Sheldon asks a classic question — and illustrates the many ways we rationalize things when we think we shouldn’t be doing them. Note that once a bunch of work gets done to rationalize the cookie, the second cookie just happens. Worst-case scenario: you binge.

So how do we get around this?

Build treats into your eating budget: The rationalization spiral often begins with an assumption that it’s necessarily bad to have the cookie. Highly restrictive foods patterns, such as ultra low-carb diets, can make this struggle more frequent. Planning your eating to include a small treat regularly can help stop this.

Scale down portion sizes: Perhaps you haven’t committed to a particular healthy eating pattern yet, but you know you have a problem with certain foods or with amounts of food. You can start eating in a more mindful way by serving yourself less, perhaps using smaller plates, or just cutting the amount of sugar you put in coffee or tea. Experiment with ways you can pare away some of your excess eating without feeling punished.

Forgive yourself: Making a big change, like the way you approach food, is a big deal, and it’s OK to have some trial and error or some slips — even bigs ones. Forgive yourself, and get back to the plan. If you find you have to do this on a daily basis, it may help to go back to the experimental stage and start trying different approaches.

For more about mindfulness in eating, visit the Cornell food psychology lab website.


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