Eating Out Without Pigging Out
Part of my deal with myself when I began this weight loss journey almost three months ago was that I would be aware of what my downfalls had been when I’d tried to lose weight in the past. I think if you’re going to make true lifestyle changes and not just go on a diet, you really do have to be self-aware and know what changes are going to be sustainable for you. One area where I’d gotten myself in terrible messes in the past was not learning how to eat out properly. I’m single, I often work long hours (not being a slave to the man is yet another component of Reconstructing 30 – but I haven’t quite figured that one out – maybe by 35), and though I love to cook, I’d rather eat cardboard than clean the kitchen at the end of a long day. Eating out is also a big part of my social life – and that’s really where things got tricky when I had previously tried to diet.
Some of the plans I had tried in the past that worked best for me (in the short-term – I still gained all the lost weight back plus some over time) were pre-packaged meal plans. I tried what are probably the two leading pre-packaged meal plans at different points in the last few years, and maybe they’d work well for people with just a few pounds to lose. But I have a large amount of weight to lose, and these just aren’t plans I felt like I could stick to over the long haul. Maybe someday I’ll try to devote a post all its own to these plans, but for now I’ll stick to the topic at hand – eating out. If you’re eating pre-portioned glorified camp-food out of a box at home, you’re 1) not learning how to eat out, and 2) hesitating to eat out because of that lack of knowledge. Thus, I was turning down dinner invitations with friends, and getting more and more miserable not just because I was getting sick of the packaged stuff, but because I was letting the diet turn me into a prisoner (with comparable food) – stuck at home for dinner every night! Who wants a lean new body when all you’re able to do is sit at home with your microwave for dinner?
When I decided to begin trying to lose weight this time, and to do it through lifestyle changes and not a diet, I knew that those changes had to include healthy ways to dine out. While I have begun bringing my lunch to work, I still eat dinner out most nights, and my nutritionist (whom I’ve mentioned before and have now linked to from this blog, and if you’re in the Atlanta area, I highly recommend her – just look under “Resources” on the right hand side of the page) gave me a few simple guidelines for dinner, regardless of whether I eat out or cook at home, and I’m able to stick to her guidelines for me pretty well. In addition to those, I’ve come up with a few little amateur rules of thumb that help me eat out without pigging out:
1) I PASS UP THE BREAD BASKET – or the chips and salsa, unless I’m going to make bread or chips my starch serving for the meal – I only need one. Seriously.
2) I’M PICKY – I’m not afraid to make special requests or ask for things that aren’t on the menu; I just try to be ready with my order and clear with the waitstaff so I don’t become the pain in their butt of the evening and end up getting my food spat in.
3) I ORDER SAUCE ON THE SIDE – that doesn’t mean I don’t have a little bit of a delicious sauce, but they’re usually very high-calorie, and I need to control my portions of a sauce pretty carefully. If my otherwise healthy grilled chicken is doing the backstroke through a vat of lemon-caper butter, it’s kind of hard to control how much of the sauce I have.
4) FAJITAS ARE MY FRIEND – Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines, but the menus can sometimes be tricky, with lots of fried items and things slathered in cheese sauces. Fajitas are a great way to control my portions, as well as to get lean protein with lots of veggies. A couple of tricks that help me – I double up on the pico and go easy on higher fat toppings like cheese and guacamole (I still have them, just in smaller quantities), I make sure to pass on the chips, rice, and beans, and I fill up the two or three tortillas I’m given without asking for a second container.
5) I PLAN AHEAD – if I know I’m going out to dinner with friends, I check to see if the restaurant has a menu on their website, and I take a look at it earlier in the day, deciding what healthy options I’ll choose. This helps me go into the situation confidently and not get distracted by all the near-pornographic descriptions of delectable dishes that are on the menu when I’m hungry and actually ordering my dinner later that evening.
So that’s how I’ve been eating out, quite frankly most nights of the week, and I’ve still dropped thirty-one pounds so far. I’m making a lifestyle change as opposed to going on a diet this time. I’m learning to live my life in a healthy way and not just going for a temporary, unsustainable, quick fix. Just one more part of my mission to reconstruct thirty.