For so many of us who struggle with food and weight and eating issues, eating in restaurants is a major cause of frustration and nervousness.
So often, I have left restaurants with furious with myself. Why did I eat so much? I wasn’t even hungry for that entire enormous bowl of chicken pesto pasta, and it wasn’t what I really wanted!
There are lots of things to think about when you’re in a restaurant, but here is my top list:
1. When you order, make sure you’re pick something you will actually enjoy.
Of course, there are many levels of enjoyment of a meal – you might enjoy the pleasure to your tongue that comes from a flaky apple pie crust, how full your belly feels after spaghetti with bolognaise sauce, or how good you feel after a big bowl of lentil soup.
But the point is, don’t b.s. yourself. Be honest about your true wants. If you really want fries, don’t get a salad. You will end up eating all the bread, or going for dessert you don’t really want, or just eating more than you would if you got what you really wanted.
Figuring out what you actually want to eat at the deepest level can be complicated. That’s okay. Don’t stress yourself out too much. Just take a quick moment and think about it, and make sure you’re getting something that helps you get what you need in this moment.
2. Before you start eating, ask yourself how hungry you are.
Going to a restaurant is an intense sensory experience: we are in a different place than we usually eat, we are chatting with people, there is noise, and there is food that is different from what we eat at home.
It’s very easy to eat, without remembering the whole point of eating: because we are hungry, and need nourishment. And if you aren’t paying attention to your hunger levels when you begin eating, it’s difficult to stop. Which leads to feeling terrible after the meal, and feeling like a failure.
3. Know that you are smarter than the size of your plate
Think about it: the amount of food given to you on your plate is arbitrary. It’s just what the restaurant has decided is an appropriate amount of food.
It has absolutely nothing to do with you – how hungry you are in that moment, how you want your body to feel after the meal, how quickly you become full. The probability of the amount of food you want being exactly the same as the amount of food the restaurant has given you is possible, but improbable.
I’m not saying you have to bring home leftovers. The amount of food you want to eat might be more than the amount of food the restaurant gave you. In that case – keep eating, girlfriend! But I am saying that you should give some serious thought to making sure that you’re eating a quantity that jives with what you really need, not what’s on the plate.
And if all you want is a few bits of apple pie but you have a whole piece in front of you, take home the leftovers, love! I promise they’ll be even better tomorrow, because you’ll want them tomorrow.
Do you have any strategies that helps you feel great about eating in restaurants? Or any times that you've struggled with this? Let me know in the comments below - I would really love to hear from you!