Walk This Away

Recently, for the first time in many years, I thought about my ex-sister-in-law.  I have three; this one was the skinniest of the bunch.  But I wasn’t thinking of her because of that.  Well, not exactly.  She popped into my head because I had a flashback about a peculiar habit of hers.  When dessert was served, she walked away.

Maybe I would never have noticed her doing this, if not for the video of my son’s first birthday party.  (That would be my oldest who is now 22!)  My husband and I sat and watched the video over and over, enjoying the cuteness of our rapidly growing baby boy.  We heard the regaling chorus of the Birthday Song and watched ourselves move to cut the cake.  And we noticed my SIL leave the room.

And one of us, I don’t remember which, made the connection that this was not a one time event.  We realized that every time dessert was served at a family gathering, the same thing happened:  SIL left the room.  Hmm.  Curious.  Why?  We didn’t care.  And we didn’t much think about it again.

Until just the other day.  When I was driving in my car, a place where random thoughts and epiphanies often pop into my brain.  And I thought about her.  And her potential calorie saving habit.  Because twice in the preceding (Passover/Easter) weekend I had been at family events and both times we had sat around the table for hours, with a variety of desserts in front of us.

There I sat; there sat the sweets.  Me.  Them.  I had a little bit.  I sat longer.  I had a bit more.  I sat longer.  More.  Longer.  Nibble, nibble, nibble.  Proximity and temptation united to win out over willpower.

Now, just to clarify, I didn’t really eat EXCESSIVE amounts.  There was no bingeing.  But, there was clearly a succumbing to temptation that would not have happened had I not sat at that those tables in front of those desserts for all those hours.

But, back to the car, and my thoughts of my SIL, who I hadn’t seen in years.  “Aha,” thought I.  “SIL would NOT have sat at the table.”  She’d not even have stayed in the same room, if possible.  Could this have been her strategy all along?  Could this be my new strategy?

Sometimes.  Maybe.  Sometimes not.  Because as I think about just walking away, I realize that at some social events, the gathering is really limited to the table.  Everyone sits.  Captive, almost.  As we talk.  And visit.  But at other times and places, the action is taking place all over and it would be a simple plan to excuse myself from one conversation (at the table) and join another outside hands’ reach of the treats.

So, that’s my new plan.  When I can, walk away.  When I can’t, sit and stay.  But I’m going to do my best to move the temptation as far across the table as I can!

Does your family sit around the table (and dessert) for hours too?  How do you handle it?  Ever notice any odd habits in family members?

It’s not too late!  You can still enter the Snikiddy Snack and grocery gift card giveaway!




Filed under cheating/overeating, family, influence of others, making a change, restaurant/social eating

57 responses to “Walk This Away

  1. Great observation Karen. This is a frequent happening with the group of 4 couples we get together with for dinner on a regular basis. It all starts with appetizers.Meals are served family style with large platters and bowls of food. Once dinner is cleared dessert is then displayed, sometimes it is plated for each person and other times it is served at the table and keeps getting passed around!

    I am the only one who is consistently trying to eat healthy and lose/maintain my weight. One other gal is sometimes dieting but usually not. Another person has some recently found food allergies so she cant always have the dessert. I usually skip dessert or have just one taste of hubbies. Sometimes people bring fruit for the non dessert folks.

    Sometimes I just don’t want to go or wish we could skip the eating and get together and do something active-like go hiking! I am pretty good at sticking with my food plan. I decided I had to learn how to navigate these social situations since they are a part of my life. This group knows about my blog and a few of them follow it so they know my struggles with weight and carbs. That has been helpful because they try and accommodate my food choices, they cook my recipes quite often for our meals together. Even so sometimes I would like to have a non food centered activity. Our relationship is formed all around food!

    I also like to have a cup of hot tea instead of eating dessert, that way I have something in front of me and something to do with my hands. I always help clear the table and do dishes so I Adam not left to sit at the table looking at dessert.

    • A hot drink is a great idea. That would work with MY side of the family. With my husband’s, the only drinking after a meal is of the alcoholic variety:) Someday I plan to blog about how social life and life events seem to revolve around food. It’s on a very long list of ideas I just never get around to writing about.

