COME holiday time, we all loosen up our atti tudes along with our belts. And that can be dangerous for diets.
According to a recent article in the journal "Nutrition," the more people at a table, the more each person eats up to 76 percent more calories per person when there were seven or more at the table.
To make matters worse, portions eaten with others were 44 percent larger and contained more calories than portions eaten alone.
"The larger the group and the better we know each other, the more we eat," says John M. de Castro, author of the article.
To avoid packing on the pounds in the company of family and friends, here are a few tips.
Act like Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind" and eat before you go out. Stuff yourself with healthy, low-calorie foods so you'll be tempted to eat less of the bad stuff.
Sit near thin people
We tend to mimic the behavior of those around us, so sit next to the healthiest people in the room.
But be wary of those who can eat whatever they want and not gain weight.
Leave the table
Once dinner is over, move away from the table and away from the food. That way you won't keep nibbling.
Beware of food pushers
We all know at least one food pusher: The person who is always telling you, "How can one bite hurt?"
Your so-called "support group" may not want to see you "suffer" through yet another diet, but these people may also be trying to sabotage you because they feel guilty about not having chosen to pursue a healthier lifestyle.
"Your family and friends could be hurting your best intentions to lose and control your weight," says Amy Gorin, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown Medical School.
Have an answer ready for these diet saboteurs like, "Oh, no thanks. I couldn't eat another thing."
Or try the truth: "I'm dieting, and eating that cake will throw me off track."
Using smaller plates and bowls will help you and your guests control portions. The smaller the plates, the less food you are likely to consume.
And instead of bringing big plates of food to the table, serve each person and then take the rest back to the kitchen.
Watch what you drink
Drinking will fill you up as long as it's water, unsweetened iced tea or diet soda. But stay away from alcohol. Not only do we tend to drink more when we're in large groups, but we tend to eat more if we're drinking.
Fight the guilt
How many times has someone told you that you'll spoil the party if you don't have at least a taste?
Resist the temptation to eat "just because" the food is right there, or you don't want to make the host or others feel bad.
They'll get over it.
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