The Therapist's Diet
& Lifestyle Plan

Self - Care & Help for Everyone

The Therapist’s Diet & Lifestyle Plan for Everyone

By Dr. Michelle Stangline, Counselor

As counselors and mental health professionals it is up to us to lead the way with self-care. Our clients need to see us modeling, advocating for, and using self-care and living a healthy lifestyle.

We are the mental health role models to the world. This includes a healthy balance of mental and physical health and well being.

The Therapist's Diet & Lifestyle Plan is geared for everyone, especially therapist in the mental health field.

I am a size two and eat all the time! I am never hungry and even enjoy a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate each day.

I eat an incredibly fattening piece of dessert once a week as a treat. I am healthy and rarely get sick. If you are looking for a lifestyle change tries my personalized Therapist’s Diet below.

You will start to see immediate results, feel mentally happier, and become healthier! All it takes is a few simple changes in your lifestyle. You do not have to be a therapist to benefit from “The Therapist’s Diet Plan.”

The Therapist’s Diet & Lifestyle Plan’s Personal Story from Dr. Stangline:

I have not always been a size two. I was several sizes bigger when I was a child, when I had a baby, and during the eleven years I attended night graduate school.

The Cheetos I ate for dinner in graduate school did not help me lose any weight, but caused me to gain weight.

I also ate a lot of meat and drank a lot of diet sodas.

Even though I worked out four to five times a week I could not lose the extra fifteen to twenty pounds I gained after having a baby. This went on for about ten years until I decided that I missed being called “tiny” and “little”.

My body type was meant to be petite, and trust me; I did not wear the extra weight well.

For the past eight years I have been able to keep my weight down to 108 pounds. I weigh myself once a week to keep tabs on if I have gained weight.

If I add a pound or two I get strict with myself and follow a more ridged regime of the diet below. This usually only happens if I have been sitting at workshops or attending parties and ate too much.

I also try to move around as much as possible. I only sit for thirty minutes at a time. I try to get up and move around throughout my day to help burn calories.

I enjoy a small glass of wine five to six nights each week before dinner. If I have more than five ounces I will gain weight.

However, I have learned that I would much prefer the five ounces of wine several nights a week to gaining weight, or worse!

So keep your alcohol in moderation. Alcohol should be looked at as a privilege and life pleasure. People who are alcoholics or abuse alcohol should stay away from it completely.

If you enjoy alcohol a little too much rein yourself in. You don’t ever want to have to be told you can never drink again because you have become an alcoholic.

I had to tell several people this when they were patients at the mental institution. Not only had they harmed their body with alcohol and / or drugs, but they could never partake in the pleasure of having a glass of wine!

Don’t ever allow this to happen to you and never, ever get behind the wheel of a car after having any alcohol.

Health Benefits of The Therapist’s Diet Lifestyle Plan:

When I go to the doctor for a yearly physical he always writes on my result sheet, “Whatever you are doing, keep it up!” This makes me very happy and is the reason I am writing down what I do to stay healthy.

I stay mentally focused, happier, and remain much less stressed when I follow the Therapist Diet Lifestyle Plan.

Most of my graduate students and clients l know that I am a semi-vegetarian. This simply means that I try to stick to a plant based diet as much as possible.

I eat fish, seafood, and only a few servings of chicken each year (Maybe four or five). I eat a lot of bread (whole wheat), and even put real butter on it (tiny amounts).

I do not eat red meat, lamb, or pork for ethical and humane reasons, but find the side effects of “not eating meat” an incredible plus! I also save about 100 animals a year from being slaughtered by not eating meat.

If you have a hard time wrapping your mind around a semi-vegetarian or vegetarian diet try to have several “meat free” meals per week.

Also, the magazine “Vegetarian Times” is a wonderful recipe source and I highly recommend it. If you take the time to make a beautiful vegetarian meal you will enjoy it so much more than “meat meals”.

You can get plenty of protein from beans and rice, cheese, dairy, and soy products. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about this.

Past Observations from Dr. Stangline regarding patients in a mental institution:

When I worked as a counselor in a mental institution one of the things I noticed about the patients in the institution was that they did not get any exercise and rarely went outside.

When I find myself stressed or sad, I simply go outside and get some fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. Exercise is my primary personal therapy and I could not imagine not doing it every day. If I did not go outside and experience nature I would know I would suffer from depression and anxiety.

If you are a Therapist or Mental Health Worker:

If you are a therapist you need to set a good example for your clients by taking care of yourself. This includes exercise, a healthy diet, and having fun each day!

As a play therapist, I try to make exercise fun and add an element of play to most of my workouts.

My husband and I love to hike and take long walks with our dog. My family likes to bike and kayak together. We try to make exercise time play time.

