Making a Plan

In Session with Debbie

This week, my client Kate was feeling down because she went to a potluck dinner over the weekend and ended up overeating and getting off track. She was feeling mad at herself for giving in and eating more than she knew she should have. The first question I asked Kate was, “What was your plan going into the dinner?” Kate told me that she didn’t have a strong plan going in because she didn’t know what dishes people would bring and therefore couldn’t be specific about what she would and wouldn’t eat. “I guess my plan was just to eat sensibly,” she told me.

Making a Plan

I explained to Kate that having a plan such as “eat sensibly” rarely, if ever, works because it doesn’t provide enough structure or guidance. How would she know how much to eat? When to stop eating? How much dessert to have? With such a vague plan, Kate would need to make many spontaneous eating decisions, and the fact of the matter is that sensible in-the-moment decisions are much more difficult than decisions we have already made ahead of time.

Kate and I discussed the fact that even though she didn’t know precisely what dishes everyone else would bring, there were still many decisions she could have made in advance. Here are some of the things Kate decided she could plan next time she was in a similar situation:

  1. Kate would at least know what dish she was bringing, so she could bring something healthy (like a salad) and decide to fill half her plate with salad or vegetables.
  2. Decide in advance how many other dishes she will have portions of, probably 2-3. This would mean that there were some dishes she wouldn’t try at all, and Kate decided that next time she would remind herself that she didn’t have to try everything to have a satisfying and enjoyable experience.
  3. Stick to just one plate of food and don’t go back for seconds (and eat that one plate very slowly and mindfully!)
  4. One portion of dessert – either a reasonable portion of one dessert or a smaller portion of two desserts.

Kate realized that if she had gone into this past weekend’s dinner with this type of plan in place, she likely would have eaten a reasonable amount, enjoyed the food she did eat, and felt proud of herself.

Next time you’re going into an eating situation where you don’t know what food is being served, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can’t make a plan in advance, or that your plan will be something like, “just make good decisions.” A plan like that is almost like having no plan, and it won’t give you much help once you’re there surrounded by tempting food. Remember that if nothing else you can plan how many different foods/appetizers/courses you will eat; how much dessert you will have; whether or not you will have bread; how much, if any, alcohol you will have; perhaps a rough number of calories you’ll try to stick to; how many times you’ll go to the buffet, etc. Remember that any decision you can make ahead of time will put you in a better position than making that decision in the moment!

2 replies
  1. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    This kind of planning ahead has become one of the cornerstones of making losing (and now maintaining) weight possible and sustainable for me. I generally calorie-count too so getting good at estimating the calories in meals even when I didn’t cook them helps too!

  2. Oola
    Oola says:

    I’ve used one-plate meals for over 8 years now, with some exceptions on weekends. I’ll tend to use my palm or fist to limit portions. But overeating happens sometimes. It’s all part of a longterm lifestyle.


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