I love to eat. And I love variety.
As a little girl, some of my favorite family memories are of buffets we’d go to on vacation. While visiting relatives down south, we’d always stop at Shoney’s … the Holy Grail of quick, economical road eats.
For my parents, it was easy: all three nagging kids could get what they wanted, and without the fuss of a sit-down restaurant.
As we got older, we’d go to buffet brunches at nice restaurants or hotels on holidays or special occassions. I’d usually stuff myself senseless, going up for seconds, thirds … (why not?) as we’d languish around the table.
In college, our dining hall was catered by Marriott, various food stations and … all you can eat. And ate I did.
So it’s ironic that I now loathe the mere thought of a buffet.
Today, I associate buffets with ridiculous overeating and how I got chunky in the first place. I see people of all shapes and sizes (though most Americans are overweight today) going up for second, thirds, fourths … and I can’t help but judge just a little.
(It takes one to know one; I was one.)
I want to ask them: Do they know that those eggs are cooked in a ton of oil? That the Belgian waffle is supposed to serve four? That those pancakes are slathered in butter and grittle grease? That their two sausage links and biscuit have more calories than my whole oatmeal-skim-fruit breakfast?
But here’s the thing: do they even care? Probably not.
For most, I’d guess a buffet breakfast is a once-in-a-blue moon experience, like it used to be for me –and that they’d savor it, guilt-free. Perhaps it would be “their one big meal” of the day.
But buffets scare me now.
Since starting Weight Watchers, I have developed a genuine distaste for them. Primarily because I don’t know how the food is prepared (tons of oil, butter, etc). But also because I’m picky (and always have been) … and in the past would just load my plate with things I liked … again and again.
And now, they still make me anxious. Even though I know better, I still tend to hoarde food at buffets … taking a taste of the (healthy) things I like. At breakfast buffets, I stick to fresh fruit, cold cereal, or oatmeal. At dinner buffets, there’s usually a carving station and salads …
The truth is, what was once seen as an oasis of deliciousness for me is now a burden to contend with.
I find myself falling into old habits with sweets … taking the chocolate chips out of a chocolate chip muffin like I did in Niagara this summer when having breakfast in the hotel with my parents. Eating the inside of an apple streusel (leaving the pastry for my dad).
This is nothing new, and I don’t consider it disordered since I’ve done it since I was a little kid. I’ve always preferred icing/frosting to cake. Chocolate chips to the actual cookies. Stuff you put on an ice cream sundae, not the ice cream. Pie filling, not the crust. Bavarian cream inside a donut, not the donut. My siblings and parents could verify that this behavior has been around … forever.
But for some reason, all-you-can-eat buffets do me in, so now I just try to avoid them if I can. I know I can make good choices and always do … but I often leave feeling deprived, which breeds more anxiety.
Dr. G. has been encouraging me to question myself if I am “catastrophizing” in situations like this — is it a catastrophe and is it worth the guilt?
In other words, would a plate of pancakes at a buffet kill me? No. But I’d rather make them at home where I — a control freak — can be aware of what I put into them.
So when is the last time I ate pancakes? Hmmmm … well, I’ve had a bite of my dad’s or my husband’s when they order them … but I’ve yet to order them myself, except for this one time at my friend’s bachelorette in Austin … I ate half of a pancake at a famous pancake house there …
Oh well, I always know I can order them, should the urge hit. But knowing me, I’d still probably be satisfied with one pancake, vs. a plate of pancakes and eggs and bacon and who knows what else I’d find at a buffet.
How about you? How do you handle buffets? Do you avoid them, or have a strategy you’d like to share?