Reflex Eating

I went to a party Saturday night. Well, more of a “reception dinner” for a grand poobah for an organization my husband is active with. It had a Hawaiian theme, and upon arrival I noticed my body starting to get all excited. I literally had a physical reaction to walking into the room because there were two long tables with a beautiful buffet of appetizers laid out, and a full bar. One of the first people who greeted us shook my hand and said, “Hi. They have mai-tais!” My brain started with its little chant, “Oooh! Look at all the new food – look at all the lovely things we are going to eat! And mai-tais!” Exciting food imminent! High alert!

And then I had to have a stern talk with myself about what we were and were not going to be doing there, because my overwhelming reflex was to grab a plate and start tasting. I knew before I got there that I wouldn’t be eating any of the food that night, but for some reason that didn’t stop the messages of excitement and anticipation my body was sending. Going to a party has such a strong association in my mind with browsing the food table, I had to stop and process the reaction.

I had an internal conversation with myself that ended in disappointment – even though I knew before I ever got there that I was not going to be eating – I hadn’t lost anything. But the smells and sights of the beautiful food was so tempting and delicious that I felt I’d lost something, something which I was never going to have in the first place. Instead I enjoyed a steady stream of sparkling water and diet sodas from the bar.

Then the dinner started, we were seated at tables and called up table by table to the meal buffet (nobody went away hungry that night, that’s for sure!). Since we are on Optifast my husband and I simply grabbed some coffee instead (I mostly grabbed it to keep warm, somebody had decided to set the A/C to Arctic for some reason). We still got to enjoy the company of the others at our table and nobody much commented on our eating habits.

But if I hadn’t had that conversation with myself? If I hadn’t had a plan to get through the event? If I hadn’t been on a program and actively working towards weight loss, I would have eaten several plates-full of food – appetizers, dinner, maybe seconds, dessert, plus mai-tais all night. I would have eaten way too much for my body, simply because being at a party triggers me to overeat. I need to remember this physical reaction, and remember to talk myself out of it in the future when I am maintaining my weight loss, because I think these skills have gotten rusty over the years.

I have tools for dealing with party eating, but I seem to have forgotten them in the last year. Short version: Eat before you go, load up on fruits and veggies, go late, leave early, keep something safe in your hands – sparkling water, coffee, a camera, pet the cat, etc. I’m happy that I’m taking a break from food right now with this program so that I can re-examine all the tools I’ll need once I’m off it.

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3 Responses to “Reflex Eating”

  1. T Says:

    I love reading your posts because you make plain the mental self-talk one needs to lose weight. I’ve had those kind of thoughts before but never even considered writing them down because I’ve cast them into the same category of thoughts you don’t share, like “dang, I wish my coworker used more deoderant” or any kind of thought you immediately know will never be spoken aloud.

    But I need to write, if not speak them because how else will I plan for and fight them. Great post!

  2. Donna Says:

    This won’t help for the sight trigger of “look pretty food” put perhaps for the smell … is there anything that when you smell it causes your nose to stuff up a bit? If so, take several whiffs of that before hazarding such a dangerous environment. If you can’t smell the food, it might be less tempting. A clothes pin on your nose might work too, but wouldn’t be fashionable enough for our stunning Laina 🙂

    • Laina Says:

      A trick I often use with foods that smell great is to have some gum on hand. Chewing gum tricks me into believing my mouth is already busy!


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