A friend is having a Christmas get-together. The house is decorated, the tree is trimmed and in the middle of the room a table groans under the weight of an impressive buffet.
There’s everything you could imagine: sausage rolls, veggie vol-au-vents, smoked salmon pinwheels, stuffed peppers, bread, salads and olives, not to mention those little cheesy ball things you just can’t resist (apparently this buffet is from 1974).
In the kitchen, an array of cakes and puddings is waiting to be brought out once the savoury course is finished.
What do you do?
What most of us do is pick up a plate when invited to by the host, start at one end of the table and take a bit of everything until we reach the other end. By the time we’ve finished, there’s a dome of food on our plate big enough to rival St Paul’s Cathedral.
Then we plough our way through it and feel stuffed and uncomfortable.
Instead, I’d like to invite you to consider a Buffet Tour.
Walk around the table and survey all the food on offer. Before putting anything on your plate, relax and take the time to investigate what appeals to you. What looks good? Are there particular dishes that “sing” to you? If you need to go around a few times to be sure, that’s OK, there’s no rush – there’s plenty of time for sightseeing.
Don’t judge your choices. Give yourself full permission to have what you really want. Forget good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. If you bypass the salad in favour of the sausage rolls – fine. If you’re all about the cheesy ball things – also fine. If you decide you don’t want anything savoury and would prefer just to have pudding. Guess what? Absolutely fine.
Narrow it down to the foods you truly want and ignore everything else on the table. Enjoy the sense of freedom this gives you. Having carefully considered what you’d like, start putting it on your plate.
Check in with your hunger. As you make your selection ask yourself how hungry you are. Seriously hungry or just a bit peckish? Try to take the amount of food that fits with your hunger. If you’re not sure, start small (remember you can always go back for more if you want to).
As you eat, slow down and stay present. Are you enjoying what you’ve chosen? It’s OK to discard anything you’re not enjoying. Is there something you’re particularly relishing that you might want some more of? Above all, enjoy it.
Be honest with yourself. Do those little cheesy balls taste as amazing as you remember? Or is it just because you’ve always considered them “contraband” that you thought you liked them so much?
Pay attention to any signal from your body that you’ve had enough. Has the taste changed since you started eating? Are you beginning to feel full? Are you not enjoying the food as much as you were earlier? If so, maybe it’s time to stop eating.
When you stop, remind yourself you can have more later, or you could maybe take some home (depending on how well you know the host). Crucially, this kind of food is never off limits, so there’s no need to have it all now.
It’s OK to give yourself exactly what you want. Actually, in the process of making peace with food, it’s essential.
Scarcity sparks overeating.
If you feel you’re not usually allowed these sorts of foods, you’re going to make the most of any opportunity to have them and eat like there’s no tomorrow.
Deprivation drives bingeing.
The opposite of deprivation is full permission and the more you give yourself full permission to eat exactly what you want, the calmer your relationship with food becomes and the more discerning you become about what you eat.
That’s how you stop bingeing and start working with yourself and your body.
Food is to be enjoyed, especially at any kind of celebration. You can’t enjoy it if you’re denying yourself what you really want, giving yourself a hard time for your choices or overeating because you feel you’ve got to make the most of it.
So if you’re faced with a buffet this Christmas, I highly recommend a Buffet Tour. There are only 3 stops – freedom, enjoyment and satisfaction.