Poll: Do You Struggle with Social Eating?

By Jen Mueller, for SparkPeople

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.

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

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

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

• 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?

Related links:
Are You More Tempted to Cheat on Weekends?
Do You Eat More When You're at Home or Away?
Do You Eat 'Fat-Free' Foods?

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