  2. This all sounds so familiar to me. It goes like this: When first offered dessert, I say that I ate too much and have no room left. But then if I sit at the table with the pies, bars, and cakes in front of me, it is inevitable that I will soon indulge. And then there’s the “afters” as Vickie calls them. By that I mean there’s the next day and the days after that, because I can really get off track when I start eating the sweets. I think your SIL had something when she left the scene.

    BTW, I don’t think I will show up on your blog roll anymore, because I am now private. But I think you can access my blog by clicking on my comments. I hope this works. It’s a bit more complicated than I bargained for.

    • Fortunately I’ve gotten pretty food, FINALLY, about getting immediately back on track. But a big part of that for me is being sure not to take any off plan left overs. And, the reality is, that if I indulge for dessert now and then, that’s okay, IMO. But I would like it to be more planned as an indulgence and less because I sat there and continued on and on.

  3. I agree that it’s hard not to nibble when something’s sitting in front of you!

    I like to think that one day I’ll be strong enough to ignore what’s there and not be tempted. (That’s unlikely to be anytime soon!)


  4. This is such a strange strategy! Really, I read that first paragraph and was like, “WHo would do such a weird thing?”

    Of course it *might* work. But then again… would you let food dictate when you leave the room?

    • Well, we did wonder if she had an eating disorder. One time we were on vacation with a woman who kept saying she didn’t like sweets. My husband and I wondered, since once she DID indulge, if she really didn’t like them or if that was HER strategy and excuse to not eat dessert.

  5. Interesting – it almost makes me wonder if she was in a 12 step food program, or at least had a history of OOC behavior with sweets and knew she dare not get within arm’s length. It’s a bit extreme if done at every dessert appearance, as well as potentially anti-social. I can see that as a strategy to add to the toolbox, but not one to use all the time – like when I’m with family I don’t see but once or twice a year.

    • I think it would certainly depend on the situation. With my family at Passover recently, everyone sat at the table except the little boys who went off and played. At my husband’s family gathering the next day, I stayed at the table with the people I’d been chatting with and that happened to be when dessert was put in front of me. But I could have easily moved away to another part of the room – there were enough family to have people all over the place, including outside.

      One thing I’ve learned with my own experiences and blogging, you can’t judge a book by its cover. I am sure someone would look at me and not think that I would even write about something like this! That SIL has been thin (thin, not just “normal-sized”) as long as I’ve known her, but who knows what is going on in her life and head. I think she is just very disciplined, based on what I knew of her, but maybe it is something else entirely.

  6. Lina

    I recently read a book called “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink. He talks about the environmental aspects that make us eat more (or less).

    One thing he noticed in his research (he is a professor at some university, I forget which one) is that depending on the size of the group of people you are eating with, you eat more than if you’d eat by yourself. I think if you eat in a group of 7+ people, you eat twice as much as you would by yourself…

    He suggests if you are trying to eat less, serve food on smaller plates, or pace yourself according to the slowest eater at the table, etc.

    It was an interesting read. There were a few times when he described overeaters… and I saw myself in those descriptions ~_~

    • Hmmm… interesting. The small plate thing wouldn’t work in this particular instance since we did have very small plates at one meal and we all just refilled them as we sat. (I had half a cookie. Later the other half. Later a half of another cookie. Then the last half. And so on.) But it would be great with a dessert (or meal) buffet where you didn’t sit and pick.

      For me, the tough thing about social eating seems to be less the “social” aspect and more that there is just a lot of food that tempts me that I would not normally have around. But I’m going to watch for this! I’ll be around a big group this weekend.

  7. I always want to be where the action is, so if there wasn’t a group gathered somewhere else, I’d be all by myself somewhere. That doesn’t seem right.

    Our family tends to serve large meals buffet-style, so if you want more food, you have to get up and go to the side bar to get it. I hadn’t realized how much that helped until now. 🙂

    • At the Easter day thing (which wasn’t really about Easter but just happened then), the meal WAS buffet and the dessert was buffet too – but the meal was served from the kitchen and the dessert was served from the table where I just happened to be sitting at the time. Some people were sitting other places. Buffets would make it easier. Actually, the best would be not having a buffet or multiple desserts at all! Just one cake, for example. Because I’m a big one for tasting them all:(

  8. Sitting with desserts so close by would make me antsy…I like the walk away idea, but I’d hate to miss out on the party. That is a good coping strategy, though.

