, by the third week, I’ll have 21 practice sessions per week. Just to see how I’m doing, I’ll rate my ease of self-control each day using a subjective scale from 0 to 100. Zero will be self-control is not easy at all. One hundred will be self-control is the easiest thing possible.
- Successes (plural): “I will make sure I have lots of successes, big and small, when it comes to learning how to have greater control.
- Transfer of learning: “While I’m learning how to have self-control in relation to my compulsive eating, I’ll remember the good control I have over myself in some non-eating situations and bring this control to bear on solving my compulsive eating pattern.