You're working on your weight, and certain situations make it really challenging. Usually, it's a social situation where food is front and center.
You can still join in the fun and stick to your diet. Use these strategies to keep yourself on track.
"If you make it a habit, eventually you won't have to think about it anymore." -- Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
1. Celebrations at Work
The problem: It's a co-worker's birthday -- or baby shower or wedding shower -- so there's a cake. It's not a great afternoon snack, considering all the sugar, white flour, and fat.
Get control: “Recruit a support group at work,” says nutritional scientist Martina Cartwright, PhD, RD, a professor at the University of Arizona. Find a few colleagues who, like you, want to eat well. Together you can enjoy the celebration without eating the cake.
2. Happy Hour
The problem: Your friend calls or texts around 5 p.m. and wants to meet up after work. You had planned to go to the gym. Now you’re thinking about forgoing your workout and hitting your favorite Mexican restaurant (tacos! margaritas!) instead.
Get control: “You can combat this by inviting her to change your eating together,” says Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast. “Studies show that having a buddy in any healthy endeavor, from working out to losing weight to quitting smoking, makes you more likely to succeed.”
Talk with your friend and tell her that you want the two of you to find better things to do. Plan an after-work walk, or sign up for a weekly fitness class that you can do together. Or suggest somewhere you can order salads, tea, and lighter food options.
3. Cleaning Up After Dinner
The problem: You eat from your kids’ plates when clearing the dishes. You may not even notice you’re doing it, but all those extra calories add up.
Get control: Serve your kids less. They can always get a second helping. When you clear the table, scrape any last bites straight into the trash. “If you make it a habit, eventually you won’t have to think about it anymore,” Hendriksen says.
4. Your (Shared) Kitchen
The problem: “Next to sex and money, food is the biggest thing couples fight about,” Cartwright says. One partner may feel criticized or threatened when the other tries to lose weight or live a healthier lifestyle, for instance.
Get control: Make space for your food. Your partner can have room for their things, too. You want a clear divide of what food is yours and what’s theirs. “Set up separate cabinets or shelves in the refrigerator,” Cartwright says. You’ll be less likely to tear into a bag of cookies that are in your partner’s space.
5. The Business Lunch (or Dinner)
The problem: Do you eat out a lot with clients? Spend your evenings discussing a big project with your co-workers over drinks and dinner?
If you don't have healthy boundaries about making good choices for yourself, that can be a problem.
“In work settings, people don’t want to be seen as high-maintenance or fussy, so often they’ll do what everyone else is doing,” Cartwright says. For some people, it becomes a diet disaster of fried food and high-calorie cocktails.
Get control: Focusing on your professional image and the impression you’re making can help, too. “Eating is a form of self-presentation,” Hendriksen says.
Remember that you can make your own choices no matter what others are doing. You have the freedom to choose what you eat or drink.
If you splurge, cut back the rest of the day. "Taking control of just one meal a day can make a big difference,” Cartwright says.