In Session with Debbie: Party Plans and Leftovers

This past weekend marked my client, Liz’s, 40th birthday and she had a party to celebrate.  In session last week we spent time thinking through the party and making a plan for it.  Liz, who loves chocolate, told me that her friend was going to make a special chocolate cake for the party – one of Liz’s very favorite desserts.  Liz and I came up with a plan for what and how much she would eat during the party, and Liz decided that she wouldn’t have any dessert at the actual party and instead would wait until later that night when everyone had gone home to enjoy a piece of cake.  Liz knew that at the party she would likely be distracted and wouldn’t really be able to savor the cake in the way she wanted to, so having it after everyone left would enable her to get much more enjoyment from it. If Liz was tempted to eat cake during the party, she decided that she would just remind herself that she wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy it right then anyway, but she was going to get to eat it very soon.  It wasn’t that she wasn’t having it, she just wasn’t having it in that moment.

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Liz and I also discussed how she wanted to feel when she went to bed that night.  Liz told me that on many previous birthdays she wound up eating way too much and went to bed feeling mad at herself, physically stuffed, and vowing to do better next time. Liz knew that she wanted to feel satisfied and proud of herself when she went to bed that night, and staying on track was the way to make it happen. Liz and I made a number of Response Cards relating to her birthday and the party, and Liz committed to reading them, plus her Advantages List, before it began.

When I saw Liz this week, I asked her how her birthday and the party had gone. Liz reported that the party had gone very well. She stuck to her plan, felt great about it, and finally achieved her goal of going to bed on her birthday feeling really proud of herself.  However, Liz told me that despite this success, trouble set in a few days later.  As per her plan, after enjoying a piece of chocolate cake after everyone left the party, Liz then put the leftovers in her freezer. She told me that for the next few nights, the cake called out to her and she had strong cravings for it, until on Tuesday she finally broke down, took out the cake, and overate the leftovers.

I first reminded Liz that even though she had trouble with cake later in the week, that in no way negated her great success at the party and how much credit she deserved for staying on track during that time.  Liz and I then spent time figuring out why she was able to be so successful during the party but then less so later on.  I had a theory – Liz was able to resist the cake at her party and enjoy just once slice after it was over because that was her plan. She knew exactly when she was going to have it and exactly how much she was going to have.  The exact opposite was true with the leftover cake. Liz had this highly tempting food in her house and no plan for exactly when she would have it (or how much she would have).  Because of this, every time Liz thought about having the cake, she wasn’t able to say to herself, “I don’t need to have it now, I get to have it tonight/tomorrow/Wednesday night, etc.” which made resisting so much harder.

To help with this, Liz and I decided that, at least for the foreseeable future, whenever she had highly tempting food in her house she would have a plan for when she would eat it. That way, it would be much easier for her to resist at any given moment because she would be able to remind herself of exactly when she was going to eat it.  The next time, we decided, Liz would make a plan both for the party and for the leftovers.

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