  9. I’ve read this idea often as a strategy and in most cases around my family situations, it works! At least if I can muster up the courage to implement the strategy!! MIL’s house is very small, so meals are always served buffet style and places to eat set up in different rooms of the house. Getting out of the kitchen is easy. Spouse grew up in this house, so we’ve adopted the buffet style eating at home. Rarely, actually I can safely say never, do we carry food to the table. We always serve ourselves from the stove. But there’s still the idea of training oneself NOT to go back for seconds or staying away when desserts are brought out.

  10. As you well know, my preferred state of being is when I don’t have to control food and food doesn’t control me. Lately, that hasn’t been the case. My appetite is in overdrive and I think it’s due to an imbalance (saliva and blood testing just completed yesterday…am awaiting results). So in my ideal world, I wouldn’t need a strategy for a situation like this, but world isn’t ideal, so I am trying to figure out why it isn’t!

  11. Our family often sits around the table too. There’s action in other rooms as well, but the people I generally want to spend my time with are the ones who sit around the table. I’m not going to sacrifice my social needs. If I choose to eat, so be it. If I don’t, so be it too. It’s not about what I do on occasion; it’s more about what I do on an everyday, routine basis.

    • So true! And I do think that for me, I envision maintaining as being able to eat what I want in a social situation with no regrets and no guilt. But also without eating just for the sake of eating because it is there.

  12. I totally relate to this post, Karen! When I worked at corporations I would always quietly duck out of the break room when birthday cake was being handed out. But with other social events, it hasn’t been easy. When something is in front of me on the table, I’m going to keep nibbling and noshing even when the hunger is long gone. Out of sight/out of mind is so true for me but sometimes its just not possible. BTW, bet your son was adorable at 6 yrs old. 🙂

  13. I will probably post about a meeting I was at yesterday, dinner meeting. I carefully planned my calories knowing that this banquet the food was coming. They always put the dessert out with the salad. So I talked and stared at my dessert (blueberry pie) the entire time. But I never had one bite. Everyone else ate theirs, but NOT me. I was resolved and it worked.

  14. Interesting tactic. How long would she leave the room? This has inspired a couple of tactics we could all try:

    If hosting:
    – serve a healthier dessert option
    – if not, serve fruit along with decadent dessert option and choose the fruit and perhaps a smaller portion of the dessert
    – serve from the kitchen, so nibbling while talking at the table isn’t possible

    If not hosting:
    – if appropriate or possible, see if the host would be open to serving dessert from the kitchen.
    – if appropriate, if dessert is served from the table ask (or just do it) if the dessert can be removed from the table.

    I think I should try the walking away (or perhaps sit far far away) from appetizers…

    • I’m going to a gathering of couples this weekend and will pay attention to see how they serve. I do know there will be birthday cake and I know also there will be fruit, but not if it is being served as a dessert or with the meal. My own family often has fruit with dessert as an option but then I still need to make the choice of that over something that is often utterly decadent.

  15. That’s a great strategy & one I have used myself, the only problem is sometimes people like to, like you said, sit at the table and talk for hours, which is great fun. It’s hard when the treats are sitting there tempting you all night. Maybe you could be so bold as to say “is everyone finished with dessert, I’d be happy to clear the table”, out of sight out of mind, for the most part anyway huh 🙂

  16. My problem is that my “this way” is TOWARD the dessert table, no matter where I happen to be when dessert is served…haha. I have an evil sweet tooth. Most often I don’t need to say no because I have been anticipating the dinner/dessert for a week before and try not to indulge through the rest of the week. But the dining table inevitably becomes the place where everyone sits and chats at most of the dinner things we go to 🙂

  17. Actually it seemed anti-social to me to walk away, but then solitary eating is much more of a problem for me than eating in a group. In fact, if I needed to do one thing it would be to never, ever volunteer or put the dessert away … way to easy for me to sneak a bite or twenty.

  18. Yep, that’s how we do it, too. In fact, my brother and I have a bad habit of needing something sweet at the end of every meal. It doesn’t have to be a lot – just a ‘finish’. That’s why I’ve turned to dessert teas. There is one that I’m drinking now that tastes like a Mounds bar in my cup. Thank goodness for tea. It’s been a lifesaver.

  19. We serve our plates in the kitchen so we have to get up if we want more. That has helped me a lot. At parties or when we go out to eat? Now that is a different story and so hard for me. I can pick and pick and pick if it is in front of me. My strategy is to always have gum in my purse or pocket. Once I have gum in my mouth- no more picking at the food!!!

