The Social Eating Guide

Hello, everyone, and welcome to Your Own Wellbeing the podcast. My name is Catherine Henderson, and I am your host. This episode is titled “The Social Eating Guide.” We’ve got some coaching to do today so let’s dive in!

This is a really meaty coaching topic that I’m excited to share with you guys today because we are heading very quickly into the holiday season.

AKA: The social eating season.

We will have so many opportunities to engage in parties, work events, lunches with friends, and breakfasts, and food is abundant. Eating in a community is something that is such a blessing. But for many of us, it can be a curse, and many of us really struggle in this area.


I’ll tell you another thing that is very difficult about this time of year that makes social eating even more difficult for some of us. We are doing this around our family members.

We all know that our family members have the ability to jab us a little bit more than the average person. We are a little bit more emotionally tied to those situations, and that can make it even more difficult. So if that is you, I want you to know that you are not alone and you can use the tips in the social eating guide to help you.

I want to give you some thoughts today to help you glide through the holiday season and all of these social events in a way that perhaps you haven’t been able to before.

Imagine it…

Okay, so let me first paint a picture of what happens to most of us when we go into social eating situations that we struggle with. Usually, one of three things happens.

The Plan

The first one, see if this sounds familiar, you go to an event, and you eat whatever you want to, you fully enjoy it, and there’s no drama around it. That’s fine, that’s fine. But for most of us who are trying to live a healthy lifestyle, we go to an event, and we have this idea in mind of what we’re going to do “I’m not going to overindulge, I’m not going to have this, I’m only going to have a few bites, I’m gonna bla bla bla bla bla bla bla,” right?

I’m going to stick with my plan, stick with my diet, or whatever it is that I’m doing. I’m gonna walk away from the event and be just fine. That’s our plan. Then we get there.

The Interruption

We sit with intention. Then someone says something to us. Someone always has to say something to us. So we’re already sitting there in the tension of “I want to have this thing, but I’m trying not to have it. I want to be good.”

Then someone comes in while we’re already in tension, someone comes in and says, “Why don’t you have the cake? Why don’t you have this? Why don’t you have that? Why is there so little food on your plate?” Everyone has an opinion, right? For some reason, we think it’s a social norm for us to comment on the foods that someone else is eating or is not eating. So someone says something to you, then you either go on and have the thing because this person who knows nothing about your long-term goals has now given you permission to. Or you leave the event, and perhaps you live through the craving that made you miserable the whole time.

The Aftermath

You think, “Oh, I don’t even want to do that again. That was not fun,” because you sat in intention the whole time. Right? Then, even more, than sitting intention, now you have these relationship woes because of the thing that someone said that hurt your feelings.

Why did they say that about the food? Why did they make fun of you for always being on a diet? And it really gets to you.

So you either have one or two of those situations usually, right?

You either go and you don’t live up to your expectations, so you feel guilty about that. Or when you go, you do live up to your expectations, but it is miserable.

Now, if either of those situations is you like I said, you’re not alone. This is super common. This is one of the things that we deal with quite frequently in coaching. That is why I created the social eating guide to help guide you through the season.

A Better Way

There is a better way. I want you to just think about what it would be like to go to one of those events and have a plan going in for how you’re going to operate best for your long-term goals for your health. For feeling good for all of those things, knowing kind of what it is that you plan to do at this event, and then you just go in, you do it, and there’s no drama at all.

Anything that anyone says just slides right off your back, who cares, and you leave the event feeling great. You were able to not really think about food much at all during the event but rather to enjoy the blessing and the opportunity of being in this social situation. Having people that you love in your life that you’re around, that you get to connect with, you get to pour into them, and you get to be poured into by those other people that are around. Right?

You just get to enjoy the relationships that you are meant to enjoy without all of that underlying tension. Right? That would be ideal. That would be a perfect world.

It’s Possible

I wanted to tell you that it is possible to get to that point. However, there is typically some practice that has to go into it. I wanted to give you some tools in the social eating guide. There are some really easy things to apply to make you think about this differently so that you can operate differently this season.

For many of us, we think that the thing that I just described sounds great, but it’s not possible because then you have a list of reasons why it’s not possible. So let me give you reason number one that you think it’s not possible for that to happen.

The Social Eating Guide for when “There’s no healthy option”

Reason number one is you might say that there are no healthy options at the party, there are no healthy options at the event, there is nothing healthy to eat there at all. You know, they always bring this to the event. I’ve heard this a million times, and everybody in my family either fry it, put sugar in it, or whatever. Everything that’s there is not healthy. There’s nothing for me to eat there at the event.

So I want to propose a few solutions for this. Okay, these are super simple, but oftentimes, we don’t actually implement them. So it doesn’t matter if it’s simple or not simple. If you’re not doing it, it’s not going to happen. The social eating guide is all about simple solutions.

Bring something healthy

Be the one that brings something healthy, bring enough for the whole group, bring enough for just yourself that doesn’t really matter, and bring something healthy. That way you are guaranteed to have a healthy option.

Eat before the event

Number two, and this is probably my favorite tip in the social eating guide, is to eat before the event. Eat before the social event. This is really good for those of you who are not yet able to do moderation well. For some of us, we’re far enough along that we can go to an event, and we can say have a couple of bites of this or a couple of bites of that. It doesn’t send us into a spiral into any kind of landslide.

If moderation doesn’t work well for you, I love the trick of eating before you arrive at an event. Then just knowing going into this event, “I’ve already had my nutritional needs met, and it’s much easier for me to fast through this event than it is to actually try to moderate.”

