Catching up with friends and family: Sneaky snacks
‘Just one (more) won’t hurt’….
They say when we’re pregnant we tend to eat for two, but for many of us, when we catch up with friends and family we not only eat for two – we tend to eat for ten!! And of course this only gets worse during weekends, holidays and during the festive season.
Interestingly, research shows:
- We eat 35% more when we eat with one person compared to eating alone. Eating with a group of seven or more means that we will likely eat 96% more.
- Being distracted is associated with a 50% increase in calorie consumption.
- Social gatherings often involve snacks served in large serving bowls. Doubling the size of snack bowls has been shown to lead to a 53% increase in consumption, while easy to eat foods can lead to a 35% increase in consumption.
There are a few reasons why we eat more when we are with others. Firstly, there tends to be a higher level of food availability. Often our social gatherings literally ‘gather’ around plates of food, which means it is right in front of us. Secondly, we tend to be more distracted and less mindful of what we are eating. We focus on the conversations or events around us, which means that we eat more mindlessly. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, our brains are equipped with a particular type of brain cells – Mirror neurons. Just like the name suggests, these neurons are designed to get us to mirror/ imitate the behaviour AND feelings of those around us. So – if other people are eating, we are much more likely to join them.
This means that for many of us, increased eating tends to go hand in hand with spending time with friends and family. To help, consider the following:
- Have something small to eat before going out. That way you wont be as tempted to snack or be as hungry by the time the food is served.
- Move away from the snacks! Research shows that standing at least 6 feet away from snack foods is associated with a 125 kcal reduction in consumption.
- Don’t bury the evidence! When we throw away the evidence of how many lollies, chicken drumsticks, nuts, or other foods we have eaten, we end up eating more. Keep these leftovers visible if possible.
- When attending social gatherings where you can bring a contribution, take a large platter of chopped vegetables for snacks with you. That way you will have healthy options, as well as being able to contribute in a helpful way to the event (that will actually be extremely popular).
- Make trade-offs – if you have lots of social events or you know you have had some snack heavy days, reduce portion sizes of meals on other days and increase exercise.
The snacks might be more prevalent when we are celebrating, but they don’t have to take toll on your waistline! At your next social gathering, what can you do to stay focused and manage mindless eating?