My husband and I recently paid his parents a visit. Well, this visit must have meant a lot to my mother-in-law because she really went all out. Rather than simply ordering a pizza, she laid out a whole spread for us. We had fruit, salad, cheese bread, and every single sandwich fixing you can think of. She even made apple cake for dessert! As I was eating, I started thinking about buffets. The meal at my mother-in-law’s house was far from what I would consider a buffet, but it was buffet-like in the sense that I had a variety of foods to choose from, some of which I don’t normally have on hand. Buffets, and even potlucks, can be hard for me because they’re so different than other types of eating experiences.
When I went to a buffet or a potluck in the past, I would feel uncomfortable with all of that food. There were just so many choices! As I approached the rows of food, I became overwhelmed and my brain immediately began to go a mile-a-minute thinking about how I would deal with this situation. What will I choose? How much should I pile on my plate so I get the most bang for my buck? Would it be bad if I went back for seconds? What will others think if I go back for more? All of these questions would stress me out and often ruin what could have been a pleasant eating experience.
Over time, I learned how to navigate my way through the heaps of food and came away with this knowledge:
- Prioritize. I know that I cannot have everything that the buffet offers, so I need to be strategic. My game plan is this: Go for the foods that I don’t eat very often. Since I don’t have access to them on a regular basis, I might as well enjoy them since they’re available now!
- Eat mindfully. Prior to intuitive eating, thinking about my eating experience in a mindful way was just so far from my reality. I now eat mindfully to see what tastes good. And here’s what I discovered: Sometimes things look better than they actually taste. I now take a nibble so I get a better sense of whether or not I might like the food. Often the quality isn’t all that great at buffets.1 Unlimited trips to the buffet isn’t so appealing when the food is barely mediocre.
- Body check-ins. I do frequent check-ins with my body to see where I am at fullness-wise. Does it still taste good? Do I really want more? It’s not fool-proof, but it helps!
- Reject the clean plate club. I used to feel like I had to eat everything on my plate because, not only would I be wasting food, I would not be getting my money’s worth. I suffered from being part of the clean plate club. I now weigh my decision about cleaning my plate against if feeling physically uncomfortable is worth saving a few cents.
- Overeating is okay. Buffets and potlucks are different than a typical meal for me, so I always give myself permission to eat without guilt. I tell myself that if I overeat, I’ll be fine. Nothing bad will happen to me and it is completely normal to overeat from time to time.2
Buffets and potlucks can still present a bit of a challenge at times, but when I apply the intuitive eating principles like I would any other eating experience, they become less nerve-wracking. Once I stopped getting so hung up on my fear of buffets and potlucks, I began to relax and actually take pleasure in the food in front of me.
What is your experience with buffets and potlucks? Please share in the comment section below.
1And think about it. If it’s all-you-can-eat for $X.XX, then the restaurant needs to make money in some way. How do they do it? They lower the quality of food.
2This is me being self-compassionate! It took a long time for me to get to the point where I could do this. I’m proud of myself.
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I am honored that you chose to read about my experience.
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Podcast Version: Battling Buffets and Potlucks