Do any of these scenes sound familiar?
Minutes before going out to the restaurant with friends, you vowed to order the poached salmon with a side of salad, no dressing. Once there, your friend Joy orders the Chef’s Specialty Burger with Fresh Cut Fries, your mouth starts to water and when the server looks at you, you hesitate just long enough to taste the guilt and say, “The same but I’ll have a diet pop instead.”
It’s 5:30 pm when the kids storm into the kitchen asking what’s for dinner. With the widest grin, you tell them you’ve prepared one of their favourites: chili con carne. “Yay!” they let out…until one of them notices the tofu wrapper, realizing that you substituted the ground beef with cubes of soy protein. Serious whining ensues.
Sitting at your computer, you open an email from your boss informing you that you will be going out of town for work for at least two weeks per month for the next six months. Since much of your work entails entertaining clients over lunch, the kitchenette option that would have made your newly adopted vegan regimen possible is off the table.
If these scenarios resonate, you’ve got a few million sympathizers.
Food is Social and So Are You
Since the forming of the first hunter-gatherer societies 1.8 million years ago, food has become more than subsistence. Robin Fox from the UK’s Social Issues Research Center describes well this evolving reality:
It (food) is also a profoundly social urge. Food is almost always shared; people eat together; mealtimes are events when the whole family or settlement or village comes together. Food is also an occasion for sharing, for distributing and giving, for the expression of altruism, whether from parents to children, children to in-laws, or anyone to visitors and strangers. Food is the most important thing a mother gives a child; it is the substance of her own body, and in most parts of the world mother’s milk is still the only safe food for infants. Thus food becomes not just a symbol of, but the reality of, love and security.
So what happens when we diet?
The dynamics of our social interactions change. When we eat with others, we feel different because our food rules are different than those with whom we share meals or snacks. The classic celery for moi and chips for toi captures the essence of this challenging social situation. And, if we choose to have a bowl of chips in front of those who expect us to flawlessly adhere to our food plan, there is a high risk of feeling embarrassed or weak-willed. In other cases, we might even limit our participation in certain activities for fear of succumbing to the temptation of prohibited foods. Then, we risk feeling lonely.
Food and eating are deep anchors of our many social bonds and these bonds are critical to our emotional survival and well-being. As Brené Brown says, “We are wired for connection,” and any negative – aka low vibrational – emotion felt in the course of social interactions tends to make us feel like we’re disconnected. One too many episodes of disconnection around food – and exercise too, anyone surrounded by sedentary friends and family knows the feat of being active when others aren’t – and we begin to slip back into the previous patterns that got us to where we no longer want to be.
Doesn’t it make sense then that a “social plan” would be a great side to the new meal and exercise plans?
Your Social Plan
What’s a social plan?
Simply put: It’s a plan that pre-empts those uncomfortable or challenging social interactions.
The Social Plan that I’ve created (see link below) is a practical tool to stay connected to your peeps regardless of what happens around food and drinks or exercise.
Below are the components of the Social Plan:
- Location – You list all those places where you anticipate feeling uncomfortable around the topic of food, beverages, and exercise.
- People present – You list certain people or categories of people who share meals/beverages with you or who could affect your decision to be active and might pose an emotional risk.
- Potential challenges or discomfort – Here, you list the conflict or feelings of discomfort that you envision.
- What You Can/Will Do – Using your imagination and committing to being your best self, decide what you might do when you feel emotionally challenged in public about your diet.
- Benefits – Acknowledging specific benefits from acting the way you planned or better is an effective way to boost your dieting success.
Need more support to successfully release weight?
Join me for a free webinar on Tuesday, Jan. 31st, 2017 at 7 pm ET where you can learn about the Weight Release Action Program (WRAP). The WRAP is an intense, 3-month, personal development program which leverages the power of Emotional Intelligence as a means of overcoming emotional eating. The WRAP can be an excellent complement to any diet and/or exercise regimen as it does not cover either of these topics. Click here to read WRAP Success Stories.
MC Lessard Emotionologist & Weight Loss Coach