The cost of eating out

Last month I was lucky enough to be in Hawaii for work, my lovely partner Jo and I decided to extend our stay and have a holiday afterwards - it would have been wrong not to! Whilst Hawaii is it’s own group of islands in a very special part of the world, it still comes with some of the trappings of the US mainland, one of which is the food. Being someone who always prefers a good sized meal to a smaller ‘fine dining’ option I felt the American dining experience seems to be designed for me. In America you never get a meal served where you think ‘that seems a bit small’, if anything you think to yourself ‘wow, look at the size of that plate!’. 

At home, if we go out for a meal with friends and the restaurant has large servings, I allow myself to enjoy it knowing that it’s a one off occasion. This is never a problem for my weight as it only happens every so often but when we are on holiday we can eat out a couple of times a day and on this holiday that was exacerbated due to the size of the meals put in front of me. I knew that if I wanted to keep within the healthy weight range that I am comfortable with, I had to shift my ‘eating out’ rules while I was in Hawaii. 

At first I thought about how I normally approach going out for dinner and I saw that it’s a time where I tend to allow myself to remove or reduce the limits around what and how much I’m eating. I also saw that I often walk away from a restaurant feeling over full and so I decided that the strategy I would use on this holiday was to order my meals based on how I wanted to feel when I walked out of the restaurant. I wanted to walk away feeling I’d made healthy choices, I felt fresh, and that I’d had just enough food.  

With this approach, when I sat down to order my meal I wasn’t looking at the menu with greedy eyes, thinking about how I could go ‘all in’ with my favourite foods. Instead, I was contemplating how I would be able to achieve my 3 objectives when I had finished. My different perspective totally shifted my ordering patterns and what I found interesting was that the whole process was easy. I didn’t feel I was missing out on all the food I would normally order and I was completely happy with the choices I had made, if anything I felt good about myself on an esteem level as I felt I had a level of control and that I was making good choices for myself. 

It turns out that ordering a meal based on how I wanted to feel afterwards was a good strategy as I came back from holiday the same weight I had left with and I had eaten out at over twenty meals at American restaurants. 

This strategy is a good one to think about not only when we are on holiday but at other times when we tend to eat out a lot more, particularly relevant now is the Christmas season. That’s right, Christmas is just around the corner and the number of social functions, family get togethers, and dinners with friends all increase at this time of year. Over the next two months you can be tripling or even quadrupling the amount of times you will be eating out and this is one of the main reasons many of us get to the end of January thinking that we need to go on a diet. 

When you think about your approach to eating out are you the type of person who lets yourself off the hook when you are ordering your meal? Do you find that you walk out feeling bloated and that you have eaten too much? If you can identify with this maybe you could try my strategy of thinking about how you want to feel as you leave and when you have the menu in front of you make choices based on that. 

If it works for you like it did for me you will probably get to January feeling good that you have stayed healthy and within a weight range you are happy with during the busiest social time of the year. 


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Bevan Eyles