Eater’s Remorse (and what you can do about it)

Cocktails at your neighbor’s, your office holiday party, and baking cookies with your kids. Many events this month can take you from on-track to holiday diet hangover—and it’s not even New Year’s yet!  Welcome to dieter’s remorse, that giant guilt-fest that can happen anytime but specializes in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Before you berate yourself any further, use our diagnostics tool to identify and remedy your regrets and stay successful on your medical weight loss plan.

Symptom: You’re disgusted with yourself. The hallmark of eater’s remorse is guilt: Guilt that you’ve overindulged and feeling like you’ve ‘ruined’ weeks of hard work. The fact is, your weight isn’t determined by just a few days of overeating; it’s what you eat over weeks and months that allows the weight to creep on. So, you haven’t ruined anything, and berating yourself is just going to prevent you from taking positive action.

Solution: Clear out negative thoughts with some mini-meditations. Mini-meditations can be a great way either before a meal, or anytime you’re feeling distracted or down, to regain your focus on the present moment and stay positive. To do your mini-meditation, make a card with phrases that help you focus on positive energy and refocus negative emotions. Here are some phrases your might consider putting on your card: Relax. Practice forgiveness. Focus on the present moment. Live in dignity. Treat yourself well. Of course, there are many more phrases you could include. Think about what would help you stay grounded and positive during challenging times and include that on your card. Then spend a few minutes reading the card and quietly considering it, perhaps before meals, before you start your day, or whenever you’re feeling guilt or remorse.

Symptom: You feel out of control. This can be one of the most dangerous symptoms of dieter’s remorse, because once you get out of control, the temptation to give up can be tough to resist. You figure, “I’ve already blown it, I might as well throw in the towel.”

Solution: Regain control with a little trick called the Rule of 20. Here’s how to do it: Get right back on your medical weight loss program and spend a day eating your regular meals. If after a meal or snack, you’re tempted to eat again, simply wait 20 minutes. This simple rule allows your body to start to feel a sense of fullness, and you’ll likely regain the sense of control over your eating that comes from listening to your body’s hunger signals. If, after 20 minutes, you truly feel hungry, give yourself permission to eat something else small. Then, wait 20 minutes again. Do this for an entire day and get comfortable with the messages your body is giving you. If it’s helpful, continue following the rule of 20 whenever you feel the need to regain control over your hunger and eating.

Symptom: You’re sluggish and tired. Large amounts of food—especially carbs—can leave you feeling fatigued and bloated. This is even more true during the holiday season when busy schedules and stress rob you of even more energy.
Solution: Get a quick boost with 30 minutes of exercise. Take a brisk walk, do a fitness video, or grab a workout at your gym—now. Working out is a surefire way to get the blood flowing and your motivation back. You’ll be amazed at how energized you feel afterward and how much less appealing reaching for another snack likely will be.

Symptom: You feel overwhelmed by how far you have to go. If you’ve been on your medical weight loss program for a while, you may have been feeling a bit of diet fatigue already. Add on a couple of slip-ups and you may feel the road to your weight loss goal is especially long.

Solution: Focus on the short-term rather than the long-term. Taking baby steps is often cited by behavior change experts as a way to make a large goal attainable. Take a moment and write down three small things you can do over the next two days that will help you get back on track. Maybe it’s drinking eight glasses of water a day, taking the dog for a 20-minute walk, or throwing out any tempting holiday leftovers or treats lingering in the house. Put the list on your fridge and commit to doing just these three things for the next two days. Once you’ve accomplished that, recommit to your goals—or set some new ones that will take you all the way through the New Year!