What’s your social eating personality?
Do you have a game plan going in to the party for what you eat or drink?
Do you eat before the party so you’re not tempted on an empty stomach?
Do you tell yourself ‘hey, it’s a party’ and not care what you eat because you’re there to have fun?
Do you drink instead of eat — and then overeat when you get home?
Have you ever even thought about it?
Many of my clients struggle with overeating at social gatherings. And it’s not just during the holidays, but also at kid’s birthday parties, happy hours, work events, conferences, girl’s night out, at the movies, or anywhere food is free and catered. Do you struggle with this, too? You probably do. Studies show that most of us eat differently while being social. Why does this happen? For one, we often mimic the people around us, especially in a small group. How many times have you had “another” just because someone else did? We tend to under-eat and overeat depending on the company, because we take on the eating habits of who we’re with. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. At a kid’s birthday party, the other mom’s that I’m talking with often won’t eat the pizza or have a slice of cake — unless I do. Just me being there changes their behavior.
Eating habits are contagious. It’s true! Back in 2007, Harvard researchers analyzed 32 years’ worth of data from a social network of about 12,000 adults. They found that your chances of becoming obese increased 37% if your spouse had become obese, 40% if your sibling had, and 57% if a friend had.
So not only do we mimic what others eat, we also begin to let our guard down. Studies also show that if you socialize with people who overeat, it changes what you perceive as normal eating. It not only raises your tolerance for overeating, but it tempers the social stigma of being overweight or obese, both in ourselves and those around us.
Eating with family is another overeating zone. When at a family gathering, there’s no putting on airs! We tend not to care how it looks to eat the whole block of cheese, finish off that bottle of wine, or eat three slices of cake.
So what’s the remedy? I believe just knowing this information is powerful. When you know better, you choose better. And that’s my goal for you — to choose your food. Going into the social situation with a game plan and a mindset of mindfulness is half the battle.
Here are a few more tips that may help as well:
- Peruse, then choose — my own personal strategy. Always decide what you’ll eat before loading up your plate. We tend to start at the front of the table without really looking to see what all the options are. Also, fill half your plate with salad and then opt for a taste of what else looks good.
- Keri Gans, an RD friend of mine who wrote the book “The Small Change Diet” has a great idea for the ladies. Carry a clutch in one hand and your drink in the other so you don’t have any free hands for munching. This will keep you mindful that you have to put everything down in order to eat….that definitely makes eating a deliberate choice.
- Get away from the food table! We tend to socialize in the kitchen in my house and it’s so easy to just stand there and nibble on what’s in front of you. Make a conscious effort to socialize away from the food and you will forget it’s even there.
- If you’re the host, serve lots of vegetable-based dishes and cut back on calories where you can. Instead of hummus and chips, serve hummus and veggies. Use cucumbers slices instead of French bread for bruschetta. Serve guacamole with jicama sticks. You will be surprised how much everyone will appreciate this! I have yet to meet the guest who said, “Oh I wish they had served more fattening food.”
Oh, and don’t forget to have some fun, too! 🙂