Poll: Do You Struggle With Social Eating?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Whenever I spend time with friends, the gathering almost always revolves around eating. "Want to meet for dinner?" "How about coming over and we'll order a pizza?" It's rare that my friends and I do something together where food is not involved. I find it pretty easy to stay on track with a healthy diet when I'm eating at home. But when I get around other people, if they are ordering dessert I feel more of a reason to do it, too. If they finish their food, it gives me more of a reason to clean my plate even if I'm not hungry. Even though it's not direct peer pressure, social eating has a strong influence on the choices many of us make.

Studies have shown that people tend to eat more when they are with others than if they are alone. They are also more likely to order dessert if their friends are getting something. It's easy to feel better about ordering the large plate of onion rings if three other people at the table are doing the same thing. It's also easy to get caught up in conversation, and before you know it you've finished the whole piece of chocolate cake when you only intended on having a few bites.

So what's the solution? Lock yourself in your house for the rest of your life? Of course not. It's not easy, but developing a game-plan ahead of time can help you stay on track and not regret going out for a good time with your buddies.

ē If possible, review the menu ahead of time and make your selection. That way you'll be less tempted by what others are ordering.

ē Split a dessert with a friend. If you're craving the apple pie, ask someone if they want to share it with you.

ē Suggest other activities that don't have to involve food, such as bowling, a movie or dancing.

ē Bring along a friend who is also trying to make healthy choices. It's easier to resist temptations when you're doing it with someone else.

Do you struggle with social eating? If so, what tips you have for staying on track?

