Have you ever been at a dinner party or out with friends and been shocked or frustrated by how much food you consumed? I wasn’t even that hungry; how did I scarf down two tacos and a quesadilla?
Or have you ever been to a cocktail party, and before you realize it, you seem to have consumed twelve pieces of sushi, four mini quiches, and an entire bowl of nuts? And I don’t even like nuts that much!
In my work with clients, one of the things I teach is that is our relationship with food is an incredibly powerful warning signal.
For people who struggle with food and eating, it is often true that when something is not quite right in our lives – when we are feeling sad or angry or excluded or frustrated or insecure – it will show up in how we eat.
This is particularly true when it comes to social eating.
If you find yourself eating more than you are hungry for or in a way that feels out of control at social events, there’s usually something else going on that has nothing to do with food.
If you find yourself in the middle of stuffing another handful of mixed nuts into your mouth at a party (I’ve been there), here are three things I’d recommend that you do:
1. Get clear on why you are feeling bad.
Sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge that certain relationships or situations make us feel insecure, scared, or frustrated. You might be thinking to yourself, “But this person is my friend/devoted relative/a nice person! I like them!” or, “But I love going out to parties!”
That’s fine! You don’t have to stop being friends or stop going to parties. But you do need to be clear with yourself about what is going on. Even if you don’t know what the deep cause of your feelings is, just saying, “Something about being at dinner with Ashton is making be uncomfortable,” is enough.
Keep in mind that if it’s hard for you to think while you’re at a table with family or sitting at a bars with your colleagues, you can excuse yourself to the bathroom or get some air for a minute.
2. If you can, try to do something that will make you feel good, or at least less bad.
Sometimes when my eating is out of whack at a social event, it means that I need to find a good friend to talk to – someone who I know I don’t have to impress. Anxious eating can be a sign that I’m trying too hard to be “fun” and energetic, and I need to let myself be quiet and un-charming and not try to compete with the other people in the conversation. At other times, it just means that I don’t want to be where I am, and I need to make a deal with myself that I’ll leave in a half hour, or as soon as I can.
Only you can know what you need, but a good metric for telling whether it’s working is checking to see if you feel softer and more relaxed, and less like you need to eat four mini cupcakes from the platter nearby.
3. Get clear on what’s up with your hunger.
Once you’ve sorted out your feelings, you may still be hungry.
And that’s great! Food at social events is often awesome – you wouldn’t want to miss out.
The key thing is that when you are feeling emotionally shaky, it is twice as important to make sure you eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and eat the foods your body needs. This might be a time to really see how hungry you are on a 10-point scale. Do you need a few pieces of sushi to fill up, or are you starving and need two plates of teriyaki chicken? In moments like this, it’s important to show yourself that you can care for yourself with food, and that you won’t use it to numb yourself out.
Have you been in social situations in which you felt out of control around food? How did it go?Leave me a note in the comments!
p.s. I've got some super exciting things coming up for you this month that I think you're going to love...from free offers for you to an exclusive dessert-sampling, intuitive-eating soirée. Stay tuned! :)