Here’s an exercise I love and practice myself: a future diary, because nothing is a more powerful motivator than a compelling future. This can even be a really fun activity that you can do with your kids, and they’ll never know that “playtime” is actually therapeutic.

All you have to do is get a journal or notebook and create your ideal future. This future can be six months, a year, or five years from now—or however far into the future you want to go—but you must make it as compelling as possible. Don’t spare any details. I also strongly recommend using images in your future diary because pictures and symbols tend to have more power than words. You can go through old magazines and cut out images, search online, or draw your own.

Compelling future: A positive event that could occur in the future if you make the right choices. This event or outcome should be so attractive that it is a powerful motivator to make the right choices as often as you can.

When I meet people who tell me they “can’t do it,” the one thing they all have in common is that they lack a compelling future. The only future they’ve created for themselves (in their mind) is one where they end up “fat and alone,” and that isn’t much to look forward to. It’s also another example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Imagine yourself dancing at your daughter’s wedding and being the life of the party at the reception. By creating that future on paper, you get a taste of how you would feel in that moment . . . and it’s so sweet! These feelings and images motivate you to do positive things like walk in the morning and swap that sugary “blueberry” muffin for eggs instead. If you picture a future in which you’re unloved, you won’t be able to make the right choices when it counts.

Finally, just as you created a future diary, I recommend creating a Dickens diary. Remember the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, where the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future visit Ebenezer Scrooge? This diary is like that, only with fewer ghosts. Using words and images, create a story about how using your particular crutch (food, shopping, or the like) has affected your life. What consequences has it had in the past, what consequences does it have now, and what consequences could it have in the future if you don’t stop using it?

Dickens diary: A journal in which you list the negative consequences that have occurred, continue to occur, or could occur as a result of making the wrong choices or continuing unhealthy habits.

Maybe you don’t make it to your daughter’s wedding, and instead she gives a tearful toast wishing you were there to see her in her beautiful dress. Spend just ten minutes depicting in as much detail as possible that exact moment in your daughter’s future and you may never look at sugary coping foods the same way again.

When you put your compelling future next to your Dickens diary, the price of relying on external sources to distract you and numb pain becomes painfully crystal clear. Take your new art projects and put them on the wall or fridge in your home as a reminder of why the foods you put in your mouth are so important.

Jorge Cruise is the author of 4 consecutive New York Times best-selling series, with more than 5 million books in print in over 15 languages.