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9 Thinking Traps That Will Sabotage Your Weight Loss

Nine common thinking mistakes that will impact your weight loss

How many of you are frustrated with the number you see on the scale? I wasn’t paying much attention until I went in for a routine check—up and had to get weighed. After going through my usual procedure — taking off every last shred of clothing (shoes too, of course) that would allow me to remain decent in public — I was shocked at the number on the scale. I don’t weigh myself often — I’m one of those people who likes to let their clothes do the talking — but seeing that number caused me to do a reality check.

In the last three years, I stopped my stressful law practice, started my own successful business, and have been traveling monthly for work. Too many restaurant meals and shortened exercise sessions combined with a lack of discipline means that the scale (and my thighs) have seen skinnier days. Having played sports all my life, I love physical activity, and I thought I had a handle on the right types of foods to eat, but it wasn’t until I had a conversation with a friend who struggled with weight loss that I realized the missing component in my own weight loss journey was not physical or nutritional, it was mental.

My friend suggested that I read Dr. Judith Beck’s book, The Beck Diet Solution, and in it, I discovered that weight loss has just as much to do with the way one thinks about food as the food itself (hey — I really deserve those chocolate chip cookies at the end of a long day, right?!)

Dr. Beck identifies nine common thinking traps that will sabotage your weight loss. They are as follows with an example of what each trap sounds like:


You see things in only two categories and ignore the fact that there is a middle ground.

SOUNDS LIKE: “I’m either successful at dieting or I’m a failure.”


You predict the future in an overly pessimistic way without considering other possible outcomes.

SOUNDS LIKE: “Since I didn’t lose weight this week, I’ll never be able to lose weight.”


You predict the future in an overly optimistic way without considering other possible outcomes.

SOUNDS LIKE: “I’ll be able to eat these cookies that I’m craving and then stop.”


Drawing conclusions about the nature of the world based on your emotional state.

SOUNDS LIKE: “I feel so angry about eating that ice cream — I must really be a failure.”


You’re sure you know what others are thinking, and you expect them to know what you’re thinking.

SOUNDS LIKE: ”My co—worker will think I’m rude if I don’t eat that cake she brought for her birthday.”


You rationalize by telling yourself something that you really wouldn’t believe at other times.

SOUNDS LIKE: “If I eat this cake on my birthday, then the calories don’t count.”


Mandating actions without taking circumstances into consideration.

SOUNDS LIKE: “I can’t inconvenience my kids by removing all of the junk food in the house.”


You connect unrelated concepts to justify your eating.

SOUNDS LIKE: “I deserve to eat this because I’m tired and stressed out.”


You blow a situation out of proportion.

SOUNDS LIKE: “I have no willpower.”

Sound familiar? I can justify a reason to eat just about any sweet, and because I’m so hard on myself, I often exaggerate my thinking or slip into all or nothing thinking. The key is to start to notice which traps you fall into and whether there are any patterns in your thinking. As you get better at doing this, the next step becomes replacing the sabotaging thought with a more helpful one. This takes practice, but it’s a key component that I believe is missing from the vast majority of diet programs in this country. Here’s to a future with happier numbers on the scale!

Which traps do you fall into most frequently?


Paula Davis—Laack, JD, MAPP, is a lawyer turned stress and resilience expert who helps busy professionals improve performance and increase well-being by mastering a set of skills proven to enhance resilience, build mental toughness, develop leadership, and promote strong relationships. Connect with Paula via:

Her website:





Beck, J.S. (2008). The beck diet solution: Train your brain to think like a thin person. Birmingham, AL: Oxmoor House, Inc.

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