My dieter, Mark, came in to see me this week. Over the past month, Mark’s weight loss has slowed down and, in general, he and I have been working on consistently maintaining his healthy eating habits with the awareness that he may or may not continue to lose more. This week, one of the things Mark wanted to put on the agenda was his upcoming trip with his wife and kids. Mark and his family are driving to Maine and spending two weeks there before driving back home. Mark told me that he wanted to discuss how he would handle both eating during the car rides and also while he was in Maine.
I first asked Mark: What is your goal for this trip? Is it to lose weight, gain a little, or stay the same? Mark replied that since he has been in such a good eating groove lately and has been feeling good about himself, about the way his clothes fit, and about how much easier healthy eating has become now that he’s gotten in control and stayed in control, his goal for the trip is to stay the same – not lose any weight over the next two weeks, but not gain any, either. The reason I posed this question to Mark before we talked about anything else is because defining his goals for the trip was necessary in order to figure out what his plan should be; Mark’s vacation plan would differ depending on the answer.
With the goal in mind of maintaining his weight, Mark and I then began figuring out what a reasonable plan would be. Mark and I first discussed the car rides to and from Maine, because in the past Mark has used being in the car for long periods of time as an excuse to continuously overeat junk food snacks and unhealthy foods he would buy when he stopped for gas. Mark and I came up with the following plan for the car trips:
1. Make sure to eat three normal meals. Eat breakfast before I leave and take the time to stop and eat a real lunch (getting there 45 minutes later won’t matter in the long run). Stop for dinner on the road or wait until we get there to sit down and eat dinner.
2. Bring all snacks with me. Continue to eat like I do on normal days: one snack between breakfast and lunch and one snack between lunch and dinner. Bring snacks with me so I’m not tempted to buy unhealthy food when we stop for gas.
3. Respond to my Sabotaging Thoughts. Remind myself that just because I’m in the car doesn’t mean I can snack all day long. My body doesn’t know or care that I’m in the car and it, and I, will be so much happier if I eat the same way as I do on a normal day.
Mark and I then discussed what he wanted his plan to be for while he was in Maine and he told me about a homemade ice cream store that his family frequents whenever they are in Maine. Mark said that he would feel deprived if he couldn’t eat ice cream with his family if they went during the day, but, at the same time, he also didn’t want to give up his nightly treat. Here is a snippet of our conversation:
Mark: I think maybe the plan should be that, while I’m on vacation, I have two treats a day. What do you think?
Debbie: Well, do you eat two treats a day now?
Mark: No, I only eat one.
Debbie: So you only eat one treat a day now and in general have been maintaining your weight. My guess is that if you eat two treats a day while on vacation, you’ll gain some weight. Let’s take a look at your goal again. At the beginning of session you said that you wanted to maintain your weight on this trip, and that goal seems to be incompatible with the plan of eating two treats a day. So – do you want to change your goal, or do you want to change your plan? The choice is entirely up to you.
Mark: No, I really don’t want to gain any weight while we’re away, especially since we take this trip every year and I don’t want to gain weight every time we’re in Maine. I guess I’ll cut it back down to one treat a day while I’m on vacation.
Debbie: Okay. And remember, it’s reasonable to have a different plan when you’re away than you do normally. I know that you follow the rule, “No dessert until after dinner,” but I’m wondering if that’s one you might want to amend while you’re in Maine. Maybe in Maine, the rule should be, “one treat a day,” but you can choose when to have it. That way, if your family goes out for ice cream during the day, you can have it then, but not have your treat at night. What do you think of that idea?
Mark: I think that’s a good idea because I really don’t want to miss out on our favorite ice cream, but sometimes it just doesn’t work to get it after dinner.
Debbie: So what do you want to say to yourself on a night when you’ve already had ice cream during the day, but now want to eat your nightly treat?
Mark: I guess I need to remind myself that I’ve already had my treat that day, and I can always have another one tomorrow. I can’t eat two treats and maintain my weight, and not gaining weight is so much more important to me than having an extra treat.
Debbie: That’s a great response! Do you want to make a Response Card to remind yourself of that idea?
Mark and I continued to hash out his vacation plan, and I frequently asked him: What is your goal for this trip? Do you want to change it or keep it the same? This made our planning easier because it helped Mark remember that he had the choice of changing his goal, but since he didn’t want to, he had to make a plan that would enable him to reach it. Here are some of the items on Mark’s vacation plan:
1. Eat three meals a day – brunch just doesn’t work for me.
2. Eat one treat a day except on my daughter’s birthday, when I’ll have two.
3. Make sure to do some form of exercise every day, even if it’s just taking a short walk on the beach.
4. Limit alcohol consumption to just on the weekends – when I don’t have it, I don’t miss it anyway.
5. Go with Emily to the grocery store to ensure that I have healthy foods readily available.
6. If we’ll be out for the day, bring snacks with me whenever possible so I don’t have to rely on finding something healthy on the fly.
7. Continue to read my Advantages List and Response Cards every day and practice my healthy eating habits.
8. Continue to weigh myself everyday with the scale in Maine.
9. Remind myself that my goal for this trip is to prove to myself that I can go to Maine every year without gaining weight.
10. Remember that I will feel GREAT if I stay in control of my eating, and that it will put a huge damper on my trip if I feel out of control.
At the end of our session, Mark told me that he felt much more confident in his ability to stay in control while in Maine. He also decided that if he was tempted to eat or drink something that wasn’t on his plan, he would ask himself, “Is this going to help me reach my goals or not?”
By centering our discussion on Mark’s goal for the trip, and by reminding him that he could change his goal if he wanted to, Mark was able to come up with a plan that felt reasonable and doable, and one that he felt good about, knowing it would help get him to where he wanted to be.