Updated: Oct 19, 2020
When you're trying to lose weight or stick to a healthy diet, social events focused on eating can be daunting. Whether it's a full Thanksgiving spread or an all-out Fourth of July barbeque, our society loves to celebrate with food.
Let's be clear - there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying good food and quality time with friends and family. However, if you indulge every time you are invited to a cocktail party, dinner party, or a girl's night, those habits can be detrimental to losing or maintaining weight.
We are what we repeatedly do.
And if you make a habit of eating the types of unhealthy foods that are commonly found at social events, what used to be a once-in-a-while eating pattern becomes an all-the-time eating behavior. And it's not because you lack willpower or a desire to succeed, it is purely human nature and the origin of habits.
But what happens when you are faced with temptation from chips, hot dogs, and a cold beer? Or grandma's freshly baked chocolate chip cookies?
I know that it can be tough! But I have compiled some of the best strategies to overcome difficult social eating situations.
1. Offer to bring the salad
If you are concerned that the party or gathering you are going to will not have a lot of healthy options to choose from, bring your own! Offer to bring fruit, a salad, or another healthy alternative that will make you feel good about eating rather than guilty.
This sounds corny, but it really does work.
If you are feeling anxious about breaking your healthy eating plan, close your eyes and imagine yourself face-to-face with the most tempting food or beverage at the party.
Visualize the details of the situation including the sights and smells you might encounter. Now, watch yourself as you politely decline or serve yourself a healthier alternative. Rehearse what you might say and do, and then reflect on how you will feel when you are able to say no and stick to your plan.
3. Focus on you
"I don't understand how she can eat whatever she wants and stay skinny!" Sound familiar?
The truth is that you have no control over anyone else's eating habits but your own. And just because everyone else at the party is serving themselves heaping piles of macaroni salad and cupcakes, does not mean you should too.
So don't waste your time and energy thinking about what other people are putting on their plates. Stay focused on yourself, your goals, and what you can eat and drink now that will make you feel good later. Because no one else has to live with that day-after guilt but you!
This is your journey, and you are in control!
4. Set implementation intentions
I've addressed implementation intentions before, but I think it's a very useful tool for social eating conundrums. These intentions are statements or promises you can make to yourself when you anticipate a difficult situation.
Here's how it works.
IF .... THEN ...
If the host of the party offers me a drink, then I will ask for a soda water and lime.
If I attend the barbeque, then I will avoid the appetizers and desserts.
The more specific you can make these statements, the better. Implementation intentions work by preparing you for situations you know will be challenging. It also brings your attention to what you are eating and drinking because it can be easy to get distracted when socializing.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
Practicing these social eating techniques over and over will make them habits. You will then automatically go to these behaviors rather than your old ways.
Remember that just because you aren't eating and drinking everything in sight does not change your ability to enjoy the event you are attending. If you are struggling to resist temptation, practice gratitude for the people around you and your health. Remove your thoughts from food and drinks and enjoy everything else that the experience has to offer.