Original question from Quora:

What are psychological hacks to avoid overeating at events such as big family 5+-course meals or all-you-can-eat restaurant menus?

Practical tips are welcome, too (snack earlier, etc). But I’d appreciate psychological hacks to keep in mind right at that very moment… especially if, like me, you totally have a sweet tooth / weakness for a special type of or all food, and you can’t always stop when you start feeling full.

My Answer:

When it comes to the temptation of a big meal, there is one weird trick that can save you the thousand calorie disasters before they happen.

It’s really simple, but it’s maybe not much fun. Before I tell you the two ways you can use this trick, it will make more sense if I tell you a quick story.

There once was a man who struggled with is weight. His family was fat, his friends were fat, and he was sure that he was genetically destined to be fat.

Every time he’d go out with his friends after work, he and his friends would drink a few beers, order a full size appetizer (usually a heaping bowl of loaded nachos with meat, cheese, salsa, and so on), and then later they would grab burgers or pizza depending on what bar they were at.

It was a great time and they would do this once or twice a week.

Most other nights, he’d go home and eat by himself a frozen Digornio pizza or some other easy to heat meal.

Over time he ballooned to over 300 pounds. One day he realized something needed to change.

So, he took up Crossfit because he saw that Crossfit people were all in good shape. He joined a gym and started working out every day after work.

He could barely survive the workouts at first. Over time, he got stronger and fitter, and his diet got better. Little by little, the pounds dropped off.

He never made it out with his friends anymore. He was too busy with his workouts and he started to make friends with other Crossfit people who seemed to have fun without eating out or drinking a lot of beer. They talked about “eating clean” and liked to be active.

After long enough his circle of friends changed and he was one of those “Crossfit people”. The idea of eating junk didn’t make much sense to him anymore and his body was totally different.

The thing is, the trick wasn’t that he did Crossfit. It’s that by doing Crossfit, his friends changed, his routine changed, and his beliefs around diet and exercise changed.

You could replace Crossfit with yoga, running, biking, martial arts, football, or other organized sports. It doesn’t matter what it is.

When you change your self image, friends, routine, and beliefs, it’s much easier to resist temptation because there is no temptation. We are not often tempted by what we vehemently disagree with.

I’m not tempted to punch random strangers in the face for no reason. I’d imagine you aren’t either.

Find the thing that will keep you from even being tempted at these events.

There is one extra crazy hack you can do to avoid temptation in the meantime…

Tell yourself and the people at the event that you are fasting OR just don’t go to the event. Both are 100% valid reasons and they 100% avoid the temptation.

Most of the time people will be like “oh, okay.” and will leave you alone.

Still, you need to fix the cause of the overeating because that will get you what you want.


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