Social Eating. It’s Good For You. (Sort of.)


Several months ago, I had a conversation with my mother-in-law about social eating, getting older, and how more elderly people benefit from eating with friends. (The actual conversation was a bit longer than that…) It made me realize how much more I eat when I am with friends, which is most of the time.

As I embarked on my (horribly restrictive, yet loads of burger-and-steak-eating) diet, I often made dinner for friends (sorry, no carbs for them, either), or went to restaurants (I’ll just have the fish with a side of spinach, please) and spent even more time thinking about food. But not in a good way.

Now that I have lost about twenty pounds (I still have ten or so to go), I have been a bit, shall we say, lax in my dieting. Company every weekend, restaurants galore and entertaining at home (complete with muffins, cakes, bagels and every other carb I could think of) have wreaked havoc with my attempt at being good. Really I lost 22 pounds, but have gained 2-3 back. Not a tragedy, for sure, but the scale has begun to move in the wrong direction.

Earlier this week we made plans to go to our friends’ house for dinner. She texted to confirm, and this was the exchange:

Friend, 9:24 AM: OK, so come over tomorrow. I’ll cook. Any food restrictions?

Me, 9:29AM: Great. We mostly eat protein of some sort and vegetables these days. Anything is fine, but no legumes for me.

Friend, 9:30 AM: Any starch? Potatoes? Also I was going to make pie. Would you eat it? Homemade crust and all.

Friend, 9:30 AM: Cherry or blueberry.

Friend, 9:31 AM: I hate when people diet when eating socially.

Friend, 9:38 AM: Does this lull in conversation mean pie is a no-go?

Me, 10:40 AM: HA! No. I was with a client. Potatoes are fine. We will eat pie. (Just don’t try to send leftovers home with me.)  

That is when I realized that my problem is social eating. Most meals we eat are social. I have a couple breakfast meetings each week, and likely one or two lunches. Then there is dinner. Five of seven, in any given week, are likely with friends or family. We eat, we drink wine, we eat more. We linger at the table (eating even more, just because we are sitting there). My general feel-good-about-life attitude is great. We see people we like all the time. My feel-good-about-my-waistline attitude is a different story altogether.

It really is OK. I need to learn how to moderate. I don’t always have to have dessert, unless there is homemade pie involved (made by someone who actually knows how to make pie.) There are many times when I opt out of pasta (evil, yet delicious pasta) and have a salad. But then one of my friends gets the pasta and I am obligated to taste it. You know, when you write a blog that spins heavily in the food direction, you have to taste everything. I take that to mean you have to eat everything.

So it goes, the cycle of social eating. While I do think I should substitute a carrot once in a while for a plate of pasta, the benefit of being social and engaging with others on a regular basis is truly good for the soul. And I don’t have to worry about starving in old age.

By the way, my friend made blueberry pie, and it was outstanding.


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