Keeping up our newly acquired healthy habits can be challenging at a restaurant. The aroma, atmosphere and sometimes even the company all encourage indulgence. Of course, if going out for a meal were only a sometime thing, it might not be a problem. But because of work lives and family commitments, many of us eat out, order in, or drive thru a few times a week. That can easily spell trouble for our healthy intentions.
However, it’s not as hopeless as it may seem. Honest. It just takes a little pre-planning and thought. Warning: you may even have to change your mind about a few things.
The best advice I ever got about eating out was to decide first whether this meal is a celebration or a substitution. Is it your birthday or just a Tuesday night? A celebration might mean my favorite food, a cocktail or (and?) a dessert, items that aren’t part of my everyday meal plan. They are every-once-in-a-while splurges.
For a non-celebratory meal, I try to find something on the menu that’s comparable in size to what I’d eat at home. But still tasty, of course. Some everyday examples: Lunch out might be a half sandwich and a cup of soup or side salad. Dinner could be a piece of broiled chicken, fish, or a small steak with rice and a vegetable.
Caution: The more meals and days you designate as celebrations, the longer it will take you to reach your goals. I’m just sayin’.
Here are other tips for eating out, in no particular order. One or two might be new to you.
• Know before you go. Most chain restaurants have nutrition info on their websites. Scan the menu on your computer or smartphone before you get there. Decide what you want and order first. That way you won’t be swayed by your table-mates.
• Salads aren’t always as friendly as you’d think. See the note above. Creamy dressings and added goodies like cheese, nuts, bacon, croutons, and giant tortilla shells can really add up. I’m not saying don’t eat them, just be aware. Italian dressings or vinaigrettes are usually good choices. Order dressing on the side and don’t dump it all on at once. Dip your fork into a little dressing with each bite.
• Read the menu carefully. Danger words like creamy, cheesy, crispy, battered, breaded, and buttery alert you to higher fat items. Approach them with caution.
• Soups are usually a good choice, as long as they aren’t the creamy kind. Brothy, beany, veggie based soups are great. Tortilla soup and posole are yummy choices at Mexican restaurants. Wor wonton soup at a Chinese place is usually HUGE and filled with shrimp and other meats along with the stuffed wontons. A full meal in a bowl. De-lish.
• Avoid restaurants known for huge portions. All-you-can-eat buffets are common here in Nevada. I have learned to manage them without trying to get “my money’s worth,” but they aren’t my first choice. If I have input on the restaurant, I’ll suggest somewhere I know I can get food I really like in reasonably-sized portions.
• Order ala carte. At Mexican restaurants (my fave) I love shrimp tacos, but the dinner is huge! So I just order the tacos without the rice and beans. And after the dozen or so chips I’ve eaten with salsa before my dinner arrives, I’m satisfied. Or I just order an appetizer.
• Order the lunch portion at dinner. It’s usually a little smaller.
• Try something new. Don’t always order what you always order. Try a veggie or turkey burger. Two dishes I’ve discovered at Chinese restaurants are Moo Shu (tasty veggies sautéed and wrapped in thin pancakes) or Lettuce Wraps.
• Share. Half of something yummy is still yummy and most likely, enough.
• If the bread basket or tortilla chips on the table are a real problem for you, move it to the other end of the table. Or decline it when it is offered, as long as your table-mates agree.
• Take half home to enjoy again tomorrow. I’ve heard of people who ask the waitperson to bring the box right away, but I’ve never done it.
• Slow down. Savor every bite. Put your fork down frequently. Drink more water. Focus on the conversation.
• Speak up, smile and ask nicely for what you want. Broiled instead of fried, extra veg instead of potato or rice. Skim milk. No cheese. Dry toast. Eggbeaters. Whatever. Just mind your manners. Please and thank-you go a long way.
Two down, one to go.
Epic barely describes the sweep of Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy. He manages to insert a cast of Welsh, Russian, German and American characters into nearly every significant historic event (the Blitz, D-Day, the atomic bomb) in the lead up to and the aftermath of the Second World War.
Their stories intersect in Fall of Giants (Book One) and continue to intertwine in Book Two. Now, of course, it’s the children of WWI fighting, spying and dying in WWII as their parents take on leadership roles and deal with the consequences of their actions in their respective countries.
