I’m in college and I live with a big group of friends.  I often get sucked into unnecessary snacking because everyone is hanging out, watching TV, and eating.  I’m usually not hungry when this happens, but I end up eating anyway to be part of the scene.  How do I break away from my friends’ bad habits while still being part of the group? – Peer Pressured

Group eating can sometimes lead to eating for fun instead of when you’re hungry

Group eating is very common in college settings.  One of the fun things about college is living with friends, and eating becomes a critical social element of the experience.  However, if your roommate likes to whip up mac and cheese for the house to share during TV time, or you all head out for frozen yogurt to procrastinate studying, it won’t be long before this social time begins to impact your weight.

Group eating extends beyond college as well.  Adults invite their friends over for dinner and put out a platter of cheese, crackers, and other munchies for a “cocktail hour” before the meal.  It’s easy to unintentionally consume several ounces of cheese and a serving of crackers before dinner is served, just the food is there and people focus more on the conversation than the amount they are eating.

I don’t recommend trying to change the group’s eating behavior, but you can certainly adjust yours so you don’t eat when you are not hungry.  Try some of the following tips:

  • Go along for the ride.  If the group is going out for fro-yo, go along for the ride.  The chatting that happens on the way is usually more important than the actual dessert.  Get a cup of coffee or tea instead of something sweet.
  • Nurse your drink.  Slowly sip on sparkling water.  If you have something in your hand, you’re less likely to feel the need to nibble.
  • Take the lead on the group snack:  Make a big bowl of air-popped popcorn and sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese or buy dark chocolate (Trader Joe’s has a great block of chocolate) and share squares with the group.
  • Stick to veggies.  If you’re going to a friend’s house for dinner, try to avoid the pre-dinner cheese and crackers and instead go for the veggies and hummus.  Offer to bring sliced veggies to help out your host and to ensure you’ll have healthier options to munch on while everyone is hanging out.
  • Sit far away from the food! No one likes standing up every few minutes to grab more snacks.  Stay outside of reaching distance.  The extra up and down is usually a pretty good deterrent.

Remember that hanging out with your friends is not about eating, but about spending time with people you like.  You can stay social without packing on extra pounds!

– Stacey Antine, M.S. R.D., author, Appetite for Life, and founder, HealthBarn USA

Do you have a confession to share with Stacey?  Want to learn how to improve an unsavory habit?  Send your stories our way to [email protected], and Stacey will help!

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