Five Strategies to Solve Your Social Eating Problems

Have you ever been at a party, laughing with friends and enjoying yourself, and then you look down at the big bowl of chips and there are only crumbs left? How about out to dinner with a loved one in the midst of a great conversation, and you are so hungry to hear what he or she has to say that your plate is wiped clean before you know it?

We’ve all been there. Sticking to healthy foods in social situations is perhaps harder than in any other setting. In addition to losing track of how much you’re eating, there’s a tendency to channel any social anxiety you may feel into the food on your plate.

Peer pressure, or more accurately peer permission, where everyone feels “off the hook” of eating healthy simply because it’s a party, is another factor that makes social eating such a sticking point.

While it can be challenging to eat right when you’re out with friends or family, there are strategies to make it easier. Here are five ways to enjoy social gatherings, without sacrificing your good food habits.

  1. Be the good influence. Chances are, if you’re trying to lose or keep off weight, someone else in your party is too. Make it easier for everyone by setting a good example (without calling anyone else out on bad eating behavior). Casually say, “I’ve been watching what I eat, so I’m going to try to stick with this veggie tray, even though that cake looks delicious.” You might be surprised what your conversation starts.Similarly, if you are organizing a dinner out, choose a restaurant where you know you can make good choices.
  2. Keep food from being the center of attention. For family get-togethers, plan an activity in addition to or instead of a meal. It’s easy to mindlessly eat when there aren’t other things going on to keep you busy.When it comes to meals out, take a moment beforehand to envision what you want from the experience – laughing and fun with friends, as well as walking away feeling good about your choices.
  3. Plan ahead. And stick to the plan! If you know you are going to a barbeque at 5:00, eat a satisfying snack at 4:00 that will keep you full enough to avoid the chip bowl. Choose a snack with protein or a protein shake to last you until dinner time. Then, fill your plate with the salad and healthier options, leaving heavy and sugary choices behind.
  4. Keep the plate from piling up. Often times, our eyes are hungrier than our stomachs. When you’re going through the buffet, make sure you can still see the plate. You can always go back if you are still hungry, but if you keep your plate light, you are more likely to fill up on a smaller portion.
  5. Have a support system to make social eating successful. If you’re going out with a significant other, enlist his or her help to make good choices. Better yet, choose to eat well together. Remind each other before you walk into a gathering, or when you look at the menus at a restaurant that you agreed to stick to your weight loss plan.

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