Sitting down to have a bite to eat with friends and family is a common occurrence for most of us. Eating is a social experience, and many of our days are filled with fun, food and people — but they’re also filled with carbohydrate-laden dinners, sugary cookies, cakes and pies, and lots of fat. Are your food-centered hangouts causing you to pack on the pounds? Research shows that when you dine with another person, you consume 35% more than you would alone.
You can change your lifestyle to include activities that don’t revolve around food or you can identify those friends that influence your bad diet habits and take the necessary steps to prevent peer pressure weight gain.
Food Friend: The Comfort Queen
You just lost your job. You broke up with your boyfriend. No matter what the crisis, your best pal can see you through — usually over a pint of mocha fudge ice cream or a package of chocolate chip cookies. “Guys have drinking buddies when they’re depressed; women have eating buddies,” says Daniel Stettner, PhD, director of psychology at UniSource Health Center in Troy, Michigan. “Unfortunately, what should be a supportive relationship turns into a situation where both women enable each other to eat — and eat and eat.”
Step away from the table: Instead of self-medicating with food, do some cardio. Thirty-minute aerobic workouts three to five times weekly for three months reduce mild to moderate symptoms by nearly half, finds a study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Sign up for a Spinning class or start training for a 5K, and invite your friend to join you. In addition, stop the graze-and-gripe fests. If you need to spill, do it over the phone or when the two of you are on a power walk.
Food Friend: The Party Girl
Your phone rings at 5 p.m. after a crazy day at the office. It’s one of your buds, suggesting you both blow off steam by meeting at your favorite watering hole. Three margaritas, a heaping plate of nachos, and an order of chicken wings later, you head home feeling ill.
“Overdrinking and overeating are common ways to cope when you’re under stress,” says Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD, a psychologist in New York City. Alcohol also loosens inhibitions, which means that you and your friend are much more likely to start diving into the chip bowl.
Step away from the table: Limit time with your partying pal to Friday nights only. If you go to a bar, pick one with few or no appetizers so you’re not tempted to overeat, Abramson suggests. When you arrive, order a glass of wine and a glass of water and hold the alcohol in your non-dominant hand, says Jackie Keller, RD, a nutritionist in Los Angeles. “Most people drink less with this technique.”
Food Friend: The Pig-Out Partner
Why would someone who normally nibbles on healthy fare like grilled salmon and vegetables suddenly start putting away food like a couch potato? “When you see a friend chowing down on something fattening, it may give you permission to let go,” says Martin Binks, PhD, director of psychiatry and behavioral health and research at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center at Duke University. “The guilt is gone, and it’s suddenly easy to justify the hot fudge sundae even when you haven’t planned to indulge.”
Step away from the table: Visit with your pal between meals. “Schedule activities, such as…