We have all been there: eating with family or friends while trying to make healthy choices.
As much as we enjoy their company, it can be quite stressful to stay on-track with your dietary needs and be mindful of what you are eating if you are being scrutinized about your choices. This anxiety can lead to poor food decisions and the derailing of your healthy lifestyle.
Parents are our first role models and teachers, so we tend to mirror our behavior(s) after what we have been taught or shown. If we have always seen and experienced unhealthy eating, we are more apt to make poor dietary choices – even as an adult.
Therefore, it can be difficult to overcome this eating style, especially if we are dining with our family. Such experiences can be a trigger and push us back into old habits.
Dining out with friends can be just as stressful, especially if you are not conforming to the “norm” of the social circle. Most of us want to feel included, so we tend to give into “peer pressure,” especially in a social setting such as eating. This can lead to many feelings including guilt or shame.
Managing Social Pressure to Stay On-track
However, in making small changes in our thoughts and behaviors, we may be able to combat some of the above-mentioned concerns, keep us on-track and positively impact those we care about. Every step you take to improve your overall health and well-being is a positive step in the right direction.
Below are some suggestions for dining out with family and friends that may help improve your overall health while maintaining your progress toward healthier living.
Whether you are going out with family or friends, you can opt to have a (small) meal at home before you eat out. While this may sound like you are defeating the purpose of dining out, it will help you from over-eating and wanting to partake in “mindless” eating.
This will also allow you to eat sensibly while focusing on the social aspects of the meal. You can always order an appetizer as your meal or enjoy a healthy salad with your choice of protein. Another quick tip is drinking a tall glass of water before your meal. This will help you feel fuller and satisfy your thirst.
Speak to Your Server
When dining out, speak to your server. Let him/her know that you are making healthier dietary choices. Ask them for their suggestions and if you need to make some minor changes to the order, request the change.
Most restaurants are more understanding of dietary restrictions today, so they should be accommodating to your needs. Just don’t be afraid to speak up. You are worth it…don’t forget that!
This option may seem like the most difficult one to combat. However, be proud of your commitment to healthy living. Being honest with your social circle will help them understand your goals, needs and wants. This may lead to inspiring those around you and encouraging a lifestyle modification among the masses! It will create conversation about healthful eating and why this is important to you.
Not only may you feel empowered, but you may also motivate others to follow your lead. Perhaps you will engage your social circle to adopt a healthier lifestyle and become more supportive. It is a win-win for all parties!
As mentioned, taking the first step is the most difficult one to make. But, once you take it, the other steps will follow in line!
You will become more invested in your health and well-being. You may inspire those around you to become healthier. You will continue to feel good about yourself and the choices you are making. Every step in the right direction will get you one step closer to achieving your goals of creating the healthy lifestyle you desire.
While social pressure can be stressful, it can be managed. YOU are in control, so take the first step in taking the control back of your body and in your life. Just don’t forget to take the first step – your body and mind will thank you!
About the Author:
Natalie-Jean Schiavone, PhD, has more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry. After receiving her Master’s degree in General Psychology, Natalie-Jean went on to complete her doctoral degree in Health Psychology, with a specialization in obesity. Dr. Schiavone conducted her research and completed her dissertation on female adolescents with obesity and their social experiences. Using her education, experience and expertise, Dr. Schiavone works with her patients to create a healthier lifestyle where knowledge is a key factor in this modification.