This is one of the most frequent questions in my groups and seminars. That's because temptation is the greatest, eating out is associated with tasty treats and you feel most deprived if you are with others who are indulging. The only way to succeed is to have a flexible plan that you can modify over time. The first step in this plan is to have food options that you enjoy and have them in your mind before you even leave your home. So many people go into a restaurant and then look at the menu. The problem with this passive approach is that you will immediately be drawn to your regular high fat meals. Why wouldn't you, they taste better!
I have three or four favorite meals in each of the ethnic restaurants we typically go to and that goes a long way to keeping me on track. I immediately want to know what to know the fish of the day. My next question is 'can you grill it for me'? I do not take no for an answer and if the waiter puts up a fuss I ask to speak to the chef or anyone else in charge. I politely let them know that I am sure that they can accommodate me. I am not aggressive but I assertively keep in mind that I am paying for the meal I want, not just the way they've chosen to cook it. This assertiveness does a lot for my sense of taking charge and deprivation begins to wane.
If you are in a fast food restaurant don't despair. Look up at the menu and look for grilled chicken breast. If you wander over to the burgers and that saliva begins to flow you might want to use my squelching your cravings techniques. They're found at this AOL site. Keep in mind that not all fast food chains are equal when it comes to preserving your health. The fast food chain Subway has done a great job of offering many low fat alternatives. Don't forget to ask for it without the cheese. They leave that out of their advertisement and it will more than double the fat at the meal.
Let me give you a five-step strategy for taking charge when you're eating out.
Step One- Go in with some choices in mind. Even fast food restaurants have healthy choices. Actively look for healthy items as you open your menu.
Step Two- Questions are one of the most powerful ways to shift your focus and desire. Ask yourself questions that focus on what you want and what you can do. An example of a question is; " what do I want to eat that's on my program"? " How can I make one of the options healthier?"
Step Three- Your server can be your ally for success. Let them know your dietary needs and they will assist you. If they give you a look remind them that " you would really appreciate their assistance but if they can't help you could you please speak to the manager". This assertive comment will remind them of their duty to serve and you can remind them again if you have the opportunity to give them a tip for their (lack of) service.
Step Four- If your friends or family tell you that 'you look great' or that 'one time wont hurt', be polite but firm. Let them know that you are committed to your health. Use the word committed, it lets people know you mean business. I never understand why people apologize for eating healthier meals. You'd think you'd be obliged to apologize for eating disease-promoting foods. In my world your spouse would turn to you and say "Sorry dear, but I'm choosing to have the chocolate cake and I don't care if I die early and leave you behind".
Step Five- Many times when people do things new or creative they will feel a tension in their throat. If you experience any inner tension while making the healthier choice, take a few slow deep breaths and list the benefits of healthier eating. This will help release your inner tension. You might even want to affirm your positive action by saying to yourself " I am committed to protecting my health and still enjoying my food. See my section on 'Using your Imagination to Squelch Your Cravings' it can be useful during these moments. Good luck!
Copyright 1998 Dr. Barry Simon M.D.
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