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Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Plate: 3 Tips for Overcoming Food “Peer Pressure”

Have you ever experienced the non-verbal “peer pressure” that seems to exist around food? For example, feeling pressured to take a piece of cake at a birthday party, even if you really aren’t a fan of cake. Or maybe you’ve had the experience of being a little embarrassed when your friend at dinner puts half her meal in a to-go box, meanwhile you ate your entire plate of spaghetti and meatballs (and practically licked the plate).

Where did this pressure come from?

First, you have to remember that we are social creatures. Eating birthday cake at a birthday party is obviously not strictly to serve the purpose of providing calories for survival - it’s a way of partaking in the celebration. It’s not a surprise, then, that we feel a little pressure to have a slice of cake.

Second, we’ve been raised with this belief that eating less is healthier, or even morally better. Most of us can probably understand that this isn’t actually true, but it definitely can take some rewiring in the brain to let go of this belief.

The truth is: fueling your body has nothing to do with how other people are fueling their body. By learning how to stay focused on what you need, you can reduce the influence this peer pressure has on your attitude toward what you’re eating.

Here are three tips that will help you do just that!

Practice evaluating (and honoring) your hunger and fullness.

Getting in touch with your hunger and fullness levels is a powerful way to monitor your own needs. The more you practice honoring both hunger and fullness, the more you become confident in your choice to stop eating or continue.

How can you do this? Use a hunger-fullness scale. 1 = painfully hungry, 5 = neutral, 10 = painfully full. By rating your hunger before a meal, and rating your fullness after, you can become more acquainted with what comfortable fullness means for you, and how much food it takes to get there.

Hunger Fullness Scale
This is the Hunger/Fullness Scale I use with my clients

Face your inner critic and diet mentality.

I’m just going to say it - if you’re worried about what other people are thinking about your food choices, it probably has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with your own attitudes toward your food choices. It takes internal work on your part to begin rewiring the brain.

There are many books and podcasts out there that can support you on your journey to banish the inner food police for good (we love the Intuitive Eating Book, Intuitive Eating Workbook, Body Kindness, Gentle Nutrition), or you can seek support from an Intuitive Eating support group like the one we just started!

Remember that no one cares about what you’re eating as much as you think they do.

It’s very likely that you’ve never thought badly about a friend ate more than you. And truthfully, if you did have thoughts like that, it’s very likely that it was originating from diet mentality, not how you actually feel about the person. So why would you assume that people are watching your plate like a hawk?

Remind yourself that no one is probably overly concerned with what you’re eating, and enjoy your spaghetti. ;) Life is way too short to feel anxious or uncertain about your food choices.

If you do need more support, Kayla is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and has several ways that you can plug in to get what you need. Check out these new offers (scroll down to Intuitive Eating offers) that are aimed at supporting you as you work on your relationship with food. If you have questions or are interested in working together 1:1 book a free intro call here.

Kayla Fitzgerald is a Registered Dietitian & Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and founder of Endurance Nutrition located in Charleston, South Carolina. She works with clients from all over through 1:1 nutrition coaching, small group coaching, and online courses. Her goal is to help you fuel your body for whatever the day has in store whether it's a 100 mile race or getting through the work day.

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