Q: I was doing really well following my diet and using my skills for a few months and now all of a sudden dieting feels really hard! Does this mean I can’t do it anymore?  Should I give up?

A: What happened to you is what happens to every dieter.  Usually what happens is dieters start out and their motivation is high, and so they find it fairly easy to stick to their diets.  And they get fooled, because they think that dieting will and should always be that easy.  But unfortunately it doesn’t work that way and at some point (it could be in 2 days or 2 months) dieting gets harder for every single dieter.  Sometimes it’s clear what contributed to the harder time, like something stressful happening or a big change in routine, and sometimes it’s not clear.  But for whatever reason the hard time happened, it’s important to know that it’s 100% normal, it happens to everyone, and if you keep doing what you’re doing, the hard time will pass. Here are five things you can do to make it pass more quickly:

1. Remind yourself of past successful experiences. When dieters are going through a harder time, it’s almost as if they lose access to memories of how good it feels when they are feeling strong and in control of their eating and how much easier it feels a lot of the time.  When this happens, it’s important for dieters to remind themselves of a time when dieting felt easier and they felt great about it, like when they stayed in control at a party or went on vacation and didn’t gain weight.  As long as dieters keep pushing through, they will more and more of those positive experiences.

2. Use visualization techniques. Another technique that can be helpful is having dieters to visualize a day not too long ago when they were trucking along and doing well, and none of it felt acutely hard or overwhelming. It can be helpful for dieters to walk through that day step by step and really think about how they were thinking and feeling on that day, compared to how they are right now during this temporary rough patch.

3. Read your advantages list more often.  During hard times it can be very difficult for dieters to remember just why it’s worth it to them to do all of this hard work. Dieters may easily lose sight of the fact that they are doing all of these things for reasons that are so important to them.  Especially when the going gets tough, dieters need to have it clear in their minds at all times why they will continue to put in the effort and what they are striving for.  While dieters may have the sabotaging thought, “I don’t feel like doing any of this, it’s not worth it,” if they continue to keep their Advantages in mind then they likely won’t honestly be able to tell themselves, “this just isn’t important to me anymore.”   

4. Count the hard minutes or hours.  Often when dieters are going through a rougher time, they tend to generalize and think that all day, every day, is difficult for them when this is usually not the case because they let the memory of a few hard minutes or hours color their perception of the week as a whole. It’s important for dieters to really think about whether every minute of every day was hard, or if some of the time it was actually easier.  Doing so well help dieters keep a more realistic mindset of what’s going on and realize that it might not actually be as bad as they are thinking.

5. Think about if other things are hard right now, too.  Sometimes when dieting becomes difficult for dieters, it coincides with other things becoming more difficult, too. Maybe dieters are having a taxing time at work, are experiencing a problem in their personal lives, or have some other stress going on that was recently introduced.  When this happens, dieters may actually confuse the stress and negative thoughts they are having about other things with those that they are putting into dieting.  For example, dieters may feel like they had a really hard day and everything was just bad and difficult, dieting including. But if they think about the day, they might realize that most of the negative thinking and the effort was really about other things and not about dieting. 

In short, it’s important to keep hard times in perspective and realize that it may not be quite as hard as you are thinking and that if you keep doing what you’re doing, it will get easier again.