My motto is, “A family that plays together, stays together.” If I have a stressed out week, I find my inner child telling me to “Go play and have fun!” I always feel better when I go outside and play!

The Therapist’s Diet Exercise Plan:

Daily Exercise: Yes, this can be boring, but I find if I get my first ten minutes out of the way in the morning, I am more inclined to finish my exercise in the afternoon.

In the morning I am half asleep and the time goes by quickly.

When I miss my morning ten minute session I feel overwhelmed knowing I have to do thirty minutes.

I like to break my exercise up. Sometimes I can escape my job for ten minutes in the afternoon and walk around the recess field.

This is rare however, and I find myself locked in the building all day. If I break the time up into smaller sessions of ten or twenty minutes I find I do not skip my daily exercise.

This has become a pattern and I stick to it regularly. Remember, to make it a pattern you need to stick with it for seven to ten days.

Avoiding Illness with The Therapist’s Diet Plan:

I rarely miss a daily workout. However, when I do I give myself permission to be sick, exhausted, etc. I refuse to feel guilty about it.

In the past few years since I have been eating and working out on the Therapist’s Diet Plan I hardly ever get sick. Years ago,

I used to catch every cold and bug going around. This year I got food poisoning from eating old cheese and missed two days of a workout.

My illness was based on a poor choice of eating moldy cheese, not on catching a cold or bug. I never get sick anymore and I feel that my lifestyle choices help me stay well.

If you don’t have time to exercise try working out ten minutes, three times per day, every day. Or, work out ten minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the afternoon (This is my preferred method).

Walk, ride a bike, hike, run, workout with weights, elliptical, or workout on the treadmill. It does not matter as long as you are moving.

I usually work out in my pajamas at home. I used to go to a gym, but prefer getting comfortable in my pajamas and working out without make up. I find I work out more this way.

If I had to go to the gym before or after work I would not have the energy to change clothes, make myself look presentable, drive and workout. The home workout works best for me. Others may prefer a gym and that's okay too!

If I have gained weight I take about three minutes and do intensive cardio. This helps me burn more calories.

I try to get outside and walk a few times a week. This gives me vitamin D and helps me mentally deal with stress in my life. I work in a school building and rarely get to see the outside of it when I am working.

I try to take the long route to the office. I often walk outside of the building to get to another part of the school if only to get a little sun on my face(Use sunscreen of course).

I try to lift light weights two times a week for about ten to fifteen minutes. It makes me feel tighter and burns more calories. Weight lifting helps me maintain my weight because muscle burns more calories.

For week end workouts I up the ante a bit! I enjoy more extensive activity such as hiking, kayaking, biking, water aerobics and swimming, or horseback riding.

I usually try to get one hour or more of a workout on a week end day. This gives me more flexibility during the week in case I miss a workout, or only get half of a workout.

We live in the mountains and I love to hike up steep mountain roads.

I cannot stand going to the “gym” or “exercise center” but some people love this, and it can give you a great work out. I have a tread mill and bike in my home along with some great weights.

My favorite weight is the Kettle Bell. I use my kettle bell two times a week as part of my thirty minute daily workout.

Lately, I am trying to add more yoga and stretching to my workouts. I find that when I do these add-ons to my workouts I feel better and am kinder to myself.

This summer I want to try “paddle boarding” on the lake. One day I want to try cross country skiing because it looks like fun. I also want to purchase an abs crunch machine one day.

Eating food on the Therapist’s Diet and Lifestyle plan:

I eat a vegetarian based diet every day. I eat fish about four times a week. For a treat I get some seafood maybe once every two weeks. I only eat chicken about four times a year.

Meat has a lot of hormones and preservatives in it. I never eat beef, lamb, or pork! It makes me gain weight immediately. I eat all the time and rarely gain weight. I am never hungry and have energy.

I look at food as a healthy way to feed my body and give me energy. I try to avoid processed foods and eat closer to the source of the actual plant.

I also like to eat food that came from the area I live in. I do not look at food as if it is the enemy. The enemy comes from processed, white, and refined foods.

I hate the word “diet” as it has the word “die” in it. My healthy lifestyle diet is meant to help me live longer and be the healthiest I can be.

I also eat a small portion of my main meals every two hours, or break meals up into smaller portions with a snack. I have a fruit snack of a banana and orange, or apple each day.

Eat nuts for one snack each day. I also will eat a small handful of chocolate covered dried plums every few days. Nuts have a healthy amount of fat, and if eaten in moderation, can help you maintain your weight.

Allow yourself one small (About 1 small square) piece of really great dark chocolate every day. If you are eating the chocolate covered small plums do not eat the chocolate piece.

For breakfast I am a fan of instant grits (processed and in moderation) and cereal. I eat eggs one day a week, unless I boil some for a snack. I do not eat the yolk when I eat boiled eggs for a snack. I also eat yogurt one or two days a week for breakfast.

