Illustration: Serge Bloch
The holidays aren't the only time people screw up their eating habits. A Boston College study of dieting women found that more than half reported feeling pressure to eat in all social settings. But there was a crucial difference in the way they responded: Sixty percent of successful dieters used positive statements to shore up their resolve, while nearly two-thirds of the failed dieters reported worries about what other people were thinking (and half looked for reasons to rationalize overeating). Here, examples of the psychological traps we set for ourselves and how to respond.
You Feel: Concerned that people will notice you're not eating as much.
Tell Yourself: "So what? I'm entitled to eat however I please." And if someone wants to know why, you can say, "I'm trying to eat healthier," and change the subject.
You Feel: Rude for turning down a second helping.
Tell Yourself: "Taking care of my health is more important than pleasing the host."
You Feel: That you've been good and deserve a treat.
Tell Yourself: "Every decision I make about food counts. I can find other ways to celebrate a special occasion."
You Feel: Everyone is staring at you, pressuring you to eat.
Tell Yourself: "Be strong—smart eating is more important than everyone's approval." Follow that with a firm, "No, thanks." Repeat if necessary.
Suzette Glasner-Edwards, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and researcher at UCLA.