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No. I grew up eating socially so food was never an issue with me. Report
Yes! When I got to a party/gathering where there are finger foods with my husband I eat from his plate instead of getting my own. I munch but not if I had my own plate. I also stay out of the kitchen or where ever the food is so i am not quick to grab something. Report
Yeah, I definitely face the pressures of social eating, almost on a daily basis. At work, people bring in cookies, candies, cakes and pies, and sometimes are very aggressive about getting you to eat it. I've learned to just stand up for myself and say "Thank you, but I do not want any." They get the point now, but before they would try to sabotage me lol Report
Yeah, I definitely face the pressures of social eating, almost on a daily basis. At work, people bring in cookies, candies, cakes and pies, and sometimes are very aggressive about getting you to eat it. I've learned to just stand up for myself and say "Thank you, but I do not want any." They get the point now, but before they would try to sabotage me lol Report
Earlier i used to face this problem. Now my friends are more understanding and they realise i am serious about my journey. so i feel it is very important to be honest to yourself and the people around you.. yes there are some weak moments but they i try to stay as focused as possible Report
I find that when I'm with friends and I say I don't want anything, they give me a hard time. They want me to eat if they are eating and it makes them uncomfortable if I'm not! Sometimes though, my friends choose not to order dessert, which helps me not either! Report
I do struggle with social eating! One thing my friends and I do is share! We'll share an entree or a dessert if we want one! It helps an overindulgence stay just that and not a super overindulgence! Report
I always tell people "no thanks, I am allergic.......I break out in fat" Report
I find that portion control works a lot better for me in these situations than trying to eat something that I don't really want just because it's healthy. If everyone else is having a huge pasta meal with delicious warm bread and gooey chocolate desserts and I have grilled fish, I will just feel deprived and possibly come home and eat junk that's not nearly as delicious! So I just order what I want, and usually only eat 1/3-1/2 of it and bring the rest home for 1-2 more meals. I'm also a fan of splitting desserts (sometimes among even 4 people). And at family dinners, potlucks, and buffets, I find that trying just a bite of anything I want is best. I try to eat slowly and savor the taste. Then, if I really LOVE something, I get seconds just on that item. This way I don't consume too many calories, and I don't feel deprived. Report
NO. Not at all. I eat what I want to eat. "candy makes my pants shrink" also works!! Report
I have had to travel for work 4 times in the past 2 months for a week and it has been hard eating out with others. However, I order healthy choices, get sauces on the side and don't order desert. What I have found is that people actually have curbed their eating because I have stuck to my guns versus the other way around. They don't want to appear as the glutton... :) Report
Lately, I have been going to several educational presentations sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. These usually take place in pretty nice restaurants. To keep within my goals, I've learned to select the more healthy items and to eat only half of it. I take the rest home in the doggy bag for another meal. Report
What I find really hard is when I go out with my friends, who are all skinny, and they keep saying, "Come 'on, have some more, we can't waste this!" and I'm thinking, oh yes we can! Yes, I get it wrapped, but it's a struggle for me to say no in the first place. Report
One of my friends who is like a sister to me moved away a few years ago but she comes to vistit sometimes. When ever im around her I feel like I have freedom to eat what ever I want. Its like she just influences the way I think about food and we practically have a smorgis borg together. I really wish I could find a way to stay on track with food when im with her but its so hard. Please, if you have any suggestions or tips I would REALLY appriciate it!! Thanks! Report
Haha, I'm in college so..yes. all the time. EVERYTHING revolves around food Report
I'm definately a social eater. When I hang out with friends, we go out to lunch or dinner. Trying out a new restaurant is a whole social occasion. Getting together with family also usually involves going out for a meal, or at least spending a good bit of time talking about food we've had, food we want to have, etc. For me, I find it best just to try and make healthier choices when I'm out. Over the past three years, I have found that my taste in food and cravings have VASTLY changed. I used to be a strict burger & fries girl, for the most part. But the last time I went out with my partner, I ordered a stir fry with shrimp, scallops, chicken and TONS of veggies. I was so excited about all those vegetables I totally forgot to eat most of the meat!! BUT, on those occasions when I really, really want a burger and fries, that's what I order. It's not my usual, day to day eating pattern. And, I've found, in the big scheme of things, I stay a lot saner and on track a lot better if I let myself have something naughty that I'm craving. The trick is 1 - not to beat yourself up about it and 2 - to get back to my usual eating patterns at the next meal instead of using that one treat as an excuse to eat poorly the next meal, next day, next week, next month ..... Report
Yeah . . this one is still a big problem for me. If I'm out socialy I just go nuts and eat huge amounts. It's realy dopey, no one else cares if I eat with them. It's all in my head. For now I am just trying to avoid the situation. And if I'm with my husband we split restraunt meals. Report
Social eating is hard for me because both my boyfriend and I are vegan. We don't want to miss out on birthday or family get togethers, but we often end up going to places where the only things we can eat are french fries and iceberg lettuce salads. I try to make the most of it by asking if they have fresh spinach to add to the salad, and trying to see what veggies I can get steamed instead of cooked in butter or oil. Report
