For most of us, the last thing we need is the pressure to eat more. But it happens all the time. A few years back, one of the fast food chains in the US began a push to add a whole extra meal to your day – “the meal between dinner and breakfast”. I do understand the desire for an occasional midnight snack – sometimes you eat dinner early, you stay up late and you get hungry. But once that midnight snack morphs into “the fourth meal”, it starts to sound more like an everyday need – which just makes it easier to justify why we cave into the pressure to eat it.
This pressure to eat faces us everywhere we go, and it seems as if we’ve come to expect it – and accept it, too. I’m no longer surprised when I see free donuts at the dry cleaners, or a plate of cookies at the bank. When I go to a restaurant, I expect that the server will offer to “start me off” with some deep-fried something or other, or ask me if I’ve “saved room for dessert”. You’ve probably experienced the occasional pressure to eat from friends, family or co-workers. Even when you shop for groceries, there’s pressure to buy more (“buy two, get one free!”), which just means more food in the house – and increased pressure to eat it.
With this constant pressure to eat, it means that we have to spend a lot of time trying to stop ourselves from giving in. And that isn’t easy to do, since it’s almost expected that we should be eating more, not less. (When was the last time a server in a restaurant tried to discourage you from ordering appetizers or dessert?)
But you can push back. Here’s how.
Like the donuts at the dry cleaners or cookies at the bank, you can probably think of dozens of unlikely places where you’ve encountered food. This situation is probably the easiest one to deal with, since you really weren’t expecting the food to be there in the first place. Ask yourself: “am I hungry?”, “is this something I want?” and “would I walk across the street right now to get this?” Pay attention to your answers, which are most likely some combination of “no”, “not really” and “probably not”.
Grocery shopping is a minefield of temptations – there are literally thousands of items there to entice you. This is why making a list – and doing your darnedest to stick to it – is so important, since it will curb your impulse buying. When you’re faced with ‘value pricing’ – which encourages you to buy more than you need – consider how you’ll deal with the extra. If it can be stored out of sight, or repackaged into smaller containers, that’s fine. But if having more around means you’re likely to eat more, that’s a bargain you don’t need.
Just like value pricing at the supermarket, restaurants like to offer you value, too. Free bread or chips doesn’t cost them much, but the cost to you could be a few extra inches on your belly and hips. Instead of those “deep fried something or others” as a starter, just ask for some water with lemon to sip on while you look over the menu. Turn down the offer of an extra ‘side’ for just pennies more – unless it’s an extra side of veggies. And when the dessert menu comes around, don’t even open it. If others at your table are indulging, have order some coffee or tea to sip on while they eat.
You’d think it would be easy to be straightforward with the ones you know best, but eating with those you’re close to is often emotionally charged. There’s the family member who prepared something nice and high calorie “just for you” – and, since you don’t want to offend them, you feel pressured to eat it. If you just can’t bring yourself to say no, then ask for a small piece and take just a bite or two…because if you finish it, there’s a good chance you’ll be offered another helping, and you’ll just have to start the process all over again. And when you’re out with friends or coworkers and you feel the pressure to have something “just this once” or because “everyone else is having some” keep this in mind – being sociable doesn’t require that you have a drink in one hand and an tempting morsel in the other.
Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.