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Staying in Control While Eating Out: Beck Day 30

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

In the workbook, Beck calls this chapter "eating out with ease" whereas the book uses the "staying in control" title. In both places she offers plenty of useful tips applicable to a certain type of "eating out" -- that is, eating in restaurants or at larger parties. You can check the restaurant menu on line in advance and preplan what you're going to eat. You can preplan what you will nibble on at a large party where you're basically wandering around with a drink (might be non alcoholic) in the left hand, keeping the right hand free for shaking. I do these things and most of us who have been fighting in the trenches for any period of time have adopted such strategies for a long time.

But Beck does not, in my opinion, adequately address the issue of going to people's houses for meals: formal sit down dinner where the hostess has planned a menu, shopped for food, prepared several courses (appetizer, soup, main, dessert plus plus plus) and expects you to eat. Her suggestion that you take along a platter of something -- (raw veggies??) -- and provide that for the "feast" is frankly not one that is going to go down well in most instances. Asking the hostess to cook in accordance with your requirements, saying nothing and shoving a portion off to one side, skipping several courses that the hostess places in front of you -- none of this is conventional social behaviour.

And if you accept formal social invitations, you must reciprocate by having people back to your own home for a similar type event. Offering them a huge green salad and a little chopped fruit, or a bowl of homemade soup and some fat free yogourt with berries, will seem just slightly weird. Really. And if I spend the time reciprocating with a comparable meal (I'm actually a pretty decent cook when I turn my mind to it) that means I'll have spent the better part of a weekend handling high calorie, high fat, high sugar foods -- planning, preparing, serving, cleaning up, eating at least some of it -- triggering a craving for these foods which can derail my eating plans for weeks.

So: if the sabotaging thought is "I should be able to enjoy myself on special occasions" and the helpful response is "I can enjoy other aspects of the special occasion, but not the food so much", then I think that's right. And this approach works perfectly well for restaurants, large professional type dinners and cocktail hours, buffets and so on. But I also think (from my own experience) it does not work well for the kind of formal sit down dinner party with 6 or 8 people which was a staple of my social life for many many years; accepting invitations, reciprocating invitations. I don't do that any more. I try to substitute other social events -- the golf games, the walks in the woods, the trip to the gym, the gallery, the concert, the play -- with more and less success. Some people simply will be offended if you do not want to make a formal sit down dinner the focus of social get togethers: that's what they're used to offering, that's what they're used to receiving.

Beck glosses over this very real difficulty, rather than meeting it head on. Social life will change when food cannot be the focus of every social occasion with friends. And some friends won't accept that.

Scales today: 150.5. Go figure!!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Hello Ellen!
    I have created 'theme' sit down dinners, low-fat vegetarian, for example -- sometimes potlucks (less preparation for me, woo-hoo!) and these seem to go down very well. Of course, it helps that I have friends who have similar tastes to mine. I'm grateful for that. Healthy eating when I visit them too.
    I always enjoy reading your thoughtful blogs.

    2606 days ago
    Cooking at home I have found excellent choices that allow me to eat just the way I want. Rock Cornish Game Hens are one selection I like and tastes great with wild rice pilaf. I have a vegetable medley recipe, glazy with tapioca. I sometimes serve angel food cake, pass pretty fresh mixed fruit (pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, for example) to go on it, and a lemon sauce. I often have a low fat/low sugar version of the sauce I use and most people don't even realize mine is different -- unless I know someone else wants it, too. Sometimes I have leftover ingredients or leftover foods that really don't fit into my plan for the rest of the week. Sometimes I give them to my daughter or niece, freeze them for later, or even throw them out. At Thanksgiving and family dinners, I send lots of the food home with people who will appreciate it.

    Eating at other people's homes can be trickier, although the once or twice a month I do it is really not a problem. When I have no choice about what I eat, I still have total control of the amount. I just don't have to overeat. I find I can take small servings, sip water, put my fork down between bites, push the food around on my plate a lot, talk a lot, be appreciative, and no one notices if I don't eat much. I just don't go too hungry so I'm not so tempted. It's rare that I go to a dinner party that someone else doesn't turn down dessert as well.

    I have a friend who handles dinner parties differently. The high calorie stuff she'll say she is allergic to it, because she breaks out in fat!!

