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Replace Social Eating with Social Activity Once a Week: Small Change, Big Results

Dancing...Fun For the Whole Family!

Dancing…Fun For the Whole Family! Image:

For many of us, spending time with friends or family means food.  Hey, we’ve gotta eat, right?  So why not do it with others?  In fact, a relationship-building book was written about it, “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi.

But what are we usually eating when we socialize with others?  Salads and green smoothies?  Or buffet-style pot lucks with a few glasses of wine or beer?  Or a three course dinner at a restaurant?  Social eating tends to lend itself to indulgence, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing on occasion, doing it too often can lead to excess calories and weight gain.

When addressing healthy eating with social eaters, they sometimes feel that making improvements to their eating habits means they can no longer socialize with their friends…because that’s what they do.  Being social = eating out or cooking.  Their primary focus of social discussion can be around food as well, especially for “foodies” such as myself.  I would rebel too if I felt that someone told me that eating better required that I never see my friends or family again.

Of course, logically that’s not the case.  We can do lots of things with our friends or family that does not involve eating.  But we haven’t been required to think about doing something else in a long time, if ever.  And when we stop performing a certain habit (i.e. social eating), there’s a gap/void left to be filled: “So if I’m not eating, what do I do with my friends/family??”

If an acceptable alternative cannot be provided, usually one of two things happen:

1. We stop seeing our friends or family because we can’t think of something else to do.  Then we get fed up with being unsocial and go back to our old habit of social eating.

2. We try to see our friends or family without an idea of what to do.  So after 20 minutes of debate and deliberation on what to do, everyone gets fed up and just decide to eat.

So this post is devoted to providing an alternative to social eating: social activity. I’m not asking you to replace all of your social eating with social activity.  Just make one substitution per week.  So if you eat socially three times a week, try two days of social eating and one day of social activity.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. A game of tennis or table tennis

  2. Shoot pool/billiards (have water or seltzer, not beer)

  3. Charades (you’d be surprised how much you can move)

  4. Go for a swim

  5. A round of golf or mini golf

  6. Going for a walk or jog (bring the pets along)

  7. Go dancing

  8. Bowling (without the beer and nachos)

  9. Go to the gym together and train/motivate each other

  10. Rock climbing

  11. Hiking

Will it require some effort to learn where you can do these things and prepare for them?  Yep, but choosing what restaurant to eat at or preparing to cook takes time as well, so you’re probably not wasting much time.  And once you find a good activity to do, you can do it over and over again with much less effort!  Then you may find yourself talking about another topic in addition to food (i.e. what hiking trails you like, what kind of dance moves you’re working on, etc.).

And the results can be surprising:  A full three course dinner including appetizer, entrée, desert and beverage can easily run 1500 to 2000 calories…and even higher if you are the type that prefers steaks and Fettucine Alfredo.  On the other hand, some of the activities listed above can burn anywhere from 150 to 400 calories per hour.  So replacing one social eating meal with one hour of social activity can be a difference of 1650 to 2500 calories per week, which is equal to about half a pound or a little more.  Half a pound a week over 52 weeks means 26 pounds a year.  One small change, with a big result.  Stay social…just use your legs.  🙂

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