Revert to serving size

Then the last one is, if all else fails, revert to serving size. Essentially what I mean by that is to revert to moderation. One meal of the not-healthiest food in moderation is not going to derail you from your long-term goals. Right?

Most of it is the meals that we have every single day all day. It’s this, this the adding up of all of those things. However, if you go to these events, and you lose, you know, you think, “Oh, well, there’s nothing held a year, and I have to eat,” and you eat in abundance, you’re not doing yourself any favors. So just revert to serving size if all else fails.

The Social Eating Guide for Peer Pressure

The next problem (ahem…excuse?) we need to address in the social eating guide is peer pressure. Oh peer pressure, don’t we wish that it ended in like middle school? I definitely thought, growing up, that peer pressure would end at middle school and high school or at least college, but it doesn’t end for our entire lives.

It’s a part of our lives. So we know we have to learn how to deal with it. I want to propose to you that there are a couple of things you need to think about related to peer pressure.

The Social Eating Guide for: They want what is “best for you”

Number one, either they want what’s best for you and they are pressuring you to eat some certain food because they think that you enjoying that food is good. They think that you feel love from them when they say you should go ahead and have this food. It is as if they are saying “You’re good enough already. Why would you need to change? Have this food, and enjoy it! I love you, and I love you as you are!”

So let’s just assume that they want what’s best for you and that they think that’s how you are going to receive love or enjoyment from this event. Letting go and enjoying all of the wonderful food at your disposal.

The Social Eating Guide for: They want what is “best for them”

Number two, perhaps they think that they want what’s best for you, but they actually want what’s best for them. And what’s best for them, at this event, is for them to be comfortable. For them not to be challenged.

Many times, we humans make other people’s decisions about ourselves. So if you are not indulging in this food, it’s that you’ve made a judgment on this food’s health value.

Because of that, it means something about what decision I should make, and I want to be comfortable. So you need to have the same food that I’m having. Right? It’s crazy. It’s so crazy, but it’s true.

If you are making a decision for yourself, people around you will apply meaning about it to their own life. And they feel uncomfortable. So, they need you to return to the status quo.

A simple solution

I want to give you a response that works really well in either of these situations.

Make it unequivocally about you and the way you feel.

“I feel better when I don’t eat x,y,z.”

What’s best for me is to feel good, right? So if the person is truly worried about what’s best for me, then I’ve just put them to rest by saying this is what’s best for me.

Or if the person is making it about them, I’m taking the responsibility back by saying this is what makes me feel best because the way that I feel is so much more subjective than the way you feel.

So they don’t feel the pressure that I’m judging the food universally or that I’m judging the food for them or judging them for eating the food.

I hope that resonates with you because it is very powerful.

The thing that you must do in these situations is that you make the statement. You make the stand. You make it confidently.

Then move on…

Because continuing the conversation and continuing the thought pattern about it is not good for you or for them. It is not beneficial for either of you. It only gets more uncomfortable. It only elevates the amount of craving or tension that you are already feeling.

So shut down the conversation, diffuse the tension and immediately move on. That is my recommendation there.

The Social Eating Guide and Your Cravings

Now, the last excuse, or the last problem that people have, is your own cravings. So like, I mentioned, perhaps you were already sitting there in the tension of wanting to indulge in the foods that are available. That’s what you’re used to doing. That’s what feels most natural to you in social situations.

Perhaps you’re even uncomfortable in social situations and having food is a comfort to you. You’re removing that comfort from yourself, so perhaps there’s quite a bit of tension going on there that you know you’re going to have to deal with.

If that is the case, here’s what you need to do to deal with your own tension. First, check out this article we did awhile back about building determination.

Have a Plan

Number one, have a plan going in. Know what you are going to do, whether it be that you’re going to take that method of eating before, eating after, revert to serving size, whatever it is, or know what your plan is going in.

Then go into the event recognizing that cravings are a temporary situation. Just telling yourself that truth can often allow you to sit in the tension long enough for it to dissipate and go away on its own. This craving will not last forever, this tension will not last forever. Tell yourself the truth that you are able to withstand it, you’re able to move through it. Commit to practicing calm during the craving.

Break the cycle

What I mean when I say that is if you are used to going to an event, being in the tension, giving into the tension, and then feeling guilty about it. If that is the typical cycle that you go through, you have to recognize that. You’re going to have to work to break the cycle. Then it is going to be a practice.

There is not one thing that I can tell you today that is like “the magic thing” that you didn’t know and now all of a sudden, you’re never going to deal with cravings. Again, it’s something you must commit to doing and practicing over and over until it becomes natural to you.

The secret to all of this is recognizing that you are responsible for managing your mind, managing the thoughts that are in your own head, managing your feelings, how those thoughts in your head are directing those feelings, and then how you are making choices.

The Blame Game

Because the things that I’ve said here are the ways that we blame other people, the situation, or our body and how we’re made and how we’re wired. That’s how we place the blame in other places instead of just taking responsibility for our minds, our feelings, and our choices in the matter.

Okay, I want you to leave the social eating guide episode feeling empowered to get a lot of practice in during this holiday season with social eating cues.

My friends, you can do this.

You can overcome your temptations, and overcome your tension. You can go to events and just truly, truly enjoy yourself and enjoy what the event was made for: socializing, loving each other loving your people.

All right. Hope you have a great day. I will talk to you soon. Bye now.

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