Just Say NO (Thank You) to Overeating During Any Social Gathering
By Melissa Horowitz, Psy.D.
Research suggests that external influences, such as social environment, can be a persuasive force in the quantity of food one consumes. Though it may seem easier to take the path of least resistance, if your goal is to stay on your weight-loss or weight-management program, here are some tips to try:
- Be Planful. If you are invited to a social gathering and you are not in a position to view the menu in advance or contribute a dish to the meal, don’t panic and don’t give up. Take several minutes before the event and make a plan. Consider these options: (1) eat a light meal before you go; (2) have a light snack or meal prepared for after the event; (3) decide in advance what types of food are okay to eat and what to avoid; and (4) most importantly, make a commitment to portion size. Sometimes, the food itself is less important than the amount of the food eaten.
- Be Assertive. Practice saying “no thank you” in the mirror or in the presence of a trusted friend or family member. Be sure to relax your shoulders, stand up straight, make eye contact and smile. If you are not accustomed to asserting your needs around food, this exercise may help make it a little more familiar and, with practice, easier to do. Be prepared to have to say it repeatedly if your request is not honored the first time.
- Be a Little Uncomfortable. Let yourself feel discomfort once in a while. Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that will happen if I say no to a slice of decadent chocolate cake?” “Will depriving myself of something I want in this very moment make me uncomfortable for the rest of my life, the next several years….months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds? Thoughts, emotions, and physical experiences do not last forever; they are transient in nature. While understandably unpleasant in the moment, it is important to remember if you’ve already eaten your planned food and are satiated, the cake becomes gratuitous. Chances are if you eat the cake, regret will follow. If you forgo the cake and stay with your plan, you are more likely to experience greater confidence in your ability to tolerate a little bit of discomfort next time you waive away a decadent dessert.
And most importantly, remember that at the end of the day, food is for sustenance and occasional pleasure. Learning ways to be less afraid of food and more confident in the presence of food will ultimately lead to a healthier relationship with food and your body.