Are You a Social Eater or a Secret Eater?

In my work with dieters, I find that many of them tend to fall into either the category of “Social Eaters” or “Secret Eaters.”  Social eaters are those who have a lot of trouble staying in control when they are out and eating with other people.  They are highly influenced by what everyone around them is eating and drinking and often feel deprived if they don’t eat in the same way.  By contrast, secret eaters often have a much easier time staying in control when they are eating in front of other people and tend to lose it when they are back at home, alone.  Regardless of which type of eater you may be (and some dieters fall into both categories), your greatest defense is figuring out in advance what sabotaging thoughts you’re likely to have in either situation and come up with responses to them.  Here are some examples:

Social eating sabotaging thoughts

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this because everyone around me is eating it.

Response: My body doesn’t know or care what everyone around me is eating; it only knows what I eat. So just because everyone around me is eating a lot, doesn’t necessarily mean that I can.

Sabotaging Thought: I’ll be deprived if I can’t eat what everyone around me is eating.

Response: Either way I’m deprived. Either I’m deprived of some food some of the time (but not all food, all of the time), or I’m deprived of all the benefits of losing weight. Which would be the bigger deprivation?

Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair I can’t eat normally like everyone else.

Response: I have to redefine my definition of “normal” eating. In fact, I am eating 100% normally for someone of my age and my gender with my weight loss goals.

Secret eating sabotaging thoughts

Sabotaging Thought: I was so good when I was out and there so much food I didn’t eat, so it’s okay to eat this now.

Response: My body doesn’t know all the food I didn’t eat, it only knows what I do eat. So just because I turned down lots of food before doesn’t mean that I can eat extra now.

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this because no one is watching.

Response: Although it may feel okay to eat extra because I’m alone, the reality is that my body doesn’t know if 100 people are watching me eat or if no one is watching me eat, it processes all calories the same. So it’s absolutely irrelevant whether or not I’m alone when I overeat – overeating is overeating.

Whether you’re a social eater or a secret eater, another helpful technique is to make a plan, in advance, of what you’ll eat in those situations. For social eaters, if you know you’re going out to dinner with friends, decide in advance what you’re going to eat and then respond to sabotaging thoughts in the moment to ensure that you stick to your plan. Remember that, if you want to lose weight, what everyone else around you is eating has no bearing on what you eat. Stick to your plan and you’ll be so happy, once the event is over, that you did.

For social eaters, plan in advance what, if anything, you’ll eat when you arrive back home.  If your plan is to eat nothing, avoid the kitchen entirely.  If your plan is to have either a snack or a mug of hot tea when you get home, get everything together before you leave (for example, put a tea bag in a mug on your table) so that way when you get home, it will be easy to remember exactly what your plan is and you won’t have to go rooting in the cupboards.  Respond to sabotaging thoughts that would encourage you to eat something you hadn’t planned to eat.  Stick to your plan and you’ll be so happy, once the night is over, that you did.

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