When it comes to dieting, thinking in “black and white” can spell trouble. Anyone who’s had that one cookie that’s “not on their diet” only to polish off an entire box knows exactly what I mean. However, let’s look at an exception where black and white thinking can help.
Think of all the time and mental energy you spend during the day resisting the urge to snack. Maybe there’s a box of cookies in your pantry, and every time you walk into the kitchen you think “maybe I’ll have just one… or maybe just a bite. Or maybe I’ll just take the whole box to the couch and watch TV…”
Every time you resist, you use up a bit of willpower. This lasts about as long as a Kardashian marriage, and you finally give in, wondering what’s wrong with you and whether or not your cookie addiction will qualify you for rehab.
There’s actually nothing wrong with you. You’ve just been setting yourself up for a daily willpower beat-down. To escape this pattern, you need to reduce the number of decisions you make every day. We know that approaches like labelling foods as “good” or “bad” can lead to eating disorders and other problems, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
We’re talking about removing yourself from the shades of grey that require you to make thousands of decisions every day. By following “black and white rules,” you can whittle a mountain of decisions down to only a few.
Here are some examples:
- I will have a maximum of one snack between meals.
- I will completely portion out all snacks and meals (outside of bags or boxes) so I know exactly how much I am eating.
- I will only eat food when it is on a single-serving plate (or bowl).
- I only eat when I can give my full attention to my food.
These rules work together to eliminate most of the situations in which you are likely to mindlessly overeat.
Will you eat a box of cookies on the couch? Nope, rules two through four don’t allow it. Will you have a cookie on the go? Nope, rule four doesn’t allow it. But you can certainly stop, put a cookie on a plate, sit down, and eat it while giving it your full attention. And when you finish that cookie, will you go up and get another? Nope. Not even a question because you already know you only have one snack between meals.
Of course, it is still up to you to say to yourself “I will not break my black and white rules.” When you find yourself tempted to break these rules, just remember that they’re there to protect you.