My lunch is usually split up into portions. As a school counselor I have learned that I need to eat every couple of hours.

When I eat this way, if I have a student in crisis, I do not get lightheaded from hunger. I have also learned this keeps my weight down.

I start off with my small snack of a few crackers and pickles. Sometimes I add a slice of cheese to this. I may have an egg for a snack or chocolate covered fruit (again tiny amounts). I start this meal around ten.

I love to eat hummus as a snack too.

Hopefully, by noontime I can go heat up my soup or my baked sweet potato fries. Sometimes I grab a veggie from the school cafeteria instead. I make sure I drink a large glass of lemon water for lunch and dinner.

I eat a bowl of salad about four to five times a week. I play a game with myself when I eat my salad and try to get as many vegetables as I can in the salad. I eat spinach, lettuce, carrots, soy beans, peas, corn, avocado, tomato, cucumbers, and peppers. I add a small amount of blue cheese chunks (very small) and use fat free dressing.

This salad mixture has a meat like texture when I mix it up and it satisfies my desire for protein. I eat my salad first and this makes me full.

I go on to eat only a tiny portion of my main entrée such as spaghetti, nachos without meat (just beans, rice, and cheese), bean soup, soups, pasta, or vegetables, or fish. Oh, and I eat a piece of my whole wheat bread every night! For desert I usually have fruit.

Once a week I splurge on a really great desert and relish every moment I get to eat it.

I also eat a lot of garden burgers and garden hotdogs. When I cook these on the grill I cannot tell the difference.

Once, I tricked my entire meat eating extended family one Fourth of July. My family loved it and could not tell the difference until I told them. I add cheese to my garden burger.

I love the Morning Star’s Grillers Prime. It is hard to tell this is not meat! Add everything you love to this garden burger and you will not miss meat.

I eat a lot of soups with a vegetarian base. These fill me up and keep me healthy. I buy the ready-made red pepper or tomato soups each week and eat them for lunch with a veggie hotdog or veggie hamburger.

I only allow myself one or two sodas a week as a treat. I gain weight when I drink soda every day.

I cannot live without bread. I buy whole grain or wheat bread at the grocery each week. I freeze it and pull a slice or chunk of bread to eat when I get hungry.

I usually eat two slices a day. After eating this healthy tasty bread, I cannot go back to white bread or enriched bread. It is simply a matter of getting used to this bread. Once you get used to it you will love it and even prefer it.

I also love to eat beans and rice with cheese on top. I eat a lot of cheese and do not gain weight because I don’t add meat to it.

I am never hungry and always satisfied with the food I eat. I do allow myself one sweet a week as a treat.

Another secret I have is to chew gum. I chew about four to five pieces of gum a day. This keeps food out of my mouth.

Other Secrets:

When I see a plate of sweets I look at it for a few minutes. I ask myself, “Is this worth it?” If it is made of cheap white flour (Such as a doughnut or muffin) I usually say, “No”.

I might pick a piece up and smell it, or put a tiny bit in my mouth. I usually tell myself this is not worth it, spit it out or eat a small bite and move on!

However, I have been guilty of finding something that is so delectable I have to eat it. This is a rare treat and I allow myself some indulgence every now and then.

The Therapist’s Diet Lifestyle Plan is a healthy way to live your life and keep the weight off. It is also beneficial for your mental health as well as your physical health. Keep everything light and in moderation. Don’t go overboard one way or the other with food and exercise.

The Therapist’s Diet Lifestyle Plan may also help to keep you and your loved ones out of a mental institution.


Remember, when you get stuck it is healthy to seek out help from a medical doctor or therapist.

Always check with your doctor before you begin any type of diet or exercise plan, especially one that includes alcohol.

The Therapist’s Diet and Lifestyle Plan is simply a guide to a healthy way of living.

What have you done to Self-Care for yourself today?

The Therapist's Diet to Creative Counselor 101 Home

Disclaimer: This website and its content is intended for trained licensed mental health professionals and school certified mental health professionals to use for their clients / students at their own discretion.

*If you ignore the disclaimer above are using these techniques on yourself and you feel any discomfort or upset it is highly suggested that you seek out a licensed  mental health professional immediately.

"Beyond Art Therapy" is the concept from Dr. Stangline that combines all creative fields in therapy. It is not the traditional "art therapy" but goes beyond to include sand tray therapy, play therapy, mindfulness, meditation, color therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a vast majority of other therapies.

For any other type of mental health emergency call your local 911 / Police Number immediately.

Dr. Stangline does not offer advice / suggestions to anyone who is not a professional mental health provider, or a student who is studying this field and has questions about mental health programs of study.

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