In session last week, my client Joe told me about a big conference dinner he would be going to the following week in which there would be passed appetizers, soup, salad, bread, multiple entrees and sides, alcohol, and tables of dessert. Joe wasn’t sure how he would handle all that excess of food, so in session we made a plan for him to follow.
When making a plan for this dinner, the first thing we considered was the fact that it will be in the middle of a four day conference during which he’ll be eating lots of meals in restaurants and be out of his regular routine. Because of this, and the fact that it was Joe’s goal to not gain weight on the trip, we knew that Joe simply couldn’t go overboard and still maintain his weight because he would already have so many other opportunities to take in extra calories. Bearing this in mind, here are some of the components of Joe’s plan for that dinner:
1. No appetizers. Joe decided that since there would be so much other food being served, he would rather not use up calories during the cocktail hour when the time could be better spent mingling and networking with other conference attendees. Joe also knew from past experience that he gets much more satisfaction from food that he eats sitting down as opposed to food he just pops in his mouth standing up (which he’s likely to forget even having eaten by the time he sits down to dinner).
2. Joe will have salad with dressing on the side and no soup. Knowing how many calories are in salad dressing, Joe decided that he would make sure to request his salad with dressing on the side, so he could be sure of how much he was having. Joe also decided to forgo the soup, knowing that the salad would be enough food before dinner.
3. When Joe’s entrée plate comes, he will immediately decide how much to eat and section off the rest. In doing this, Joe is at much less risk for cleaning his plate because he’ll know from the get-go how much he’s having. Also, if Joe winds up getting involved in conversation, he’s less likely to overeat because even if he eats mindlessly, he still won’t take in more calories than he had initially planned. If Joe is tempted to keep eating after he has finished his allotted portion, Joe will remind himself, “I’ve already had enough to eat. The only reason I want to eat more is because it tastes good, but if I continue to eat, it won’t taste nearly as good as the first part of my dinner because I’ll be feeling guilty as I’m eating it. Guilt tastes bad!”
4. Joe will have one alcoholic beverage, one dessert, and no bread. Joe decided that once he’s actually at the dinner, he’ll decide whether he wants to have a glass of wine during the cocktail hour or with dinner. He also knew that with everything else he would be eating and drinking, he probably didn’t have enough calories to have bread and dessert, and Joe decided that he would much rather forgo the bread in favor of dessert. If Joe was really tempted by the bread, he would remind himself, “It’s worth not having bread now because I’ll get to have dessert later. Besides, I’ve had bread before, I know what it tastes like, and I’ll definitely have it again.” If Joe is tempted to have a second dessert, he’ll remind himself, “I definitely will later regret having a second dessert, but once the dinner is over, I definitely won’t regret not having eaten more dessert. Do I want to have regrets or not?”
5. Joe will eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully. Joe knew that this was extra important during this dinner because he’ll likely be eating less than many other people, and therefore he wants to draw out and enjoy what he is eating for as long as possible.
In session with Joe this week, Joe and I discussed how it went and he told me how helpful it was to have a plan because it allowed him to feel in control and confident during the whole dinner. Joe also told me that even though he knew there would be a lot of food served, he was still somewhat astonished by how much there was and how much everyone else was eating. Joe said that he looked at all the food and just knew, “No question, of course I’m not going to eat it all.”
I asked Joe how his eating during this dinner was different from how it might have been six months ago, before we started working together. Joe replied, “Oh, I would have eaten everything. No question.” In saying this, Joe demonstrated a fundamental mindset shift he has made over the past few months. He went from, “No question, of course I’m going to eat all this food,” to, “Of course I’m NOT going to eat all this food. No question!”