avoid overeating in social situations

Posted: September 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Even years after overcoming binge eating and food guilt, I still have to take caution with my eating habits in social situations. I find it much easier to consume too much food or eat just for the sake of eating in such occasions. Potlucks with their array of delicious food. Dinners out with friends. Parties with buffets of treats and goodies. To this day, I have to remind myself of a few things before partaking. I never feel guilty if I do eat more than needed, but its always nice to have a game plan and leave a night satisfied and comfortable. Wouldn’t you agree? So tonight, while at my friend’s rehearsal dinner (which is buffet style), I will incorporate the following practices that never fail me.

Scan first. Take a look at each plate served to you in a sit-down meal or assess the variety in a buffet before serving yourself. Eat only the things you most enjoy. In a buffet, I always pick out the top 5 things I want to eat and 2 to 3 of the most delicious looking desserts I want to sample. In a sit down meal I won’t finish each plate unless I love every bite. Plus, I always know I want dessert so I will try to eat less overall of the main meal.

Portion check. I plate up a smaller serving of each item I choose so I can get a taste of each, without ending up too full. Many times, a few bites satisfy my taste for that item and this way I can enjoy more of the things I enjoy. Also, feel free to add in the crudités or fruit at free will if you want to nibble extra.


Take a moment to hunger check. Throughout the night it can be easy to mindlessly snack because you’re busy chatting or food sits right in front of you. Try to remember to pause and gauge your hunger as the night goes on. Realizing you are getting full could be enough to stop you from eating extra.

Keep drinking reasonable. Taking pleasure in a few cocktails is a fun part of social dining for many. Heck, I wish it was a part of my night tonight. 😉 It is easier to lose sight of how much you are eating when things get a little blurry if you know what I mean. Plus, drinks add up! Try to limit to 2 beverages enjoyed over the course of the night.

Think about tomorrow. Remembering a good workout planned the next day, or another social event where you will likely eat more, can help keep you motivated to keep things reasonable in the current moment.

Pop some gum. Seeing other people eating and drinking could just make your mouth crave some activity as well. Keep your mouth busy with some gum. Or sipping some water.


Do something else. If a party includes dancing, go get your groove on. I doubt people are eating and dancing at the same time. Or if you see some friends talking further away from the dining area, move over and join their conversation.

Throw it away or push it away. Making a physical action to signify you are done eating can strengthen your resolve of being finished. Physically remove your dining dish as a signal to your mind you do not want more.

Don’t think you blew it. If you get to a point where you think you have eaten/drank more than you intended, do NOT immediately think you blew it and should just give in to whatever for the rest of the night! Tell yourself that you realize you are more than satisfied now and choose to continue your night happily. Choose to care for yourself by listening to your body and enjoying the rest of the time without drowning yourself in the chocolate fountain.

  • What tips or tricks do you use when dining at social events?
  • What situations are hardest for you to listen to your hunger cues?

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34 Comments to “avoid overeating in social situations”
  1. erica says:

    Great post, This would be good for some of the weight management folks I see on a daily basis. I try and be conscious about what I order in a restaurant, but at times I don’t care. I try and keep a good balance and really listen to my hunger cues. More than not, I try and eat half my plate and then box the rest up for lunch or dinner the next day so I can get two meals out of one 🙂

    • Tina says:

      Keeping portions in check is so important! There’s no reason we shouldn’t enjoy things we really love. Just not eat past our fill. 🙂

  2. Love this post! I try to drink a lot of water – it slows the pace of my eating and makes me think about what I’m doing. 🙂

  3. Social situations are definitely the hardest for me!

    I almost always stick to a single glass of white wine (I love red, but I don’t want stained teeth and lips in a social situation either!) 😉 and try to pick the things I really want to try, rather than eating everything in front of me. And I always save a little room for dessert, too!

    I also like to “ruin” my food when I feel finished– I either mash it all up with my fork, so it looks unappealing to me, or I’ll throw my napkin over my food so it’s no longer an option to nibble!

    • Tina says:

      Oh good idea! I like the ruin thing. That would sure get me to stop. And the napkin is a good trick too. Thanks for sharing those.

  4. I love the motto, “Check it, before you wreck it.” Even if you have gone a little overboard, like you said, it’s never too late to wrangle things in and get back on track. 🙂

    Running is definitely what keeps me in check of what I’m eating. I’m never tempted to eat or drink too much when I know I have a 14 mile run in less than 12 hours. 😉

  5. I really struggle with social situations in general, and when food is present my anxiety is amplified. But, I do many of the things you describe here to keep myself in check:
    1. scan food first, then make selections. This is key for me!
    2. 2 drink maximum, no matter the circumstances. More than 2 and I am overeating. I know this about myself so I dont’ let it happen.
    3. If I eat too much, I stop. I don’t keep going. I did that for too many years and it only resulted in me feeling even worse about myself. Not a good thing!

  6. Lee says:

    You know how articles always say to eat beforehand when going to a party? I do not follow that advice. I feel like that just makes me eat twice!

