Are you one of the many who feel very awkward eating in a restaurant alone? For many of us, dining out is not only about the food, it’s also a social experience. That’s why we never hesitate to invite others when we have the urge to hit up our favorite lunch spot or try out the new restaurant in town. But here is a question I want you to consider…

Is your dining companion a bad influence?

I recently read a very interesting research paper entitled, Mimicry of Food Intake: The Dynamic Interplay between Eating Companions, in which the researcher states:

Social facilitation research shows that the presence of others influences the amount of food eaten in a meal. Several studies have found that people eat more in the presence of others than when alone. Likewise, an individual’s consumption can be modified by an eating companion; people tend to eat as much or as little as do those with whom they eat. The process of adjusting one’s intake to that of others is often referred to as modeling of food intake.

Think about it. We all have that friend who really loves the food experience. They participate in every aspect of the meal from the wine to the dessert. On the other hand, we all have the friend who drinks water with every meal, often opts for a salad or veggie plate, and never considers dessert. Has it ever occurred to you that you may be mimicking their eating pattern without even realizing it?

The research paper went on to say (and I’m paraphrasing) that we will often use how much food our dining partners eat as a gauge for how much we will eat. The reason we do that is because it guides us in how much food our dining partners feel is appropriate. Meaning, how much can we eat before we feel we are being judged by our companions? Because, let’s face it, no one likes to feel as if they are being judged.

So how do we avoid this trap? How do we avoid ordering the cheeseburger and fries when we really just want the lettuce wraps? How do we avoid feeling pressured to eat a salad when we really want the turkey club with bacon?

  • Look at the menu and decide on your meal choice before ever arriving at the restaurant.
  • Be confident in your choices.

By making your decision ahead of time, you will begin mentally anticipating the item(s) you have decided to order and will reduce your likelihood of changing your mind once you have arrived. It is also a good idea not to even open the menu at the restaurant. This way you can avoid all the tempting marketing strategies inside.

Also, once you’ve chosen your meal, be okay with your decision. If you want the turkey club with and your companion orders celery sticks and water, so be it.

The point is that you and only you know where you are in your health and wellness program and there is no need to justify it to anyone else. There is also no point in allowing others to (consciously or subconsciously) derail you from your plan. And, if you haven’t yet embraced the joys of eating alone, be on the lookout for a blog post on that topic in the very near future.  I’m going to shine a whole new light on the experience in Lunch: Just Me, Myself, and I.

 

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