Living With

When You Want to Avoid Eating It All

David Mendosa Health Guide July 13, 2008
  • Except for cruise ships, buffets are the worst for our weight. The cruises that I've taken have been essentially round-the-clocks feasts.

    The all-you-can-eat buffets don't seem as bad as going on a cruise. After all, each buffet is just one meal. But the urge to gorge seems to come naturally when we know that we only have one chance to fill er up with the multitude of delicacies in the serving line.

    Whether it's a cruise ship or a buffet restaurant, we are sure to gain weight. I know.

    I won't even consider cruising any more. But after each monthly meeting, my diabetes men's support group has a little ritual of going to the nearby Nepalese restaurant. Like most all Indian and Nepalese restaurants, it has a wonderful lunch buffet. Unfortunately, I love Nepalese food and always gain at least two pounds every time I eat there.


    So, when I interviewed a prominent obesity expert who mentioned that he offers behavioral modifications for people who have to handle difficult situations, "like a big buffet," my personal antenna went up. I was talking with
    Victor J. Stevens, Ph.D., a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon.

    Dr. Stevens is the co-author of one of the largest weight loss maintenance trials every conducted. My most recent article here reviewed it, especially the strategy to keep a food diary.

    My problem with the buffet is a tough one for almost everyone, he told me. We have two good ways of dealing with these difficult situations.

    "The easiest way is to just avoid it," Dr. Stevens starts. "So my first piece of advice is to stay away from buffets."

    Our second best choice is to try to change the situation in some way. If it's just a question of the bread or chips while you wait for the entree, at least you can tell the waiter not to bring the bread or chips to the table in the first place.

    "Another strategy would be to cut a deal with somebody else in the group," Dr. Stevens says. "Tell him or her that that you only want to go through the line once, and that you want him or her to hold you to it. Then make sure you sit next to that person."

    Yes! I exclaimed. "I will try that tomorrow when we go back to the Nepalese restaurant."

    Before we left for the restaurant, I told my best friend in the group that I just wanted to go through the line once, instead of the three times that I usually do.
    But he persuaded me to limit myself to two trips. The first one would be little samples of most everything, and these second trip would be normal portions of those dishes that tasted best to me.

    That compromise sounded reasonable. However, it totally failed. On my scale the next day my weight was up two pounds.

    I haven't been to the Nepalese restaurant or any other buffet since then. But you can be sure that when I do, I will follow Dr. Stevens's advice to the letter.
    It's a reasonable recommendation for anyone, particularly those of us who have diabetes.