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Eating Out and Maintaining Your Health Goals

Eating Out and Maintaining Your Health Goals

My relationship with food can best be described as "it's complicated."  Until recently, I admit that I was dependent upon food to fill up everything other than my stomach.  I ate when I was bored, happy, sad, alone, socializing - all the time.  And while I was conscious of whether items were good choices or bad choices, I ate them nonetheless.  This dependence on food became apparent during my recent 21 day no cheat day challenge when before I began, I lamented the fact that for 21 days not only was I going to have to deny myself my favorite treats, but I would also not be able to socialize in the way I was accustomed. 

Halfway through the challenge I had major FOMO and decided that instead of missing out on the fun with my friends, I would get to the root of why I felt the need to eat just because I was with others who were.  Over the last 12 days or so of the challenge, I examined myself.  In the end, I realized it wasn't that I needed to eat but that I wanted to eat.  So I set about the business of fixing that.  

I developed the following habits and little tricks that helped me enjoy myself while hanging out while also staying on track with my goals.

1.  Eat before you go out.  At the beginning of the challenge I would decline all invitations to meet people at or near restaurants.  I was a hermit for a few days but then quickly realized that if I just satisfied my hunger ahead of time, I would not feel the need to devour a non-challenge-approved treat.  I would eat my home cooked meal 1 hour before meeting up with my friends and found that showing up while feeling full was one way to combat the cravings.

2.  Look at the menu ahead of time.  Now after the challenge I find myself looking at the menu ahead of time so I know what to order before I even get to the restaurant.  I determine whether the items fit within my meal plan, calculate the macros and calories, and that eliminates the need for me to look at the menu when I arrive.  Because I've already selected the best option for me, I won't need to look at any other items that will tempt me.

3.  Drink water on the way.  I travel with my handy water bottle.  It comes everywhere with me. I ensure that before I arrive at whatever dinner or event I'm going to, I drink at least 32 oz. of fresh water in the car ride over.  Not only is drinking enough water essential to maintaining hydration and the overall function of your organs, but it helps me feel satisfied.  Sometimes that "hunger pang" is really just your body letting you know it is dehydrated.

4.  Drink water during a meal.  I'm not saying that I only drink water, but I do think it helps to drink at least a glass before you eat or drink anything else.  I also like to drink one right after partaking in a meal.  

5.  Tell yourself "you don't need those fries".  If you're like me, you have a hard time saying no to a french fry when it's in front of you.  But here's the thing - we all know what fries taste like. There are some that are better than others, but let's face it - they aren't all that different.  If I'm out with my friends and one of them orders fries, I now spend a fair amount of time telling myself (not out of loud of course because that's nuts), "Morgan, you don't need those fries - I'm sure they are delicious but you have tasted them before.  Just recall the memory of them and be satisfied."  That's usually all it takes for me to resist the urge to reach across the table and swipe a fry or three!

6.  Ask for what you need.  Butter is a restaurant's best friend.  It is smothered, poured, and baked into virtually every item on a given menu. I will oftentimes ask to have my meal cooked a certain way (usually in a healthy oil and grilled) in order to meet my needs.  Any good restaurant will honor these requests.

7. Skip the bread basket.  Perhaps it's sacrilegious to ask the Red Lobster waitress to not bring out the cheddar bay biscuit basket, but it's probably better that it's not on the table.  If others in the party request bread, it doesn't mean you have to eat it.  Which brings me to...

8. Don't feel the need to eat just because others are.  If you aren't hungry, don't eat.  It's easier said than done, but you aren't required to have a plate in front of you to be social.  If you have a meeting at Starbucks and someone orders a latte and a croissant, when they ask, "can I get you anything?" you can simply say 'no'.  And just know that it's not them you are saying 'no' to but instead it's to yourself which is the best 'no' you can give.

What other tips would you offer?  Do you have difficulty saying no just for the sake of being social?

Photo Credit: Niki Benjamin for Mind of Meaux

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