Friday, November 20, 2009

Mindless Eating Pitfall #3: More is not necessarily merrier

Mindless Eating Pitfall #3 
  • The more the merrier but maybe not when it comes to our food.  During the holidays, we spend a lot of time fraternizing with family, friends and colleagues...usually around food.  While the fellowship is great, the mealtime socialization can wreak havoc on our eating behaviors. When we eat with others, especially familiar people like family and friends, our dining experience can be more pleasurable and comfortable resulting in our spending more time eating. Also, what or how much they eat can influence what and how much we eat. This can work for us or against us depending on with whom we are dining.  Have you ever eaten around someone who made you think twice about what you eat?  A first date or a fit friend perhaps?  Maybe you're around what I call a "food pusher" or a "food caretaker", like a well-meaning mom or grandma?  Previous research suggests that as the number of mealtime companions we have increases so does the amount of food that we eat.  Meanwhile, another study found that when a group of people share a meal together, there tends to be less variance in the amount of food consumed compared to individuals eating alone. Heard of "groupthink"? Well, I'll call this "group eat", and if your comrades tend to eat more, then that could impact your eating as well.
Strategies to Manage
  • Plan ahead.  Develop a game plan of what and how much you plan to eat in advance of the actual event. Making your food choices and committing to them before the meal rather than during the meal will reduce the influence that others may have on your consumption behaviors. If you know that Mom will want you to savor her special dishes, begin with small servings of her best dishes rather than big portions. Why?  People don't necessarily remember how much food we ate.  If you go back for more, she'll remember that, and you'll likely eat less.
  • Be a leader. Serve yourself or order your meal first.  I know, rude, right?  At the same time, by taking the lead, you are less likely to be influenced by what or how much everyone else eats.  And you may actually have a positive impact on what those who dish or order after you consume. 
  • Be a follower.  Take your eating cues from someone who appears to be consuming smaller amounts of food or who is eating at a more leisurely pace.
  • Take a break...from the food. Arrive late and leave early and you'll be spending a lot less time around the food.  Offer to help put the food away after dinner. Help guests move to another room for socializing.  Take a walk together or do some exergaming after the meal to take the focus off the food.
  • Do something different.  Most of the big holiday events we attend revolve around food, so it might be hard to avoid them. But what about those other get-togethers?  The shopping trip with the family? Gift exchange with the girls? Lunch with the colleagues?  Having a meal for all of these other outings can really add up.  Consider suggesting non-food-related activities, if possible. Meet up at non-meal times.  Go out for coffee instead of breakfast or lunch. 
  • Focus on the family.  I've learned that love is spelled T-I-M-E not F-O-O-D.  The season presents many wonderful opportunities to celebrate and appreciate what matters most in life, and believe it or not, it's not about the food.  If you look back, what do you remember most about the holidays? Is it Auntie Esther's pumpkin pie? Mom's special stuffing?  That sweet gift you got from...who was it?  Or do you revel in the quality time that you spent with your family and friends above all -- playing games, sharing stories, reminiscing, connecting?


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