Does this sound familiar?
You are doing great with your new lifestyle changes, you are seeing progress (in whichever way you are measuring it), and you have things down to a routine. And then comes a spontaneous invite to go out to eat a meal with friends/family, and then panic sets in.
I’ve been there. I still sometimes feel that way when being pulled in two different directions of the pressure (social and otherwise) and to continue moving toward my goals.
How do I make it work?
So how do I deal with it? Before I answer that specifically, I’d ask that you think about your handling this situation as a skill. You may not be great at right now, but I promise you that if you are exposed to the situation frequently, and each time work on doing slightly better, that you’ll barely remember what it was like to worry about handling spontaneous meals and still making progress toward your fitness goals.
The first way that I’d recommend dealing with it it is to realize that going out for a meal is just one meal, and most people tend to eat 21 meals a week. One meal out of 21 generally doesn’t matter in the long term. Guilt over food choices is a real thing, and one I’ve experienced. But guilt over food choices can put you into a negative feedback loop because it prevents you from being forward thinking, meaning, the next time you go out, you start to cultivate a mindset of “fuckitall”, pardon my french. Instead, we can turn to gratitude. Practice being thankful for the opportunity to enjoy a meal with friends and/or family, being for the opportunity to be challenged by how you’ll fit it in your week’s meals, and being thankful for the opportunities to make better decisions, but not always the best ones.
One thing that I’d ask you to try is avoiding the nothing route *WHEN* (not if) you end up indulging again (because we are human, it’s going to happen). There is no such thing as perfection. “The perfect is the enemy of the good”. And that’s exactly it, viewing it as penance is perpetuating the negative feedback loop you are caught in…and the only way to stop it is to create a positive feedback loop around your perception of the normal missteps as a learning opportunity!
For me, this manifested initially as “I’m going out to eat, I’m going to order appetizers, the worst possible thing for me, and then dessert”. Eventually, by treating these “failures” as “learning opportunities”, I was able to gradually make slightly better choices on a spectrum and move away from all or nothing. In my example, that might mean skipping an appetizer, or keeping the appetizer and splitting the entree. Or asking for a take out/left over box right away and splitting your portion in half, to eat another day. Things like that. Since I was making better (but never perfect) choices, and ensuring that I ate *slowly* while practicing gratitude, those things drowned out the guilt and eventually, the guilt is gone.
OK, now what?
OK, so now what? What if you are tracking your food in a calorie/macro tracker like MyFitnessPal?
There are a few different ways to approach this depending on the situation.
- Don’t track it, use the opportunity to reflect on how you could make slightly better (if any) choices and be OK with that because in the long run it won’t hinder your progress in the long term.
- See if that restaurant has its food items in your food tracker and track it. Either make it work for your calorie goals or don’t. Don’t fall into the fallacy that once you go over, you might as well *keep* going over. Remember, that’s an all or nothing approach, and that’s absolute poison for long term change.
- If you can’t find the food in your tracker’s database and still want to track it, break the food down into components and track those separately as best as you can (depends on what it is).
- Think about a chain restaurant that has a similar item and use that as your guide. I’m from Pittsburgh so I use Eat N Park’s calories because it’s a diner and has lots of food items.
Are you already doing these things mentioned above but feel like your progress is slowing down or not happening at all? I’d look at how often you are taking these free meals, and then ask if you are really feeling burned out, or if there is a bad habit there, or maybe your “new normal” isn’t as sustainable as you thought. One single free meal per week is generally enough from a psychological point of view, and in the grand scheme of things is just a blip on the radar. Besides, we don’t want to be perfect with food choices, just good enough. =P
Tips For Dining Out
Lastly, when trying to navigate restaurant menus, here are some tips that can help you choose lower calorie options. As mentioned above, you don’t always need to do that, but you also don’t always need to make the worst possible choice because you are eating dinner at a restaurant. Credit goes to the Renaissance Periodization’s client group for these. These are just general principles to keep in mind.
- Cuts of meat with “loin” in the name
- Roast – chuck, rib or rump
- Steak – cubed, flank, porterhouse, skirt, sirloin, tenderloin, T-bone
- Pork – tenderloin, chops, ham, Canadian bacon
- Poultry – skinless, white meat
- Fish – any, just not fried
- Egg white or egg substitute
Words to Choose
- Garden Fresh
- Red Sauce
Smart Side Options
- Baked potato (butter/sour cream on side)
- Baked sweet potato (butter/sugar cream on side)
- Green beans
- Cooked carrots
- Cottage cheese
Options to limit or avoid
- A La Crème
- Au Gratin
- Country Style
- Fried/Deep Fried
- White Sauce
Need some additional help?
Lastly, If you need some help on implementing strategies like this and moving toward your fitness goals, I can help. Check out the coaching application here: Coaching Application. I hope to hear from you soon and thanks for reading!