Season’s Eatings: The Buffet Tour

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.

39 thoughts on “Season’s Eatings: The Buffet Tour

  1. Approaching Thanksgiving, I dreamed of having a slice of my freshly baked bread. I’d given up gluten and sugar hoping that would help lower my inflammatory numbers. As I took a bite of my bread, I actually had imagined it would taste better than it actually did. I gave it to my son lol. My home baked bread was delicious but in my mind, it had become the most coveted item for me to consume. Long story short, I ended up eating healthy and not feeling like I was missing out. I did indulge in some stuffing but a modest amount. At the end of the day, my fantasizing was completely overrated. I ate what I wanted but in healthy portions and basically stuck to my doctor’s prescribed diet. I never felt deprived. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas Julie!🎄

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    1. I love your process with the home-baked bread, Erin – by giving yourself permission to have it, you realised it didn’t taste as amazing as you’d built it up in your head (I bet it’s delicious, though) so you could leave it. That way, you didn’t feel you were missing out. When I was healing my eating issues, I thought “what’s the absolute most forbidden thing I think I shouldn’t eat ever?” The answer was lemon yum-yums. So I went and bought some and gave myself full permission to eat them and enjoy them. After one of them I thought “Meh! Not so great” and haven’t eaten once since – lol. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your Thanksgiving dinner, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas too!

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  2. These are very helpful ideas, Julie – thank you! I never thought of doing a survey of the buffet table … I definitely just pile on everything as I come across it, and what a simple thing to change. You’re right about deprivation leading to bingeing – I grew up with strict rules and limits on eating and always hugely overdid it (still do at times) when I was away from those limits. My kids grew up with no drama about food and have always been amazing at buffets, taking small amounts of things they love, trying new things, going back when they want. They’re my role models 🙂 I’ve got a big holiday buffet Wednesday … I’ll let you know how it goes!

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    1. If you grow up with strict controls on food you very often develop a side of you that likes to be out of control with food, and you can spend your life swinging like a pendulum from being in control to being out of control. The ideal is to the find the middle ground where nothing is off limits but you stay connected to yourself to work out what you really want so you don’t overdo it. It’s so wonderful that you’ve enabled your kids to have a normal relationship with food. You’re right that they’re role models – I always think it’s worth observing people who, as you say, have “no drama about food”. I hope you really enjoy your buffet on Wednesday – I’ve love to hear how it goes! Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, Karen.

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    1. I would take that wine, thank you, Jim – cheers! Obviously, most of us overindulge at Christmas and other times of the year, and that’s OK. This post is for people whose overeating is habitual and makes them unhappy.

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  3. I agree! When I allow myself to eat what I really want to eat (after actually thinking about it and listening to my inner voice), I find that I am satisfied with much less quantity of food than if I simply eat what is in front of me. And your strategy to check out the entire buffet before making our selections is a very good one.

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    1. The key is, exactly as you describe, staying connected to ourselves and listening. Then we’re much more able to calmly discern what we really want, rather than just eat whatever’s available. As you say, you actually end up eating much less that way. It’s so great to hear your experience, Ann – thank you for sharing it.

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  4. I hate feeling guilty about what I eat, so I don’t. Instead, I choose wisely and take the time to taste and enjoy. It can be easy, especially at the holidays, to eat mindlessly because there’s so much going on, but food can be a powerful part of tradition and should be honoured in its own way.

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    1. Absolutely – food plays such an important part in so many cultural traditions. I’m glad to hear you don’t feel guilty about eating – why should you? Many thanks for sharing your experience, Jay, I hope you have a great Christmas.

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  5. It’s so true about deprivation driving bingeing. Oddly enough I’ve never had this issue with social eating – I’ve always been very picky and minimal in eating anything socially, so year ago when I’d go to things like this it wasn’t a problem. Get home and be on my own, left to my own devices however… that’s a different story. Fantastic tips, Julie  ♥ xx

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    1. That’s so true, Caz – bingeing is usually done alone, and very often in the evening too. Often we feel too ashamed to eat in front of others so feel we have do it in secret. I appreciate you sharing your experience as I’m sure so many of us can relate to it, thank you.

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  6. I love a good buffet, especially those filled with beige foods and lots of cheese ! Going to take on board the idea of taking a few laps and picking out the favourite items.

    Merry Christmas Julie!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t have any eating problems, but I also struggle with buffets. I take small portions and before I know how it happened, I have a whole lot of food on there. I suspect it multiplies when I’m not watching.

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      1. My pleasure. I like your approach to food. I’ve seen my partner through endless diets and weight gains and know how crazy the whole business can be. Amazingly enough, in recent years she’s found a way to maintain a steady–and lesser–weight without agonizing over it or being hungry. It’s been wonderful.

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      2. I’m so glad to hear your partner’s managed to find a more peaceful relationship with food. I can understand how wonderful that must be for you, having witnessed her experiences with dieting. Many thanks for sharing your experience (and hers!).

        Liked by 1 person

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