Encourage clients to plan

When clients tell you they are going out of town, encourage them to make concrete plans that will guide them during the change in routine. It’s not enough to say, “I’ll try not to overeat.” Clients for whom overeating is a problem are more likely to benefit from more specific guidelines, such as sticking to exchange diet portions. Clients can review how to look for low-fat entrees on restaurant menus, resolve to go through the buffet line only once and limit desserts to one small portion a day. Similarly, a vague resolution to “walk every day” might be more effective with a strategy for implementation: I will walk once around the lake every afternoon before dinner.

Some clients find that signing a contract with you or even with themselves is motivational. Once you have helped the client design a concrete plan, draw up a simple contract outlining the details. Have the client sign on the dotted line, and send a copy home as a gentle reminder of your discussions.

Anticipate potential difficulties

The plan should include anticipation of potential roadblocks. A little foresight and trouble-shooting may help clients persevere when difficulties arise. For example, what will happen to that walk around the lake if it rains all week? Clients can plan to take a rain coat and walk in the rain, or use the exercise machines at the hotel. Having anticipated snafus, they won’t give up at the first sign of trouble.

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