I've never been a follower so others are more likely to order what I already have ordered. If they go for something else, it's their problem - not mine. I drink a lot of water or diet soda with a restaurant meal so hunger doesn't seem to bother me either. Report
When eating with friends they know me well enough to realize I will be bringing part of my meal/snack with me. It's just my way of life, and none of them say a word knowing I have lost over 200 lbs now....if anything they compliment me on my dedication and self control. Tis nice.....very nice...to have such supportive friends. Report
When I go out to eat with my friends, I make it a point to eat healthier than them. I'll choose a meal that's not fried or too heavy and not eat the whole thing. If I want a dessert or appetizer, I share it! Report
We had a social event with Derby Day. I deceided to participate with bringing food I know I could eat. Vegetable Kabobs! This was a success. Report
I am happy to have the Nutrition tracker on my computer and these days i always look at a menu or most often I plan my whole meal before I leave the house. I am now in the habit of telling people i am not doing desert today. i think it helps even them because they often say its a good idea. I will just ask for extra water if they all want to eat desert but they have been forwarned I do not witsh to indulge Pat in Maine. Report
It depends on my attitude. If I'm feeling determined and focus then I do okay and stay pretty much in control. However if I'm not particularly focused or feeling bad about something then I can let myself get too caught up in the festivities. Report
Oddly enough, I tend to eat less when I'm around people, mostly because I feel like I'm being judged, even with my friends, and on really bad days even with my husband. That, and I'm too busy gabbing to eat, LOL! Report
This too is my biggest challenge. Since our son is now old enough to do his own thing we have been spending more time with friends and once I start eating or drinking there seems to be no return. I love hanging out and having a great time but it isn't helping my weight loss any. This will be my new focus. Thanks. Report
I have figured out the restaurants ahead where I can eat, or I have looked at the menus online as much as possible. Restaurants aren't the problem for me, but the small get togethers are a problem for me with the table of goodies. I noticed that I become anxious at small gatherings. Food of course helps as it allows me to stay busy, talk at the table etc. It's such an excuse, and it's one that I am working very hard at changing. Most of the time I am successful. Report
This is very hard for me but I am now going to set the stage for other. Report
This resonates with me as it's one of my most significant challenges. Do look at the menus before hand, eat something before I eat out so I'm no starving & share. I have difficulty with mindless eating with social distractions. Someone suggested I draw a smiley face on my hand which I tried & found that worked to remind me to stay mindful when I'm in the moment in a social situation. Haven't tried it again, but I just reminded myself to use this tool on the next outing... Report
It was a problem. It took me time to let it be known if I say no I'm all set, then I'm all set. After a glass of wine and friends saying have some, have some...You keep saying no, until you give in. Pretty much every function revolves around food. Papa Razzi will place 1/2 the meal to go for you-at least the one near my home- so it is all wrapped up ready to take home. Report
This is a HUGE challenge for me. The other day I had lunch with a friend, and my calories for the day topped out at over 3,000. I REALLY need to learn how to make better choices when hanging out with friends. Report
I know what you mean. But you still want to go out. Cocktails? I have club soda with lime. Looks like a cocktail. But it's basically carbonated water. Food. My best solution is NOT to be hungry before going out. A quick protein shake before I go out the door & it's a lot easier to order healthy or just a salad. Report
This is such a struggle for me, too. During my two years of sticking to my plan and losing weight, I felt like I lost popularity as well as pounds. I am still looking for a social situation that doesn't involve pigging out. They are rare! I have started to run with various running groups, and that has been fun, although often there is food involved afterward. I like Toonie's suggestions about always packing up half the food but allowing the indulgence of dessert (my favorite course). My husband suggested that I not talk about it so that it becomes a focus-- I was making a lot of my overweight friends feel guilty or self-conscious when I mentioned it out loud. Report
Social eating used to be a big problem for me. I would always gain a few pounds after eating out with friends, and it was so discouraging that I used to try to find excuses to avoid restaurant meals, but this was causing problems because my friends were starting to wonder if I was trying to avoid being with them. Eventually I found a solution that works for me, and now I can eat out without gaining an ounce. My approach is really very simple: (1) I never eat the bread; (2) I never order soup, salad, or an appetizer unless it is included with the meal, and then I may not finish the whole thing unless itís really delicious; (3) I order whatever I want for the main course, but as soon as it arrives, I set aside half of the food so that I can ask the waiter to wrap it up for me to take home, (4) I order whatever I want for dessert and eat the whole thing because I love desserts and would feel really deprived if everyone else was having dessert and I couldnít. Because I only eat half the main course, I can enjoy dessert without gaining any weight. As an added bonus, I have a delicious meal to enjoy the next day without having to do any cooking. This approach works very well for me and now I can enjoy eating out with friends without having to worry about having to work off several extra pounds. Report
Thank goodness for food intolerances and allergies. I do eat out with a friend to an Asian Buffet. I eat the grilled meats, salmon and stringbeans, tea and for dessert...frog legs. High protein, low carbs, no soy, wheat gluten, mushrooms, spinach...$7.95 tax and tip=$10 Report
I, too, hiave found social eating quite a challenge. The tip about sharing an item, be it a baked potato or a dessert, really helps! Report
If I eat out, I'm usually with my BFF - we're both committed to living healthier, so eating together isnít as threatening.

