How to evaluate your own progress (and feel good about it.)

Do you have a “complicated” relationship with food? If you find yourself having unwanted food experiences, such as intense food cravings, overeating, emotional eating, or feeling out of control when you eat, try this worksheet. You can do this exercise any time you have an episode of eating that feels stressful, upsetting, or unwanted. Repeat this exercise as often as you like, to gain more insight into your eating habits and get ideas about how to change them. Research shows that while our behaviors may seem “spur-of-the-moment”, when it comes to overeating the groundwork is laid several hours in advance by our daily rituals, habits, mindset, and automatic thinking. Overeating is simply the last link in a long chain. If you can break the first link, you have a much better chance of never getting to the last link. The goal of this exercise is to build awareness of what your eating episodes have in common. Maybe it’s a time of day, or a situation, or a type of food, or another person (or being alone), or a feeling – or all of these. Describe in as much detail as possible what you are experiencing, or remember experiencing, at each stage. Then go back and review. Look for common features. Look at the steps you took. This helps you build an understanding of the process, which you can then use to disrupt these patterns. If you habitually overeat in your kitchen at 6 pm when stressed, then figure out strategies to deal with a stressy dinner hour before it happens – as far in advance as possible. If you habitually think certain thoughts beforehand (e.g. “I’m a failure”, “This will make me feel better”, etc.) then come up with ways to respond to those thoughts before they hit you. Etc. Complete this worksheet every time you have an episode of overeating. Be honest and thorough. You are collecting data so that you can analyze your own patterns and eventually develop strategies to deal with them.