  20. VERY INTERESTING!!! Hey, to each their own to be the way they want to be. I bet that was her strategy!!! It is hard to walk away at many gathering but if you can & it works for you, why not.

    We tend to have buffet style like many BUT when it come to dessert, it was always about putting them all on the table to choose – YIKES! BUT also, we were not the type that had these “have to stay at the table gatherings”. It was always about wherever anyone wanted to be – at the table, in front of the TV, on the patio.. not a very formal family in our house! 🙂

    Me, once I had myself in my healthy lifestyle, I planned for what I was gonna do so I went with that.. if I ate more, I just got back to it the next day. 😉

    • And I got back to it myself, Jody. I’ve actually made considerable progress with this. No longer pre-cheating and post-cheating:) My vision for my long-term does allow indulging at times like these. I’d just rather be indulging because I choose to and not out of habit of nibbling because the food is in front of me. Mindful vs. mindless, I guess.

  21. Miz

    my extended family is one big quirky habit.
    filled with EATEAT loving elderly Jewish women and sidelong glances (thankfully never to me which is why I think I emerged sans baggage!) when you do, uh, EAT!

    • Your comment makes me wonder what my own elderly Jewish woman were like, back when they were still with us. They sure did make some great food – that I DO remember:)

  22. Thanks for stopping by my blog. You mentioned “word verification.” Can you tell me how to get rid of it?

    • I think I did it–got rid of “work verification,” that is. It’s pretty easy. Go to Dashboard–to commenting–scroll down–and it’s toward the bottom. Took care of it with a click.

      • Excuse the typo: I meant “word” verification. Here are the correct instructions to remove it: Go to Dashboard–then to settings–then to comments–scroll down toward the bottom, and you can turn it on or off with a click. Sorry for inaccurate comment.

  23. I think it would really work for me sometimes, except in certain gatherings where leaving the room would just be weird.. But I could definitely excuse myself from time to time and take a breather, I like that idea!

  24. Well, this reminds me to take all of the food off the kitchen counter top at home. You’d think I’d know better than to not make that exact situation you’re discussing in my own home!!!

    🙂 Marion

  25. I like that strategy. I guess that’s what I did when I was teaching. The teacher’s lounge was ALWAYS filled with plates of goodies and that where the candy machines were, too. I never went there between classes or to eat my lunch. Too many pitfalls. Luckily, as the school librarian, I had an office where I kept a mini fridge and a microwave. My office became a gathering place for other teachers who were also avoiding the lounge leavings.
    At a dinner table situation, once I’ve made my decision, I’m usually able to stick to it. I try to pre-plan what my decision will be.

  26. Great strategy! It’s not so much an issue at family dinners, but at parties I tend to hover by the food if I’m uncomfortable ….

  27. I have long been aware that I will nibble if it is in front of me so I tend to serve buffet style and not put things on the table. I am also pretty good about not over eating in front of people so I must either send things home with others or throw it out right away. If it is not my house, I will sit as far away from the food as I can.

  28. I missed this one! How are you keeping up with your blogging and working at the same time?
    This is a great strategy and I will work it in when I can as well.
    Sometimes it’s not possible because I just want to be where the conversation is. But still… being more aware will help. I thnk having a big glass of water that I keep right between my hands will help. Or putting a bowl of something else right in front of me. Doing anything with my hands! Knitting?
    Oh, or you put a bit of something on your plate and then sneakily pour salt on it so that you won’t eat it. Play with it a bit…
    I was just at a 4 year old birthday party and it was at a place where they took care of everything (Faeries and Dragons)… so another mom and I were jsut chatting, not even having to watch our kids and the owner brought us two pieces of the most incredible cake. She just put it right in our hands. It was like magic. Getting served? I admit that I did eat it and I enjoyed every bite.

  29. LOL – I just had birthday cake this weekend too. For a 52 year old! And for hours, everyone stood in the kitchen and talked. With all the food sitting out on the island in front of us.

    I’m not working too many hours. I keep thinking I’ll post less. I actually sort of want to post less. But something inside me is soooo inflexible and it’s hard to let go!

  30. I have been walking the way over the candy jars – i guess i should try walking the other direction now! 😉

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