    • Tina says:

      Agreed! I’m not going to turn down good food. I prefer being hungry but just KNOWING my hunger so I still don’t eat too much. 🙂

      • Yup! I did this for a long time and I would still eat! Now, I just let myself get hungry so I can really enjoy all the food there! But like you said, you have to know your hunger and pay attention so you don’t overdo it!

  7. these are great tips! i use the gum tip at home, kinda, by brushing my teeth after meals. good for my mouth and my belly 🙂

  8. I agree with Lee: Snacking before a party doesn’t work for me. I still end up eating the same amount (often more than I want).

    My biggest problem, aside from doing the exact opposite of your last tip, is that EVERYTHING looks good. I love food — all food — so looking for the top four or five choices on the buffet just doesn’t work for me.

    I love the tips, though. They’re all the things I know I SHOULD be doing, even if I don’t always comply.

    • Tina says:

      Well you could still try a smaller bit of everything. It’s overall amount that matters. And sometimes its okay to go a bit overboard. I think the biggest thing is being mindful of what you’re doing and not letting the emotions control it.

  9. Thanks for this post! I have such a problem with eating too much in social situations. I don’t even notice how much I’m eating until I’m uncomfortably full. I’m gonna try to put your tips into action.

  10. Social events a hard. I always want to try everyting and have learned to eat things I REALLY want to and leave the less appealing things, all in moderation 🙂

  11. Sometimes having food allergies is a good thing! I normally can’t eat anything other than the crudite or fresh fruit. I make sure to put food on a plate…not graze.

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  13. Angela says:

    Great tips! Gum is definitely my trick – after a main meal I pop a piece and it keeps me from picking at leftovers on my plate, or the remains in the bread basket, or sweets or whatever.

  14. Awesome post! And very timely – I have my work picnic today, followed by my church picnic tonight – it’s going to be a day full of food! These are great suggestions and I’m going to try to put them into practice 🙂

  15. Kat says:

    I have the WORST time when I am sitting either BY the food or it is in FRONT of me. Its like my mind detatches from my body, and I just keep grabbing and grabbing. My stomach may be completely satisfied, even full, but I do it almost unconciously. So I have learned to ask for the waitor to take the tray away or to simply remove myself from the area. I either move my seat and go talk to someone who is FAR away from the food, or make a quick exit!

  16. I agree – don’t stand by the food table, drink lots of water and try not to drink too much. Great post!

  17. Sometimes it’s easy for me not to over eat in social situations when there are no veggie offerings. But sometimes there will be just a few and I just can’t stop myself from going back for 2nds (or 4ths). I don’t have a variety to choose from so I load up on the few things I can. Thankfully I’m old and boring and don’t go out often 😉

  18. Great post Tina! I find all of those suggestions really helpful. My favorite, which is probably one of the more simple ones is to SCAN the food beforehand. It always helps me to see what food I am interested in, and what I can live without.

  19. These are great tips! Social situations, ESPECIALLY buffets or picnics where the food is endless, are so hard for me. I want alllll the food. Now that I am at a healthy weight, it is a little easier for me to pick a healthy amount of only the foods that I really want, rather than to eat every single food offered.

  20. Simply Life says:

    Great tips to remember!

  21. Great post and good comments too. I try to eat a big salad before I go, so I at least know I got my veggies in for the meal. At the same time, I don’t want to ruin the social event by worrying about food, so if I don’t try to stress too much. I try to eat the things that I don’t get often and that are worth the calories – things that are truly treats for me.

  22. These are GREAT tips. I also just keep in mind that now that I eat healthy portions daily, if I overindulge it is rare and it makes me REALLY uncomfortable. Just the notion that if I eat way too much then I’ll be miserable later, really keeps me in check throughout the evening.

  23. Theresa says:

    Too bad I wasn’t online to catch this yesterday! I think the hardest part for me is that there are always so many different foods that you don’t get to have or don’t make on a daily basis….all right there in front of you! Its all so easily accessible. And then you justify it by saying “well…I don’t get this everyday, soooo….” Parties and potlucks can be very tough if you don’t have a plan!

  24. Jebbica says:

    This is so common sense, but so true! Thank you for this…I am horrible to get really hungry at wedding-type situations and unconsciously eat. My line of logic is that if my mouth is full, I won’t have to engage in any awkward conversations with strangers. Unfortunately, this logic has been lost on my waistline.

    • Tina says:

      I hate those awkward conversations too. They can last okay for all of two minutes and then its just torture!

      • Jebbica says:

        I know, right? My favorite are the old people that remember you when you were “this high” and you don’t have a clue who they are. And then everyone they ask about how they’re doing is dead. Not awkward at all!

  25. […] cue from my post on Friday about not overeating in social situations, I only ate half the lasagna to save room for dessert. A mocha mouse in a dark chocolate cup. It […]

  26. […] of veggies to balance out other things. I wrote a post about not overeating in social situations here, if you’re […]

  27. Therese says:

    This was somehow “related” to today’s post and it was a great reminder. I’m headed to a family gathering tonight and they’re ordering food from a great Italian restaurant nearby. Eating a ‘normal’ dinner despite the massive amounts of available food will make me feel so much better tomorrow!

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