Turkey and stuffing? Check. Mashed potatoes, check. Pie, check. Within reason, you know what will be on the table before you arrive for most big meals, and if you're not sure, call ahead. Then you'll be able to sit down ahead of time and plan out what—and how much—you can eat. (Be sure to save a few calories for the unexpected treat just in case someone offers your own personal kryptonite—egg nog, say, or pecan pie.) This is a great assertive dieting tactic you can employ year-round. Before dining out, Bellows sometimes looks up a restaurant menu online and decides in advance what to order. When she's at the restaurant, she requests a to-go container when the food arrives so that when she hits her portion limit she can immediately pack away the leftovers. At a large holiday gathering, the food will be sitting in front of you for a while, but with a little preparation you can make sure you don't overload your plate. If you're at a buffet, prior to serving yourself, scan the selections carefully for what you can eat to squelch impulsive food choices. And assertive dieters tell themselves that the first selections are final; no going back for seconds.
Having lost 63 pounds, Bellows now knows she can learn something new from every experience, even if she does make an error. And her experience has taught her that the most important thing is to be forgiving: "There are times when you'll succumb to the temptation and times that you won't. But beating yourself up about it will only make you eat more."
Suzette Glasner-Edwards, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and researcher at UCLA.