4. Relapse prevention: We tend to think of relapses occurring
sometime after a self-improvement project is done. That certainly
happens--frequently with weight loss and drinking--but the most
common time to relapse is early in the project. Over half of New Year
resolutions are broken by February. Bad habits are strongest right
after you stop them: one puff or one drink and you are at risk of being
a smoker or drunk again. It is important to know your high-risk
situations and avoid them or practice handling them (see earlier
discussion in this chapter). You need to create a new life style. Dieters
must permanently change how they eat, their food environment, and
how they exercise.
Cue exposure or temptation resistance training is when, for
example, a person who loves ice cream makes their favorite hot fudge
sundae with nuts and then looks at it, sniffs it, takes a tiny taste but
leaves it alone until it looks yucky, and then triumphantly throws it
away. During this experience, the person says, "I'm certainly strong
enough to control myself, it would be stupid to be dominated by these
childish, disgusting, fattening urges to eat unhealthy food. I'm in
control." They could also practice distracting themselves from the
A similar procedure has been done with budding alcoholics; after
being given one drink, they were urged to practice refusing more
drinks. This seemed to reduce the craving for more alcohol in that
setting. They also were gradually exposed to high-risk settings, so
they could learn better self-control. It is simply practice at self-control.
It is critical to stop a little lapse as soon as possible before it becomes
a serious relapse (see Method #4 in chapter 11).
5. Motivation Training: Spend 5 minutes each day thinking about
how you will look and feel after you lose weight. At the end of each
meal give thanks for having the strength to control your eating and
remind yourself how important it is. See motivational methods in
Horan (1971) used Homme's "ultimate consequences" technique.
This consists of repeating and imagining a positive and a negative
consequence of eating behavior, e.g. "look better" and "shortened
life," every time some frequent behavior occurs, such as sitting in a
favorite chair or drinking something. This keeps the long-range
consequences in mind. Likewise, Prochaska, Norcross & DiClemente
(1994) recommend motivating yourself by thinking about the dire
consequences of your habit, such as a smoker who has lung cancer or
an alcoholic with cirrhosis of the liver, as well as remembering all the
other health and social reasons for changing. Throw yourself into
becoming more healthy and wholesome.
6. Basic needs: If a person overeats as a way of reducing anxiety
about a love relationship, the relationship can be worked on, perhaps
by talking, getting counseling, or joining a marriage enrichment group.
If stress, loneliness, or anger is a problem, work on the emotion