Why eating at social events is so hard

It’s always been 10x harder for me to care for myself with food when I’m in a social setting. 

I’ll think that everything is going great, and then I’ll realize: oh man I just ate seventeen handfuls of tortilla chips and I don’t even like tortilla chips that much, or I wasn’t even hungry but somehow I just half of a large pizza.

I know I’m not the only one. Every Dessert Club, and with nearly every coaching client, we talk about how to eat in social situations in a way that allows you to feel good in your body and connected to yourself and your true needs.

Particularly since we’re heading into a Labor Day weekend here in the US (which often involved plenty of socializing!), I wanted to share with you why I think that social eating is so hard, and the most helpful technique I know for navigating it:

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Why social eating is so hard

Eating in a way that serves all parts of you requires that you listen to internal signals from all parts of you. You need to be able to hear the parts of you saying things like, I’m full!I like cookies but not too many cookies!, and Hearing this person talk about her job is making me feel insecure! — and more.

In other words, eating in a way that serves all parts of you requires turning up the volume on your internal experience, so that these diverse voices are loud enough for you to hear them.

That’s where the tricky part comes in. When we’re in social settings, it’s really, really hard to listen to the voice of your internal experience because there’s so freaking much happening in our external experience — things like:

  • Music in the restaurant
  • A companion — or many companions — to talk to, who may provoke intense feelings within us (love, resentment, attraction, connection, stress, anxiety, boredom)
  • Delicious foods that we don’t get to eat every day
  • A new setting, like a restaurant, with unique lighting, furniture, etc.


The best technique I know for dealing with social eating

Do you want to know my #1 tip for social eating? It’s pretty wild. Get ready for it.

Take a break + check in with yourself.

I mean that in a literal sense. Leave the social situation, go somewhere quiet where you can be alone, and check in with how you are doing. It can be too hard to know what you need when you are in the middle of stimulating situation — I’m a pretty self-aware person, and I still find it really hard. Once you reduce the stimulation, though, it’s much easier.

Of course, sometimes in a social situation it can be difficult to find a place to be alone and quiet. But there’s always at least one place….the bathroom!

Maybe this is a slightly weird piece of advice, but I think that bathrooms are awesome for personal check-ins. They are private, they are everywhere, and it’s not socially weird to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom. You might have to go to the bathroom anyway!

Once you’re in that private, quiet place — and let’s be honest, there’s a 90% chance that it will be the bathroom — ask yourself about two things:

  1. How am I doing, with food?
  2. How am I doing, in general?

Maybe that’s all you need, just those two questions. But in case you’d like even more ideas about how to check in with yourself, here are some more specific questions that I sometimes ask myself, when I’m having my personal check-in in the ladies’ room:  

1. How am I doing, with food?

  • Am I hungry? Am I full?
    And how do you know? Where are you feeling those hunger/fullness sensations?
  • If I want to eat, what do I want to eat? And how much?
  • How is the information I am getting now different from what I thought when I was near the food?
    For example, you might have been planning to eat your entire entrée when you were sitting at the table, but now that you are checking in, you realize that you’re full and don’t want the rest.
  • If I was _______, would I want to keep eating?
    You could fill in that blank with “alone,” “at home, reading,” “spending time with people who made me feel comfortable and safe,” or whatever is true for you.

2. How am I doing, in general?

  • How is my physical body doing? What sensations am I feeling?
    This could be a good time to notice if you have stress, excitement, tension, or any other sensation in any part of your body.
  • How am I doing, emotionally?
    Are you feeling happy, angry, sad, scared, frustrated, bored, lost, stimulated, interested? 
  • What is true for me, right now, that I am resisting acknowledging?
    Maybe you don’t want to be where you are. Maybe you are tired. Maybe you are so overwhelmingly happy to be with the people that you are with, that it’s hard to even notice your body and its needs.

For some people, it can be hard to check-in in their minds alone. If that’s true for you, you could try writing down your responses to some of these questions, either on a scrap of paper or in the Notes app on your phone.

If you are particularly nervous about a social eating event coming up and want to be super prepared, you could even write down some of these questions on paper or in your phone and bring them with you. That way, you’ll have some prompts in the moment to get started.

Of course, you don’t need to ask yourself all these questions every time! But they can be a good jumping off point.

That’s it!

To summarize:

1. Social eating is hard because you lose touch with yourself.

2. To reconnect, go to a quiet, private place (bathroom) and check in with yourself, food-wise and non-food-wise.


I’d love to know: what do you find helpful, for eating in social situations? Leave a comment below + let me know!