A Comprehensive Guide To Eating Out & Staying In Shape- Restaurant Rules
Part 1 of 2
It used to be really simple. If you don’t want to gain weight and always eat healthy just cook all of your meals at home and don’t eat out at restaurants. It’s how I grew up back in the islands and it works- but as effective as it may be in terms of having complete control over what goes into your body, eating only home cooked meals simply isn’t always possible for everyone in today’s fast paced world. More and more people have little choice but to eat out on a regular basis as home cooked meals aren’t always practical if you are always on the run. Ask your grandparents and they’ll tell you that jobs today aren’t anything like what they were several decades ago. Our information intensive environments coupled with an ultra-competitive job market have made 40 hour weeks all but obsolete and it isn’t uncommon for many to have to endure 50-70 hour work weeks to get by. Such arduous hours make it impractical if not impossible for many to find the time or the energy to cook everything they need for the coming week. For others, eating out is an integral part of their job description if not a regular event that is part of their office culture, needless to say, while eating only home cooked meals may be the easiest way to stay in shape- it is very much possible to eat out and keep the pounds off as well. It takes some doing but it isn’t impossible.
I, for one, eat out on a pretty regular basis, so much so that I’ve been a Zagat reviewer for the past ten years or so, here in New York City and not in any way does it force me to make compromises in terms of consistently eating well. That being said, you do have to be knowledgeable of what you can and cannot eat on the restaurant menu and you can’t expect to find something wholesome at a fast food chain. Too often, health fanatics isolate themselves from their friends and family by not going out to eat and in so doing they miss the opportunity to partake in one of the most ancient of human social activities- which is in sharing a meal. It doesn’t have to be that way and it shouldn’t be. Being healthy isn’t about living a Spartan and hermetic existence- it’s about balance, and when done judiciously, eating out can easily find a place in a healthy lifestyle. In part one of the Eating Out Guide, I will do my best to outline some of the basics to keep in mind when eating out in general and in part two I will cover in detail the food selections available to you and what you should avoid in over a dozen different popular cuisines. Thanks for reading and I hope this guide not only encourages you to eat out at good restaurants but also helps you keep your waistline trim at the same time.
The Psychology of Eating Out & Staying In Shape
- Don’t be negative- If you think that there’s nothing healthy to eat- you won’t find anything healthy to eat.
- Your parents aren’t watching- Just because it’s on your plate doesn’t mean that you have to eat it
- You are the boss so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want the way you want it.
Rule 1. There is always something you can eat if you are at a good restaurant
One of the biggest mistakes when you are eating out is to think that you don’t have any healthy choices. Such a predisposition only makes it more likely that you will indeed eat eat junk food and is one of the reasons people blow their diet when eating out or ordering in. In Ninjutsu, the martial tradition that I have taught and studied for the past few decades, there is a sub-discipline called tonpo- the art of escape. You may wonder what the art of escape has to do with eating out, but the fundamental precept of tonpo is that if you believe there is no way out then it is unlikely that you will ever find one. However if you see things for what they are without a prejudiced point of view and remain alert, you will find that there is almost always a way out. With regards to eating out, if you go to a restaurant and resign yourself to eating poorly then that’s exactly what you’ll do. You’ll only see the poor choices on the menu and won’t have the perspective of trying to make the best of the choices before you. If you are always positive that there must must be something healthy on the menu then you’ll most likely find it and make wiser choices. Keep in mind that these precepts won’t always work in a dive or fast food restaurant and it’s another reason why you should always eat or order in from quality establishments. It costs a bit more but you are more than worth it.
Rule 2. Just because it’s on your plate doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
When we were children most of us were taught to always finish what was on your plate. Growing up it was often painful to be confronted with something I didn’t like as I knew that if it was on my plate I had to eat it. While this is great principle to teach kids the value of food and not to be wasteful, it can cause more problems than it solves when we are adults as it can encourage us to overeat. Especially given the over-sized portions served at many restaurants here in the United States. Compounding the ingrained traits of always eating what’s on your plate is the conviction that you’re not getting the most for your money if you don’t eat your money’s worth of food. It might be good economics- but good economics is actually one of the reasons our nation faces obesity problems in the first place (read my article on the Economics of Obesity here). These ways of thinking do little to promote healthy eating habits and hinders you from making sensible judgements about what goes into your body and encourages a very negative way of looking at food. Such points of view create great consumers but fall far short of creating healthy individuals.
It can be hard to not eat everything and not feel wasteful, but a different point of view can make all the difference. If I’m at a restaurant and an order of mashed potatoes automatically comes with my main course, I look at it from the point of view that I only paid for the main course and not the included mashed potatoes. From my perspective the extras are thrown in for free and I am always very firm about asking that any extras that I will not eat stay in the kitchen and not on my plate. By focusing only on what I ordered and not having the included side dishes on my plate makes much easier to not give in and something out a misplaced sense of obligation. Sometimes the side dish is already on your plate, in which case you just have to keep your goals in perspective. You can get some practical tips on avoiding the temptation of food right in front of you in my article on avoiding temptation here.
Rule 3. Remember that at a restaurant that you are the boss.
When was the last time you were at work and your boss asked you to do a project a particular way but you chose to do it your way instead and he or she was perfectly fine with it? Doesn’t happen too often in the real world, does it? And the same applies to the restaurant staff when you are eating out. When you order at restaurant of any kind- you are the boss. Not the waiter and not the chef, just you. That being said you shouldn’t be afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings since it’s their job to see to it that you get what you want. That’s the contract between a customer and any reputable restaurant, when you want something cooked a certain way you should be able to get it prepared just the way you want it. This is another reasons I advocate restaurants over fast food chains. In a real restaurant your preferences are far more likely to be accommodated. You can’t ask for your hamburger without salt or additives at McDonald’s nor should you expect such levels of service at as such establishments. It’s very much take it or leave it and my advice would be to always leave it and eat somewhere else. You aren’t the boss and so it is always worth the extra money it costs to eat at a better place.
Click here for part two of our Eating Out Guide as we cover over a dozen different cuisines and what you need to know to make the best food choices when ordering them:
Kevin Richardson is one of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City and the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training™. Get a copy of his free weight loss ebook here. If you live in the New York metropolitan area and need help losing weight or taking your body to the next level give Kevin and his team a call at 1-800-798-8420 or click here to get started with 50% off your trial personal training session.