This week I had a session with my client, Jennifer. Jennifer told me about a very troubling email she got from her work a few days ago. The email said that, for the entire month of December, her office was organizing a system in which people would sign up and one person would bring in a treat every single day. Jennifer told me that when she read this email, her heart sank because she knew that all it meant was that there would be so many tempting and potentially sabotaging treats around for an entire month.
I first reassured Jennifer that she absolutely could handle this situation, but what she needed was a really strong plan and some helpful Response Cards. Jennifer and I discussed possible plans for how she would handle this influx of office treats, and she decided that the plan she’d like to work on would be to not have any treats at the office, but if it was something she really wanted, bring a portion of it home and have it after dinner in place of the dessert she usually had. Jennifer thought that this was the best plan because she told me that she passes the office kitchen at least several times a day when she goes to pick up something from the printer, and she didn’t want the burden of, each time she passed, having to decide whether or not to have a treat (and therefore having to work on resisting it).
I reminded Jennifer that the good news was that this plan was entirely doable, as long as she was properly prepared. Eating is not automatic, so it would never be the situation directly that would mean Jennifer didn’t stick to her plan, it would be her thinking about the situation. It wouldn’t be the fact that Jennifer was having a bad day and wanted to treat herself with sugar that automatically meant she gave in and had a treat at the office, it would be her saying to herself, “Because I’m having a bad day, it’s okay to eat a treat at the office to make myself feel better.” I discussed with Jennifer that what we had to do was, as best we could, think through all the situations and accompanying sabotaging thoughts she might have over the next month and come up with responses to them so that she would know exactly what to say to herself when the situation arose.
Here are some of the thoughts and responses that Jennifer and I came up with:
1. I’m having a hard day so I deserve a treat.
2. I’m just going to give in and have this treat.
3. This treat looks so good. Just give in and have it.
4. This treat looks so good; I want to have it.
5. I can’t say no to the person pushing food on me.
6. I’ll just have some now and then I won’t have any dessert after dinner.
As a second part of the plan, Jennifer committed to reading these cards at least twice a day for the next month (first thing in the morning and again after lunch) plus anytime during the day when she felt vulnerable. With a strong plan and strong responses, Jennifer felt much more ready to take on the month of December.