Thursday, April 23, 2009

Eat Less: Feel Better

Do you dread facing all the food choices when you go out to eat? Do you get excited to have a meal out, but feel guilty knowing that you will probably respond to the environment by eating too much? One reason I quit eating at buffets is that I always felt like I had to get my money's worth. Since it was all paid for, I better make it worth the money by having seconds, thirds, etc.

Things have changed. I know that whether or not I eat everything on my plate, people in Ethiopia are not going to be affected by my decision. Contributing to hunger issues across the planet has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not to finish my meal. (I finally figured this out after growing up feeling guilty for leaving food on my plate while picturing half-naked, starving children in far away countries.) If you are interested in supporting a great cause like ending hunger, do it, but don't think that by overstuffing yourself you are doing anyone any good. It's an outdated parenting method.

Acknowledge that you don't have to finish every morsel on your plate. If you don't eat it all, it will either go to compost or garbage or your dog. If you do eat it all it is going to go in your body and potentially burden your body with more calories than your body needs. This specifically applies to those times you continue to eat after you realize you're full. Ideally, we would all be well fed and care enough to contribute to those who are hungry/thirsty. In saying this, I feel like I am making up for all those times when I ate everything on my plate thinking I was helping to make the world a better place. To actually contribute food and water to others, click here.

I just finished reading an incredible book called Mindless Eating. In it, author Brian Wansink uncovers hidden reasons motivating our dietary habits. He offers many pointers on how to quit eating mindlessly, including how to deal with being out to eat. Many of us fail in this area because it might be a special occasion or we are having so much fun with friends or family, that we forget to think about how much we've eaten at the table.

Here is a great list of restaurant rules, courtesy of Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink:

  • If the bread basket is on the table, you're going to eat bread. Either ask the waiter to take it away early or keep it on the other side of the table.
  • Portions sizes are often ample--split an entree, have half packed to take home, or simply order two appetizers instead.
  • While soft music and candlelight can improve your enjoyment of a meal, remember that they can make you eat more if you linger, and prompt you to give in to the temptation of dessert or another drink.
  • If you want dessert, see if someone will share it with you. The best part of the dessert is the first two bites.
  • Establish a Pick-Two rule: appetizer, drink, dessert--pick any two."
(Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink, pg. 108)

What are your thoughts on going out to eat? Do you plan to splurge? Do you have rules for yourself?


anastasia_wolf said...

I find going out to eat fairly tricky anyway, being vegetarian. Although you can usually find an option, I'm pretty picky as well! So we don't eat out a lot, which is helpful ;). And now with cutting refined sugar out I can't just order sweet things (which are usually vego!) So I find myself not as tempted to eat out. I am guilty of overeating sometimes, when I am REALLY enjoying a meal for instance, and don't want the flavour to stop. But in all I moderate myself pretty well. I still sometimes find myself opening the cupboards aimlessly looking for food though, but that's a whole other story!

Michelle said...

I like that pick two rule! typically when i go out, it's the one time I let anything go. well, not anything. but i'm much less worried about what i eat than the rest of the week. this only works because i don't eat out much! haha