Who doesn't like dining out!?
Socializing with others is an essential part of living a fulfilling life and going out to eat with friends is one of the best ways to do this.
There's just one problem for folks trying to lose weight...
The problem is that the majority of restaurants aren't going to cater towards your weight loss goals...
By this I mean that most restaurants aren't worried about helping you lose weight, they are more concerned with making their food as delicious as possible in hopes you come back for seconds!
Overeating at restaurants is a common problem I see with people trying to lose weight. They usually have the discipline to cook healthy, low-calorie meals at home but blow it on the weekends eating wings and drinking beer at Hooters.
Quick Sidenote: This doesn't really have much to do with this post, but the idea of overeating at restaurants made me think of this clip from Parks and Recreation:
In order to lose weight, and keep it off for good, you NEED to learn how to dine out responsibly. (unlike our dear friend Ron Swanson...)
Luckily, I have a few tricks that make dining out simple and easy!
Before I move on, I want to make it clear that these tricks aren't going to guarantee that you avoid accidently overdoing it. The problem with going out to eat is that you can never be 100% certain of how many calories you are actually consuming.
Many factors could lead to more than expected calories from your meal such as added oil, a fattier cut of meat than normal, slightly larger portion size than what's listed, etc.
Restaurants don't want us losing weight! They want to make us fat and coming back for more...
Joking of course... but only kinda 😉
If you are serious about losing weight, it's probably in your best interest to minimize the number of times you're dining out.
Sometimes achieving a goal (in this situation, losing weight and getting healthy) require you make a few sacrifices. My suggestion is that you save your "nights out on the town" for special occasions.
On the other hand, you can quickly take the whole "making sacrifices to lose weight" mentality too far...
I made the mistake of completely avoiding dining out with friends during my weight loss journey. I'm naturally an introverted guy, but completely isolating myself from others was the last thing I wanted or needed at that time in my life.
It's essential that you find a balance between your diet and your friends. Balance in your approach will ultimately result in greater weight loss success.
"You can have your cake and eat it too... just not the whole thing." - Carter Good
Carter's Tricks for Dining Out
1. Plan Ahead
If you know what restaurant you are going to be going to, then it can help to look up their menu online.
By doing this, you can pre-plan what you are going to get so you don't have to rely on willpower while deciding at the restaurant.
You'll already know what you're going to eat so the ordering process will be quick & easy.
Most restaurants also include the nutritional information on their website along with the menu items. This is even better because you can look up meals that fit within your calorie goals for the day (if you are into tracking that kind of stuff).
2. Pick Two
The idea behind the "Pick Two" trick is to only get two of the four main courses offered.
Most restaurants typically have a bread/chip basket, appetizers, a main course, and a dessert. If you were to try and eat all four of these, you'd be hard-pressed to finish the meal in under 1000 calories (and that's being generous).
Instead of going for the whole 4-course meal, pick two of the courses to eat for dinner. I recommend the main course (duh) and maybe splitting a dessert with the table.
3. Mimic the Slow Poke
When I was overweight, I was always the first one to finish my meal. It was nothing for me to wolf down 1000+ calories in 5-10 minutes! (especially if I was starving!).
I recently wrote about eating more mindfully and how it can help you in your weight loss endeavors. Part of mindful eating is slowing down the rate at which you are eating during a meal.
The trick I am about to show you goes hand-in-hand with eating more mindfully. In fact, this trick for dining out makes eating slower easier than if you were to eat alone!
The goal for this trick is to find a person at the table who is eating slowly and mimic their speed of eating.
I still struggle with eating too fast to this day. If I don't watch myself, I can unconsciously scarf down my whole dinner before others even begin to start!
This tool has proven itself useful not only during my weight loss journey but has also helped me maintained a healthy bodyweight to this day!
Mimicking the slowest eater at the table will force you to slow down and eat at a more reasonable pace.
If you want to make this trick even more effective, try putting your fork down between each bite. That will make eating fast much harder to do.
4. Go For Taste Too
Far too often, diet books recommend that you either avoid eating out entirely, or order some unappetizing, sauceless, and flavorless dish that leaves you feeling unsatisfied.
Eating foods with higher nutrient density (like fruits, veggies, lean meats, etc.) are typically more filling and lead to greater satiety. However, being mentally satisfied with the taste of a meal is just as important as being physically content.
Yah, you'll lose weight eating dry chicken breast and broccoli for every meal, but are you going to feel satisfied?
I've been the guy who only ate his six meals of Tupperware chicken breast and veggies. I can tell you from experience that you'll be much more likely to give in to temptations eating bland, flavorless foods than if you were to allow yourself to splurge a little.
Having said this, you can't just order whatever you want from the menu. It's not uncommon for a restaurant main course dinner to reach 1300-1500 calories!
The best plan is to pick a meal that includes a lot of veggies and is lower in added fats. Try ordering something that includes a large piece of fish/lean meat and vegetables as a side.
This way you can enjoy your meal without going crazy on the calories.
Just because you are trying to lose weight doesn't mean you have to avoid dining out with friends. On the contrary, being too restrictive with your diet is unsustainable and may lead to a host of negative psychological health issues like eating disorders...
While dining out unavoidably creates uncertainty in your diet, utilizing the tricks I've provided in this article will lessen the chance you overeat and "*blow it*" on your weight loss regimen.
When you are smart about dining out, you can get the many benefits of socializing with others as well as keep your weight loss goals on track!