What really helps us is, we go over the choices we want, and talk about the calorie and nutrient count, plus how to order to make it better nutritionally (no mayo, sauce on the side, et al). Sometimes we plan out what we'll eat later for dinner (we meet for brunch or lunch), to finish out our day the healthiest way possible.

We also figure out the final counts while we're waiting for the food (I write mine down, since I use the Spark Nutrition Tracker daily). Then, since any concern or question about what we're eating has already been answered, we can put that out of our minds and completely enjoy our meal together, gabbing AND the nummies!

As far as eating at parties or large family dinners, thatís a different story. I do keep track of what Iím eating, and measure as discreetly as possible; but itís a lot more nerve-wracking for me to eat in a group, even with those I love. I do eat before I go, so Iím never ďhungryĒ per se; plus I commit to NOT eating a lot no matter what is served, to help me not give in to my usual food triggers.

Now that I have Spark in my life, social eating is FAR easier for me Ė no more skipping family gatherings because Iím too scared of facing the food, or too embarrassed to eat in front of others. THANKS SPARKS!

Have plenty of foods, vegetables, and water before you go out. You won't be as tempted to eat things that you know you'll regret.

Choose foods that are both enjoyable and good for you. Try to stay away from foods that you have a problem with. Example: M&Ms. I can't eat just one. Once I eat one, I can't get them out of my mind. I can stay away from them altogether more easily than I can limit my intake once I've started eating them. (My boss keeps a full bowl on his desk at all times, and I haven't had ANY since July 20, 2009. Every time I'm tempted to give in, I remind myself of that date). Also, once I've given in to one thing, I more easily give in to others.

If you are going to a potluck, bring something you know you can eat.

Try to find at least one food (e.g. raw vegetables) that you can eat in almost unlimited amounts so you keep busy and don't feel deprived.

Think through the challenges, and make a plan before you go to help guide your choices. Report
Oh yes, absolutely! It helps that I don't eat meat. Limits my choices. Report
Here's the strange thing.... when I was obese, I found this was a big problem. Whenever I went out to eat with friends I would generally order whatever they ordered.... french fries, deep fried, etc. I did this because I didn't want to be different. I thought people would think... "who is she trying to kid? If she ate healthy, low cal food she wouldn't be obese!" Rightly or wrongly, that's how I felt. Now that my weight is almost normal, I am the opposite. I ask the server all kinds of info and ask for food to be prepared with no fat, etc. And if anyone asks, I just say I'm trying to eat healthy and lose a few more pounds... usually someone or other will say "you've lost enough". Once that might have swayed me to order something less healthy... not now. I'm never going back to being obese... ever! Report
Yes! My friend and I have been getting together pretty frequently recently and we always have at least 1 meal together. I have been making better choices, but not always. It is something that I need to work on. Report
yeah, I most definitely do. I try to stick to my four meals a day, and everyone else is on 3 meals a day. So, its hard to eat small good meals - especially when they always wanna eat at asian restaurants with sugary sauces, or pizzarias, or fast food, etc. its sort of hard. But I don't eat out or order out a whole lot. Still, its an issue. Report
I definitely try to scan the menu and nutritional information before I go out to eat so that I can make a better choice for myself. If I do that, I rarely deviate from my plan! Also, if a few of us order dessert, it's nice to split it and only have a few bites ... instead of eating the whole thing myself! If going to a gathering at a friend's house and I know there will be a buffet of food, I try to eat something healthy before I go and if I want a snack or to try something at the gathering, I have a bite to know the taste, but then I try to move myself, my friends and the conversation into another room ... away from the food! It helps because I have 6 other friends who have the same mindset as I do! :) Report
I always help myself at these doings. It's a bad habit, but I don't keep things like this at home, so feel entitled. What nonsense that tell myself. My mind lies to me on many things. Report
Yup, I was doin' fine 'till last night. There was a special event, including dinner, at the ballet. It was a good and healthy meal, but put me wayyyyyy over the top of my calorie count for the day. Ah. Well. Back in the saddle again. Report
Hah I just had 3 slices of pizza last night with friends.... I definitely struggle with social eating. Report
I don't have nearly the trouble with social eating that I used to. If we go to the restaurant, I go for the healthiest low calorie meal, that I like.
The only trouble I still have is on Sun. afternoons at my Mom's, where we eat, and play games. It remains my one BAD day. Report
I don't have a problem with social eating. I'm happily maintaining now and have reached the stage where I enjoy good food. Some of the healthiest food is delicious. I love being out with others who celebrate with food. Report
I don't have problems with social eating anymore. These days, I do my best to practice portion control whenever I'm out with friends. I may indulge occasionally, but I don't over indulge. I can make a drink last for a while.
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