Sticking to a Plan

My client, Katie, has been struggling for a few weeks. She did well learning and mastering the initial skills (eating everything sitting down, eating slowly and mindfully, eating according to a schedule, etc.), but was having major trouble sticking to the food plans she made. Each night she would dutifully make a plan for what she would eat the next day but told me she was only following it about 50% of the time. For a couple of weeks we worked on figuring out what sabotaging thoughts were getting in the way of sticking to her plan and coming up with Response Cards for them. But that didn’t really seem to be all that effective. She still found that in the moment her thoughts got the better of her and she would deviate from her plan.

When I saw that what we were doing just wasn’t working, I knew we had to try a different strategy. As usual, I asked Katie to describe some of the situations from the past week in which she went off track. She told me that she ate a roll at dinner when she didn’t plan to and she had unplanned desserts in the evening. She also ate a rich potato dish at a catered lunch at work when she had planned on only having a chef salad. I discussed with Katie that the she was making “best case scenario” plans – meaning she was making plans that she considered to be ideal. These plans didn’t reflect how she was actually comfortable eating. I proposed that for a week, Katie make a plan that included all of the things she wanted to eat but thought she shouldn’t. After all, she usually ended up eating them in an unplanned way, anyway! Although she would not have the healthiest eating week possible, she could focus solely on building the muscle of sticking to her plan. Once she got better at sticking to her plan, then we could start working on gradually reducing some foods she considered to be less healthy.

Katie came back this week and told me that she stuck to her plan about 85% of the time, which was a major improvement from the prior weeks. The one area she was still not planning well was dessert. She would plan a reasonable amount and then end up eating more. We decided that for this week, she would continue to plan in the same way she had the previous week, and once again the primary goal would just be to stick to her plan. We also decided that Katie would continue to plan a reasonable amount of dessert every evening. However, she would have to go out each day and get the dessert that she was eating that day, and only bring that amount home. For right now, it was too hard for Katie to keep multiple portions of dessert in her house. Our future goals will be to pare down how much she’s planning to eat each day, and work on building her resistance muscle around dessert. But we’re taking it one step at a time!

4 replies
  1. Rose
    Rose says:

    I have the same trouble as Katie, I just seem to loose control when it comes to desserts. I say I’m like a shark with blood, gross analogy, but that how it is. I am going to try this approach. Thanks, your tips are always helpful and do-able.

  2. Mary Ogden
    Mary Ogden says:

    Great idea! Sometimes my plan is too restrictive and I end up eating off plan on those days. Since I write it all down, I can see there’s a pattern. It seems when I loosen up a bit and plan for some limited amount of extras, it’s much easier to stick with the daily plan. Thanks for your wonderful ideas.

  3. Heather J
    Heather J says:

    I have medical conditions and so my life is very regimented. I find that I’m rebelling because I’m resentful of the structure I always have to have. I see a hint of how to address this in this post, but I’m still not totally sure how to address this more directly. I know what my goals are, I know why, I know how to lose weight (I lost 175lbs before). I know when this rebellion started: It was when I got diagnosed with multiple food allergies (as in: if I eat egg yolks or coconut, my throat swells shut; my allergist has done IGE testing & blood testing). I have six food allergies (palm oil & sunflower are the most difficult to avoid).

    I would be so thankful for more stories involving self-sabotage. Maybe even about “grief” over foods given up or frustration over “structure” and “routine.” Thank you!

  4. Oola
    Oola says:

    When I see people struggling on the weight loss site I use, I see that it’s almost always that they are asking too much of themselves. It’s usually asking too much to eat only ideal foods and also to have a lot of unideal foods around. Slim cultures don’t have desserts around every day!


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