Gaining Thin in the Buffet Line


by Mary Ellen Psaltis

The Buffet Diet:  now there’s an oxymoron. Most of the time the words “all you can eat” and “maintaining your weight” do not show up in the same sentence. That’s no surprise. Most of us, faced with a feast of fancy dishes from which to pick, are hard pressed to keep our choices to a bare minimum.

It would be fine if you and I went to a smorgasbord type of restaurant once in a great while, but in the times we live now, there are excessive food choices available all the time.

I just returned from a meeting in Atlanta, GA, where a buffet was available morning, noon and night. On the first morning I gazed at the stacks of plates and steaming chafing dishes and wondered, “How will my body survive the next few days?”

Is it possible to navigate the temptations laid out on fine linen tablecloths without totally disregarding the levels of fat, calories, sugar, salt and all those other things that taste really good? One voice in my head says, “Go for it, you paid for it.” And then a small voice of reason suggests that I can enjoy myself and be satisfied without becoming a glutton.

Of course, I won’t say that eating at a buffet is the safest or easiest place to stick to your normal routines; it’s not. The truth is that we are faced with zillions of food choices all day/every day. Take a few of these thoughts with you the next time you are headed for tables of food laden with goodies.

1.  Take a lap or two around all the food choices. It’s good to know the whole menu. This can give you a few moments to dream and to plan. This way you don’t have to load up on things you don’t like as much in case there was nothing better down the line. And, yes, it means you are not taking some of everything.

2.  Get a salad plate. Leave the giant plates that wait for you at the head of the line and find a smaller one. They will be by the desserts or side dishes. You can fill it up. Believe it or not your eyes will trick your stomach into thinking it ate a lot more this way.

3.  Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is not your last meal.

4.  Decide what you want to eat the most and get some of that. You are not there to reject everything.

5. Realize you need to eat just one meal now – not several. That means you don’t have to have everything that’s offered: bacon, sausage, links, an omelet, oatmeal, sweet breads, fruit, and yogurt and a waffle. If you are dining with a partner, you could each fill your plates differently and then share. You will get twice the tastes but each eat only one meal apiece. 

Breakfast Idea: Fill half you plate with fruit, add a scoop of scrambled eggs and pick one breakfast bread.

Lunch: Have a cup of soup. Sit and enjoy that first. Go back for the main course. It’s OK to cut a portion in half and take a smaller piece. It’s not so good to throw food away.

Dinner: Fill most of your plate with salad and vegetables. Top with the offered meat or main dish.

Desserts: It is hard to resist all the choices, especially for me if it is something I don’t usually eat, or something I never bake a home. After I eat my main meal, I make a special trip to the dessert bar and take two small portions of my favorite choices. I offer to share with my husband. (Yes, sometimes I want more.) Another idea is to have dessert at either lunch or dinner but not both.

If after you have eaten from your modest sized plate, enjoyed the company of your dining companions and over twenty minutes have passed and you are still hungry, then you can go back for something else.

The idea is not to feel stuffed. The idea isn’t even to feel really full. The idea is to stop before you are full. That equates to more than an ample amount of food for your body. This is really not the American Way, but something more of us need to learn.

Life is an endless buffet line. There is food at the gas station, the restaurant, and the refrigerator. Take another deep breath. Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. You get to eat every day, so you don’t ever have to overdo. Moderation takes practice. Keep practicing.

Eat Well – Be Well

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