For most people trying to lose weight, eating away from home, whether it's a gathering or a restaurant, can be a terrifying prospect and they try to avoid it. It's not always possible to avoid these situations. A family picnic is not something you're going to skip just because you're on a diet. Forgetting about eating out at restaurants is also not realistic. It's going to happen sooner or later and it's so much easier to deal with if you're prepared with how to deal with it.
Many years in meetings has given me a few tips on how to deal with these situations and I've used many of them to my success, so I'll share them with you. When it comes to gatherings where everyone brings a dish or even a party in someone's home where they're doing all the cooking, it's more than alright to call your host/hostess and ask what they're having so you can bring something. This way, there's something there of your control. 9 times out of 10 if you bring a light dish and don't tell anyone they'll gobble it up, but if you tell them they'll steer clear. If you want it all to yourself, you can tell them, but it's always fun to see people who hate "diet" food eat a lighter dish without even knowing. Socializing at these types of events also keeps you from eating. If you're busy talking, there's less time for you to put food in your mouth.
With restaurants, we're very blessed with the technology we have access to. The internet has really changed things because almost every single restaurant has their menu and full nutritional information on their website. This allows you to go on their website and choose what you're going to eat before you even go. This also allows you to not even open the menu and invite temptation when you get there. Knowing what you're going to eat when you go out on any given day, lets you plan for the rest of your day. If you know you're going to have a heavy dinner, you can choose to have a lighter lunch. For those of you who are on weight watchers, there is a website called Dotti's Weight Loss Zone (dwlz.com) and she has converted almost every single restaurant's menu into how many weight watchers points they are.
The last tip is to eat before you go to a meeting with friends. I know in college, the restaurants would offer 1/2 price food after 11PM and that's when everyone wanted to go so they spent less money. This was way too late to be eating, so I would have my dinner at a reasonable time and then just order a diet Coke when we got there. I could still hang out with my friends and have a great time, without the constant worry that I would be gaining a ton of weight that week.