    Could be the circles you run in expect far more and your challenges are just far greater than mine in this area. I strongly suspect, though, that you can have the social and professional life you want, eat in a manner that would be acceptable, and keep maintaining your weight in that tight range you want.

    If Beck doesn't have the solution, it doesn't matter. You are smart. You can figure this one out.
    2606 days ago
  • CAROLINE1000
    I agree with you on this. I am a big cook and people expect it, I have set myself up for it. They give me lovely dinners and I always eat more than I should because I know that it took work and people are really sensitive to my reaction esp. because of the training I have had and stuff.

    I don't know if this is a "healthy" suggestion but I usually fast except for maybe a piece of fruit the day of such an event - either one I am hosting or going to. It's too emotionally fraught for me any other way (plus,if I dare say anything I get food pushers who say I am thin enough and that zaps the fun out of any occasion for me).
    2606 days ago
  • MTP717
    Very valid points. I agree with TRYINGHARD60 in possibly pointing this out to Dr. Beck. I found this on the www.beckdietsolution.com:

    We would love to hear your feedback about the program (or the website):

    If you do contact her, keep us posted on the response.
    2606 days ago
    Is there any way to get in touch with Beck and point out this omission?

    Short of stopping all friends' social gatherings, is it possible to explain to host/hostess prior to the dinner what you are doing and why, so that you can surreptitiously choose what you eat from the choices offered beforehand. It might be an excellent way to spread the healthy living advice. You never know they might all be glad to hear it.

    For your own dinners there are some great recipes that are not high calorie with good nutritional value. I've started putting a lot more vegetables, lean meats and salads out in a smorgasbord way so that friends can choose what they want and then bring their plates to the table where no-one comments on the choices that have been made, especially if the conversation starts with something that is interesting to all.

    It's quite a dilemma.
    2606 days ago
    You've got really valid points here. People never think I eat a lot because I prefer a number of smaller meals over the day. I have struggled because people assume (especially if they don't know me well) that I don't like what they've cooked. I let the hostess know how good everything smells and looks. I also make no bones about the fact that I eat small meals more often in the day. I am sincere in my compliments about the meal etc, but at the same time I expect people to respect my choices as well. I take what I feel is best for me to eat given the meal in front of me. I also try very hard to find one thing at least that I can take a little of and then even have a small seconds of (say a veggie dish or salad, or a small piece of meat) and let the hostess know that I really did enjoy it. I also make it a point not to pick much at munchies (even healthy ones) later so that it doesn't look like I didn't enjoy the meal and am now making up for it. If a hostess takes offense, sorry, I've decided that's her problem, not mine.

    Once people eat with me once or twice they know and are comfortable that it's just the way I am, it's nothing to do with them. I'm trying to eat to feel well, not eat to feel full after all. In a worst case, I eat more than I should, or higher calories and remind myself that it is truly only one meal. If it only happens once in awhile, I can deal with it in the big picture. The problem comes, like with restaurants, I think, when it becomes almost a daily occurrence.

    When I cook for others, I put on a regular spread and eat like I always do. There's lots of selection for everyone, but I still eat my way.

    I hope you find some really good ways to be able to enjoy the dinners out, after all they should be a cause of celebration and fun, not worry and stress. Happy eating.
    2606 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/1/2011 12:54:12 PM
    That certainly is a very big factor of formal social dinners and its disappointing Beck doesn't really address this..
    I don't have a social life and don't go to dinner parties so I am lucky not to have this trial. I also don't eat out much either -its been months since Mom and I went out. Living at opposite ends of the city and neither of us driving makes get togethers difficult.
    Looking things up online is fine if you are going to a chain restaurant (and when we got a Chili's in the city and Mom wanted to go to that with my sister, I was shocked by the high calorie meals, couldn't even get a salad that wasn't 1,000 calories!!), but Mom and I prefer small, one owner Asian restaurants. I don't like Mexican food as a rule, although I like Mom's home made chili.
    You can actually make normal food using lighter ingredients and get the same flavors and textures using Spark recipes..They seem to have revamped all the old style meals into healthier versions..
    Good luck with this difficult part of eating..
    2606 days ago
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