Beat Bingeing: Summer BBQ Edition

Happy Fourth of July! I hope all of you readers here in the States are ready to celebrate the day with food, fireworks, and time spent with family.

If you’re like me, the day is going to end in a fantastic BBQ. That’s awesome, but for those who struggle with emotional eating and bingeing, summer BBQs can be hard to navigate healthily. I mentioned in How I Beat Binge Eating: Part 4 how, when I was still actively recovering from my binge eating habit, keeping my eating in check at parties was still tough for me even once the rest of my day-to-day eating was pretty normal. I’ll be honest and say that even today special occasions still take some degree of pre-planning, extra self-care, and positive thinking on my part. And really, holidays are days when “normal” people often overdo it on food! Basically, holidays and parties can be a challenge for all of us when it comes to eating healthily.

Ideally, at a BBQ, you should have fun with people you care about, relax, and indulge a little food-wise. But if you’re like me, some at some gatherings you end up NOT enjoying the party because you’re so stressed about food, and then you leave unhappy with the quantity you ate when the night is through to boot. That’s no fun. But the good news is that holidays don’t have to be like this. Here are a few simple strategies I’ve found that help me beat bingeing at summer BBQs and gatherings. 🙂

Family Eden Vacation 2012-700


Eat enough food throughout the beginning of the day. Avoid the temptation to under eat to “save up” calories or stomach space for an indulgent dinner. Heading to a party where burgers, brats, brownies, and who know what else will be available is tough enough. Don’t go in starving! That only sets  you up to overeat. Eat healthy, balanced, filling meals and snacks all day long leading up to your event. This is the breakfast I ate this morning.


Bring a healthy AND yummy dish along. If your event is potluck, show up with a dish that is (1) healthy enough that you can eat it without any worry, and (2) something you really enjoy eating. I like to bring a big bowl of fresh-cut fruit, a veggie tray, or a delicious salad to BBQs. That way, I can pile up my plate mostly with what I brought if none of the other options look great, yet not feel deprived taste-wise.

Go in with a gameplan. It helps me to have a rough plan of both what and how much I’ll eat before I head to a party. For example, here’s the plan I’ve got for my family BBQ tonight:

BBQ game plan

You’ll notice this is something I actually wrote down on paper. I find this immensely helpful. It’s easy to change your plan as you go if it’s just in your head, but if you actually write the plan down somewhere, it’s much more likely to stick.

I also make a plan for dessert once I’ve eaten my meal and am making judgments on a full stomach. I take a look around at what desserts are there, and after evaluating if anything looks absolutely worth the calories, I’ll make a similar plan to my meal one and jot it down in the notes section of my phone. My mental conversation often goes something like this: “The pan of brownies my sister-in-law made look amazing, and so do the peanut butter bars, but the apple pie is store-bought and the ice cream is the cheap party-bucket variety, which isn’t my favorite. That’s also one huge tub of red vines—which I like, but don’t want to overdo.  I think I’ll leave the pie and ice cream alone but have a square of brownie, a square of peanut butter bar, and two red vines.” Once I’ve made those decisions and jotted them down somehow, I go ahead and indulge guilt-free according to my plan. 🙂

And as an added note: if your plan is to eat nothing but carrot sticks, you’ll fail. Make sure your plan entails eating a decent amount that will satisfy you, physically and emotionally. Skew towards the veggie tray over the Doritos bag as you fill your plate, sure, but FILL YOUR PLATE!

Bring gum to signal the end of your meal. Once I’ve eaten what I’d planned, I pop in a piece of mint gum. This little ritual helps me consciously say “I’m done.” Having minty fresh breath is also a good deterrent against going back for more food.

Focus on PEOPLE! Once you’ve eaten what you’ve planned to eat, deliberately decide to stop thinking about food. Any time the thought to saunter back over for more chips and dip pops up, instead find someone to talk to. Remember why you’re really there with friends and family—to enjoy food a little, but mostly to enjoy who you are with! Don’t just sit around white-knuckling the urge to eat more. Be one of the kids and jump into a game of frisbee with your nephews. Talk to your brother about how his new job is going. Throw yourself into the real purpose of the party and you’ll both have way more fun AND be much less likely to spend the night obsessing over the brownies and Doritos you’ve decided you are done with for the day.


Bring a backup snack for the evening. You may be arriving at your BBQ around 5pm but not leaving until 11pm if fireworks are in the plan (or if you just end up having a great time and don’t want to head out in a hurry). This means that even if you eat a filling meal at dinnertime, you’re going to be hungry later in the evening. Don’t let a wave of hunger lead you to justify five more brownies and a fistful of red vines. Instead, come prepared with a protein bar or other healthy snack in your bag that you can quietly pull out later on when hunger strikes. There may be veggies and hummus or some other food option at the party you could have instead, but don’t leave it to chance. Come prepared with a good snack of your own in case the healthy options at the party are slim.

I’m headed to tonight’s party armed with a Quest protein bar in one of my favorite flavors. I’ll pull it out whenever I get hungry in the hours of visiting and fireworks after dinner.

Treat Yo Self.  As part of my gameplan I write down before a party, I sometimes add in a little reward. If I stick to the plan I laid out today, for example, I’m going to buy myself 3 new songs on iTunes for my walking workout playlist. You don’t have to make a reward big, or even have one set up at all, but I like doing it. Every time I make it through a party, vacation, or holiday with mono bingeing streak totally alive and well, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. And meeting goals, big or small, is something worth celebrating and giving yourself kudos for.

So there you go! Best of luck today and at all your BBQs and parties through the rest of the summer. I know you’ll handle them all like a pro.

Do you have any other great ideas that help you navigate BBQ season healthily? Share them in the comments below!