Trying to consistently eat healthy at home is a hard enough job on its own, but sticking to a healthy diet during social events where there’s tempting foods all around definitely takes the challenge to a whole new level. In fact, new research suggests that eating in social settings could be the biggest source of temptation for dieters looking to stay on track with losing or maintaining their weight.

Researchers instructed 150 study participants to use a smartphone app so they could track their eating habits over a year-long period. In addition to trying to stick to a certain amount of calories each day, the participants used the app to report on the environments they found themselves in while eating, how they felt and whether they were tempted to indulge.

After analyzing the data, the researchers discovered that the participants were 60 percent more likely to stray from their diet if they were eating in a social setting with other people. They were also 60 percent more likely to overeat if they were eating in restaurants.

In contrast to eating in social settings, the participants were less likely to be tempted while at home and cut their risk of straying from their diet by half when they were alone. During the times when they were tempted at home, however, they still had 60-percent risk of straying from their diet.

The researchers say that these findings may help with further understanding and preventing diet lapses, pointing out that one of the biggest issues dieters face is keeping the weight off after losing it. If people can anticipate temptation before it happens, they may be far more prepared to handle it in healthier ways rather than losing control.

Want to know what you can do to improve your chances of staying on track with your diet while eating alongside others? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Plan your “cheat meals” in accordance with social events. Everyone needs to be able to indulge once in a while, so if you can be extra good all week and line up your weekly cheat meal with a social event where you know there’s going to be a lot of great food, then you won’t have to feel guilty about splurging a little.
  • Research restaurant menus beforehand. If you’re going out to eat at a restaurant with people, make sure you know which one and see if you can look up the menu online. Many restaurants include their menus online so you can decide which one looks healthiest. If you’re lucky, the nutritional information may even be included.
  • Have a healthy meal or snack shortly before arriving. If you want to avoid overeating, arriving hungry would be a mistake. Plan to fill up on something healthy, satisfying and filling about 30 minutes to an hour before you arrive at your social event to help dull the temptation before it starts.
  • Drink a large glass of water before reaching for anything tempting. Staying well hydrated can help minimize feelings of hunger that may trigger you to reach for tempting foods.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes. If your social event is buffet/potluck style, try taking one of the smaller plates to avoid overdoing it on the portions. Likewise, with restaurants, go for an appetizer as a meal or plan to take half of your meal home since many restaurant meal portions can give you far more food than you really need.
  • Fill up on veggies more than anything else. Load up your plate with veggies at buffets and potlucks. If you’re at a restaurant, swap your fries out for roasted veggies or a salad with dressing on the side.

If you do end up going overboard, accept it and forgive yourself. Punishing yourself the next day by keeping calories far too low or exercising too much can sometimes backfire, so aiming to simply move on and go back to your regular healthy eating habits as if it never happened is usually always the better alternative.


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