Nutrition Checkup: Behavior & Environmental Eating

by Charles Platkin, PhD
Self Audit Series Part 2 
Audit:  Describe Yourself 
1. What do you see staring back at you when you look in the mirror? Do you love it or hate it?
2. When someone compliments you on your weight loss, do you feel vulnerable and exposed rather than proud and accomplished?
3. When someone pays you a compliment about your weight loss, do you misconstrue it to mean you look great now but didn’t look great before?
4. Does that compliment make you feel ashamed of your past rather than proud of your present state?
5. Do you feel that your current body is unacceptable to others?  By losing weight, will you finally be earning respect and approval from them?
6. Do you have a permanent association with yourself as being fat for all time?
7. Do you find yourself harboring any or all of the following beliefs?
a) I’ll always be fat.
b) I’m not attractive.
c) No one will ever want me at this weight.
d) I have no self-control.
e) It’s my family’s (husband’s, son’s, father’s, mother’s, lover’s, boyfriend’s, girlfriend’s) fault.
f) I can’t really be happy till I lose XX pounds.
g) I’m not athletic.
h) I deserve it [the unhealthy food]; it’s not gonna kill me.
i) Fat people aren’t sexy.
j) I’ll start tomorrow.
Mostly Yes answers: Feeling confident that you can change a is one of the single biggest predictors that you will be able to change. It’s called “self-efficacy” – the belief in your ability to “organize and execute” whatever behavior you would like to modify. It’s the confidence that you can attain what you want – and it’s especially important if you want to control your weight.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that as self-efficacy improved, habits also improved and weight loss was greater. And in another recent study, researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands reported that those who believed they could control their eating and didn’t blame being overweight on “bad genes” lost the most weight.   Read:
Audit:  High-Risk Eating Times  
Weekends, movies, nighttime, socializing, dining out, shopping, watching TV, the office, holidays …
Can you hear the inner voice of reason guiding your decisions?  Or do you drown it out with temptation and crashing confidence?  Did you make the right choice?  Or are you going to hate yourself the next day?  Quiz yourself below.
1. Friday finally comes; work is almost over. Do you …
(a) Have structured meal plans for the weekend
(b) Decide you’ll just take each day as it comes
2. You are going out for a big dinner that was planned a couple of weeks ago. You’ve never been to the restaurant, so you are unsure of the menu.  Do you …
(a) Call ahead to see if they have a lighter-fare section
(b) Cross your fingers, wrinkle your nose and hope they have healthier selections
3. You have just finished dinner. You and your friend plan to go to the movies. You walk into the theater and see the snack counter winking at you.  Your friend is already at the counter purchasing a tub of buttered popcorn, M&M’s and a Coke.  He/she turns to you and asks “What would you like?”  You say …
(a) Nothing right now – I’m still full from dinner
(b) I’ll just have a small buttered popcorn and a cola
4. You’re at the office and it seems that wherever you turn there’s food.  Doughnuts here, bagels and cream cheese over there, homemade cookies, popcorn, etc. Everyone is eating, and you don’t want to be labeled the office “buzzkill,” so you take a little helping of each, and when you get to your desk you …
(a) Throw it out immediately
(b) Stuff your face and go back for seconds of your favorite
5. After coming home from a long day at work, you finish dinner and then unwind in front of the television.  You see all these really great advertisements for potato chips, ice cream, cake, candy, etc.  You start thinking … “hmmm, I didn’t have dessert yet. Let’s take a look in the kitchen.”  You proceed into the kitchen and browse through your options, then …
(a) Reach for a piece of fruit
(b) Unlock the secret stash and dive right in
6. After work, you’re at a bar waiting for your friends. You have your eye on the bowl of peanuts at the other end of the bar. You haven’t had dinner yet and you want something to eat while sipping your light beer.  You slowly get off your stool and shyly approach the peanut bowl. Then you …
(a) Carefully grab a handful and take it back to your stool
(b) Playfully kidnap the bowl and take it to your stool
7. It’s Saturday and you have a million and one things to do that didn’t get done during the week.  You’re on a mission and having a very productive day when you suddenly remember that you didn’t eat lunch and you’re low on fuel.  You …
(a) Take time out to eat lunch at the local deli
(b) Are on a roll and decide to hold off until dinner
8. You are invited to a party this weekend.  The anxiety and pressure have been building up all week because you know it is going to be a massive food-fest.  You bring along the healthy concoction you whipped up, and as you are about to ring the doorbell you think to yourself …
(a) I know my limit and I am only going to sample the food
(b) It’s only one day; I can make up for it tomorrow
Score Yourself
If you chose all (a)s, you are on track for a healthier lifestyle.  You have total control over any situation that comes your way.  You make smart choices by weighing the pros and cons before acting  (thinking about the aftermath before actually eating).
If you chose all (b)s, you need to STOP. THINK.  Then ACT.  You are obviously acting without thinking first.  You easily give in to temptation and lose control when food is around.
If you chose some (a)s and some (b)s, you need to focus a little bit harder on not giving in to temptation and making the smarter choice.  You have the ability; you just need to work on it.
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