I had an experience dining at the house of a friend that was echoed by an eating problem a client brought in to discuss. It’s a frequent occurrence: you’re invited to a party, dinner, or brunch at someone’s home and wonder how to handle eating. There is no one way, but it’s worthwhile to explore several approaches to this common situation.

First off, if you know people well, you can ask what food will be served and the approximate time of the meal. At the least, you can inquire about the what if not the when. In my case, I was invited to a late lunch and I’m used to eating my mid-day meal around noon. Knowing I had to adjust my schedule or I’d be starving by the time we ate, I had a late breakfast. So, think about timing and how that will work with your usual eating hours. My client had a similar problem in that she was invited to a brunch, with a few hors d’eouvre served immediately, then a 90-minute wait for the main course!

If you know the what, you can decide if you’ll want to eat what’s served and in what quantities. In my situation, there was some healthy food, but lots of items I wasn’t much interested in at the noon hour. If this had been a dinner party, I would have been thrilled with the desserts, but I don’t much enjoy sweets mid-day. Just my particular preference. In my client’s situation, the only healthy food available was fruit salad which doesn’t exactly stick to your ribs when you’re famished. So she tried to nibble on other foods, but due to increasing hunger, she misgauged and overate by a great deal. Then, once she started to overeat, she figured she might as well chalk up the whole meal as a loss.

Had she known what foods were to be served and the timing of the meal, she could have eaten a bite before leaving for the luncheon and not arrived starving. Or, if she hadn’t eaten before, she could have taken samplings of the foods she was mildly interested in and eaten just enough to keep her hunger at bay, all the while telling herself that she’d eat more wholesome food when she got home. As a healthy (mostly organic) food enthusiast, my husband rarely dines out without eating at home first, so he knows that his body will be well fed and he’s not dependent on a limited menu. You also probably do better eating out when it’s not on a totally empty stomach.

Remember, it’s your body and you’re in charge of feeding it. It’s up to you to do whatever is needed to make that happen. If everyone’s chowing down on foods you’d prefer not eating, it’s okay to pick at things to stave off hunger. It’s also fine to stand your ground if food is pushed on you. After all, if you don’t care for your body, who will?