Okay it's confession time. This blog is really just written for myself, because this has been a long-term challenge for me. Ask my husband or any of my friends; as soon as I'm in a social setting I EAT and EAT and keep EATING. It's like a switch turns off in my brain and I'm on auto-pilot scoffing everything!
Admittedly, I have gotten better control over this with time. I really became aware of it a few years ago when I attended some mindful eating workshops. I was challenged with asking myself 'why' I do this, and to practice mindful eating during these social times. Upon reflection, I realised that because I'm a social person, I end up channeling all my attention into the conversations & interactions going on with no regard for what I'm putting in my mouth. There were certainly times that thoughts would run through my head like 'It's not a proper meal because they're just snacks' and 'I've been pretty good this week with my food, so I deserve to relax a little.' But for the most part, if food was within reach, I'd eat it no questions asked.
So what's changed for me? I actually started becoming more mindful in social situations. I would mentally prepare before going to the social occasion by reminding myself that my body is a temple not a trash can. I started assessing the food options before eating anything, and would choose the healthier options whenever possible. And I'd often have a lighter meal earlier in the day or the night before so that I could relax a little and enjoy myself more.
Around this same time I learning about mindful eating, I decided to follow a meal plan. This significantly helped my mindfulness increase as I knew what meals I was supposed to be eating according to the plan. So if I had a social occasion or dinner out, I did my best to match what I chose to what I normally would be having if was at home. My weight experienced a desirable change as a result.
These days I still have my (scoff everything) moments, but I've learnt to manage my social eating a whole lot better. Here's a summary of the lessons I've learnt along the way, plus I share specific tips in my Social Eating Cheatsheet that you can download below.
PROBLEMATIC FOR WEIGHT LOSS
If you're eating out a lot but have a weight loss or other fitness goal, you can really be sabotaging your efforts. The food we eat out is almost always worse than what we would eat at home in terms of nutritional content. A big part of the solution is simply becoming more mindful of what you're putting in your mouth, and opting for healthier options and less food in general when socialising. Going on a meal plan can also help create more awareness of food choices and help you stick more closely to your plan, and therefore achieve your goals quicker.
GUILT CAN BE WORSE THAN FOOD
A common result of regular social eating and less than healthy food choices is the "day-after" guilt. This can lead to all kinds of silly things like mentally torturing yourself for being such a worthless human, to starving yourself to 'make up for it,' to spending hours at the gym in order to 'reverse the effects.' All of these reactions are in fact probably more detrimental than the food itself.
Dr Libby shares in her books the paradigm-shifting concept that the stress and guilt-laden thoughts after making a bad food choice can often be more detrimental on the body than the food itself, due to the increase levels in stress hormones you're producing, which can lead to your body holding onto fat rather than burning it. Your body is then receiving a double-wammy: bad food AND stress hormone.
So, the answer? Be kind to yourself. Be ok to have treats every now and then, and accept your decisions. Learn from them for next time rather than sending yourself into self-punishment.
The key to conquering social eating so that it's not working against you, is becoming mindful of what we're eating and why. By remembering your body is a temple not a trash can, you will make the best choice possible when eating out. You will mentally prepare beforehand and already make good choices before you're even in the situation. Why? Because you believe your physical and mental health is worth making the effort. You'll learn to enjoy yourself in a way that still nourishes your body and has a low after-effect.
Here are a few quick tips for conquering social eating:
- Drink water beforehand to lessen your hunger
- If going to a social gathering, make your own healthy contribution so you know there's always a good option if no one else brings a healthy dish
- Mentally prepare before hand
If you would like even more specific tips, be sure to download the Social Eating Cheatsheet where I share ways to modify meals when you're out, and give you examples of which meals to choose when eating out.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
I've learnt (and am still learning) that the more mindful we are of what we eat the better. Deciding to place a high worth on ourselves, our minds and our bodies will change the way we think about food. So next time you're in a social eating environment, I hope you put these tips into place and truly let mind over matter happen :)