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Coaching Corner: MINDFUL EATING IN SOCIAL SITUATIONS

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IT’S HERE!  The holiday season has arrived – or so it seems according to most retail establishments.  The decorations are up, the grocery store shelves are stocked and displays are everywhere to entice people to shop and eat.  Before you start making merry, review the following tips to help you avoid feeling miserable when the decorations come down and the parties are over.

1. Share your weight loss goals with your friends and family.  More than a few studies have found that making goals public boosts accountability, increasing your odds of success.  Making your objectives public may make you feel that talking the talk makes you walk the walk.

2. Limit alcohol consumption at social events.  Trying to have a non-alcoholic drink between glasses of wine/beer is helpful (for instance a club soda with a lime).  Remember, no one actually cares what you’re drinking!

3. Don’t Let Subtle Social Pressure Sabotage Your Goals. The biggest problem people face when it comes to these potentially difficult dieting situations is that the social pressure to indulge overwhelms the desire to eat healthy. When everyone else around you is heaping generous portions of high-calorie foods onto their plate or ordering desert, it’s hard not to go along.

In these situations, you’ll need to plan ahead. If you wait until you’re facing temptation to decide what to do – you’re already too late. Here are some steps to take when you’re faced with a social gathering that involves food.

  • Have a Plan:  Quite possibly the most important thing you can do!  Remember the mantra you learned at H3 – ‘Failing to plan is planning is planning to fail’.  If you know that you will be attending a social event where there will be large amounts of food, consider what options you have and make a plan for yourself – then stick to it.  If you are you going to a restaurant be prepared by looking at the menu beforehand and find a healthy dish to order.  Most restaurants post their menu’s online and you can study it carefully beforehand without interruption or being rushed.  This way you are ready to make a healthy choice and can be specific about how you want your meal prepared, and not tempted to make a spontaneous selection when you hear what your friends are choosing.  Try ordering first so you are not enticed by someone else’s selection.  If you are going to a potluck or a picnic you can offer to bring a dish or two, of which you can control the ingredients and preparation method.  This way you are sure to have a couple of selections you feel safe with, and sample small portions of the other dishes without a lot of guilt.
  • Eat Before You Go: You can minimize temptation at any social event by ensuring that you never arrive hungry. Eating a small meal – such as a ½ sandwich, bowl of soup, a small salad, a piece of fruit and some crackers, for example, will keep hunger at bay and allow you to arrive, socialize and approach food selection with control and awareness.
  • Survey and Select: If you are at a buffet or potluck, take a few moments to check out all your options.  Decide which foods you will most enjoy and serve yourself a small portion.  You can always opt for a second serving later if you want, but taking a large portion to begin with makes it too easy to consume more than you may really want.  It’s easy to overeat when you have no idea how many calories you are consuming and portion control is critical.  Once you make your plate remove yourself from the buffet table and sit with friends somewhere that is comfortable and you can relax and eat slowly.  Focus on the conversation and not the food!
  • Leave Room For Flexibility and Hold The Guilt: Sometimes you are simply in a situation where you have no opportunity to plan ahead and you are faced with the challenge of making a spontaneous or impulsive decision.   In these situations, just strive to make the best choice possible, but it is important that you don’t beat yourself up with guilt.  One unhealthy meal is not going to derail your program.   You are not going to sabotage all of your hard work in one night as long as you remain mindful.
  • Have Fun:  Once you have assessed the situation, made a plan, selected the healthiest options, and practiced moderation – RELAX! The main goal of any social event is to have fun and stressing out over every calorie you consume will certainly inhibit your ability to enjoy the moment. You don’t want to let your fear of food cause you to avoid socializing and the wonderful opportunities to experience companionship and friendship.  Keep in mind that your enjoyment of the event doesn’t have to begin and end with food.  REMEMBER: The objective is to MANAGE YOUR HEALTH!  Social settings encourage mindless eating and you must consistently be on guard.  Eating is SOCIAL COMMUNICATION.  Having a drink in your hand and noshing are cues that you are having a good time.  People look for those cues.  You have to get past that!
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