You vs. The Mob

We’ve all been there at one time or another. Sworn to ourselves that we’ll follow all the rules – survey the room before making our food selection, fill up on vegetables first, select only those foods that you generally enjoy, don’t mix sweet and salty, have a glass of water for every glass of wine – yet, when we find ourselves at a cocktail party or social event, all of a sudden we’re the ones gorging on the spanakopita and shoveling chips – of all things! – into our mouths with reckless abandon.

The reality? There are literally dozens of excuses for the gorge fest. Everyone else is doing it, it’s a holiday/birthday/weekend/happy hour, you’re a guest, you’re the host, you just love tartlets.

But what’s really at play here? For most people, food is not only a means of fueling the body but is also a source of pleasure. When we get together with family, we eat. When we celebrate a birthday, we mark it with cake. Heck, even when things aren’t going our way, we commiserate over a plate of curly fries!

To deny yourself would be…extreme? Stuffy? Anal retentive? Just plain difficult?

For many people, the mob-mentality eating comes into play when we’re feeling insecure. When we’re in a social setting – such as a happy hour or a dinner party – it seems silly to kick up a fuss about subbing those fries (curly or otherwise!) for a salad or ordering your burger sans-bun. After all, you don’t want to offend the host (or the waiter for goodness sake!) or be labeled a difficult customer or guest. The thing to remember here? Behaving like Sally (in When Harry Met Sally) is no longer strange since just about everyone customizes their food orders these days!

Also at play in the mob-mentality eating is the fact that it’s not easy to take responsibility when everyone else is doing it. And while yes, it probably would be fun to join your neighbor in “treating yourself” to a few of those cream puffs, do you really want to share in the fact that they’ll wake up in the morning with a food hangover (and the tighter pants to prove it?) Unfortunately, nothing here has changed since you’re parents gave you that whole “if your friends jumped off the bridge would you” discussion and it’s certainly not going to change now. You need to be the one to take responsibility for your actions – including the food you consume!

In addition, people who follow what could be considered a “restrictive” diet often, on some level, feel like they might be missing out. Yes, they enjoy the health benefits associated with their food choices – and will show you the abs to prove it – but very few people can probably honestly say that it’s been easy to give up pizza or beer or whatever their old “vice” was. And while it would be simple to splurge on a special occasion, the odd exception makes more room for excuses and, by default, more room for error.

So what’s the solution? Here’s a few options:

1. Next time you’re planning a get together, create a menu that includes foods that will appeal to everyone in the group – be it your family, colleagues, or even your children’s friends – but that you can also eat and enjoy (completely guilt free). You never know, your grandma might discover a new passion for tempeh or you might turn your pasta-loving brother on to a vegetable-laden stir fry!

2. Don’t eat a diet that leaves you feeling as if you are missing out on something. Diets fail. Lifestyle changes are key. There is an abundance of absolutely delicious foods in the world that are perfectly healthy. Find what appeals to you, enjoy them in abundance and feel good about doing so. Take pride in your decisions and lifestyle choices and stick to your guns when it counts most.

3. Don’t over think it and keep things in perspective. A single cookie really isn’t going to kill you. If it is a cookie you must have, eat it, enjoy it to pieces, and don’t feel guilty after the fact. There may be more sensible vices than cookies (see link below), but at the end of the day there are more serious things to worry about than an oatmeal raisin cookie once a year.

As always, we appreciate your comments! Keep ’em coming!

griangrafanna Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Family Dinners

Sensible Vices

5 Tips to Avoid Temptation

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