Egos and desires come up against the mores and prejudices of the time. Barriers between classes begin to weaken. Gender roles begin to change, but not without a fight by courageous women of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations. These women, widowed or left alone by soldiering husbands, fended for their families under decidedly unequal conditions. They strove for equal pay, access to birth control, affordable health care and the right to vote. Sound familiar?
Winter of the World has enough bloody battles, political intrigue, villains, heroes, sex and romance to satisfy most readers. I’m glad for my kindle, though. At over 800 pages, reading and lugging around this tome might just qualify as strength training.
As part of professional development classes when I was a teacher, we learned about the Stages of Competence. This concept refers to how we grow and change in accordance with new learning, finally incorporating that learning into our everyday behavior.
Newsflash: It doesn’t happen all at once.
Let’s look at the steps as they apply to learning to walk.
- Unconscious incompetence: You don’t know and you don’t care. Walking? What’s walking? You’re fine with crawling. Low center of gravity, low risk of failure.
- Conscious Incompetence: You realize that’s something’s wrong, but you’re not sure what. You notice others are walking. You try standing while holding on to a chair, a table leg. You fall. This isn’t going well. You try again. You fall.
- Conscious competence: You make a concerted effort try this new behavior. It’s not natural yet. You are practicing. Someone holds your hands as you make tentative steps. They help you not to fall. Sometimes you can manage a few steps on your own. People around you reward you for your attempts by smiling, clapping their hands and giving you hugs and kisses.
- Unconscious competence: Walking has become so natural, you don’t even realize that it’s a skill. You can walk anywhere, anytime, without even thinking about it. Congratulations! You’re a walker. You might even be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
When it comes to establishing healthy habits, what stage are you at? I think most of us get stuck in the middle somewhere, never quite giving ourselves enough time practice to new skills. Those habits never have a chance to become second nature. I’ve read that it takes twenty-one days for a behavior to become a habit. Three weeks.
So give yourself time.
Don’t move on too quickly. Keep practicing that new behavior until you no longer have to think about it. Until you no longer need a reminder. Do you need a reminder to brush your teeth before bed? Probably not. Hopefully not. It’s become a habit.
When it comes to healthy habits, choose one to practice and reward yourself for it until it’s firmly established. Then move on. Baby steps, remember?
Okay. You blew it. Ate too many nachos, drank too many margaritas. Or somehow that open bag of Oreos–or that pint of rocky road–just disappeared. Or you were forced to eat the leftover pizza for lunch because you didn’t get to the supermarket for salad ingredients. Your healthy eating plan is blown for the week. You scold yourself and promise you’ll start again next Monday. Days away from now. We’ve all done it, but I still have to ask, “How’s that working for you?” I thought so. It’s that perfectionist, “all or nothing” pattern of thinking that probably landed us at this spot.
How many nights have we gone to bed beating ourselves up with woulda, coulda, shoulda? How many days, weeks, months have we wasted waiting the next fresh start? How many moments?
Many times it’s not what happens to us, but how we respond that sets the pattern. Success just means getting up once oftener than you fall down.
You can have a clean slate any time you want. So, the next time you eat or drink more than you intended—and let’s face it, honey, it will happen—forgive yourself and figure out what went wrong. Where did that decision start? Did you let yourself get too hungry? Did you neglect to plan ahead? Did you let a bad day set the stage for overdosing on comfort food? Learn what trips you up and who–besides Ben and Jerry, that is–can comfort you when you are sad or angry or frustrated. Then make your very next decision a good one. Here are a few to consider:
- Drink more water. Add lemon or cucumber slices to make it feel and taste special.
- Be sure your next meal or snack a healthy one.
- Take a walk.
- Write in your journal about what set you off.
- Add a few more minutes at the gym.
- Call a supportive friend.
- Plan a few menus, make a shopping list and head to the market.
Anne Lamott is wise and funny and flawed and one of my favorite writers. Read this to get acquainted.
I am going to be 61 years old in 48 hours. Wow. I thought i was only forty-seven, but looking over the paperwork, I see that I was born in 1954.
My inside self does not have an age, although can’t help mentioning as an aside that it might have been useful had I not followed the Skin Care rules of the sixties, ie to get as much sun as possible, while slathered in baby oil. (My sober friend Paul O said, at eighty, that he felt like a young man who had something wrong with him.).
Anyway, I thought I might take the opportunity to write down every single thing I know, as of today.
1. All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It has been a very bad match for those of…
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