How to Control Food Choices When Eating Out
This blog post is coming about because of an email sent to me from a newer member of my community. I guess the term these days is “followers” but that makes me feel a bit cult-like. Anyway . . .
I wrote an email about how my husband was making me fat. I meant the email to be funny and demonstrate how not all foods have the same effects on all people (therefore there is no one-size-fits-all diet). For the record, my husband is an amazing man who is very supportive of all of my goals. He doesn’t sit on me and force feed me the foods that would make me fat. I totally understand that the foods I choose to to put in my mouth are my choice and I have control.
But, what occurs, not just with a spouse but with friends too is that we take cues from our dining companions and this can have an effect on what we eat. I’ve written before about how friends can help or hurt your waistline. Here’s that article if you need some strategies to take control of your food choices when you have the “Happy Hour Friends”, the “Pig-Out Friends”, “Restaurant Connoisseur Friends”, “Betty Crocker” Friends”, or “Anti-Depressant Friends”. Whether it’s with family, friends, or even just meetings where food is served we are influenced by what and how much those around us are eating – for better or worse.
Research Proves the Control
This isn’t just personal anecdotes though. A study in the magazine Appetite found that a person deprived of food for a full 24 hours will still eat less than they want if their friends hardly eat at all. But, if the friends are indulging, so will the control subject. Basically, all the research shows that we tend to eat about the same way, in the same amounts and types of foods as the people around us. So it becomes very important that we are able to control the situations where we are eating with friends and family and have strategies to control our food choices when we are eating with other companions. When your eating as part of a business meeting there is even more pressure since research shows that people who eat a lot are viewed as friendlier, smarter, more likable, and more fun than those who eat light.
Decide Using the 80/20 Rule
The first decision to make is based on the 80-20 rule. 80% of the time we eat healthy, making great choices so that 20% of the time we can indulge. Ask yourself – am I on my 80% or my 20%?
Control the Fat – Share
One of the best strategies is to share food. If you are on your 80% and friends order the onion ring tower, skip it by saying you aren’t that hungry or savor just one so you don’t draw attention by abstaining. Share an entree and you will control the calories and fat while also helping steer the food choices toward healthier options.
Set the Precedent – Order First
Focus on your own needs – especially if you are trying to eat healthy. We tend to order similar to what friends have ordered. It’s easier to order a healthy choice if you order first, so take control. Make your friends follow your lead. If everyone else already ordered indulgent fat foods you may feel pressured to follow along or feel you need to explain yourself when you order the salad.
Control the Portion – Box It
Restaurant portion sizing is out of control. Last time I researched it restaurant portions were four times bigger – quadrupling since the 1950’s. Here’s that article. If you aren’t with friends that share, control the portion size by asking the waiter to box up half of your meal before serving it or ask for a to-go box to be delivered with the meal. Out of sight equals out of mind and you’ll have lunch for the next day.
With Food, Choose the Friends
We do choose our spouses and friends. They can support us or hold us back, but ultimately the final decision and control is ours. Using healthy restraint can actually inspire your friends. One study found that if two friends ate smaller portions, the third friend in the group would also eat less. So choose which friends are your dining companions based on your goals when possible. How our friends eat can help us make healthier choices too.