Dining Out - there's safety in numbers

Christine Senft

If you lived in a diet-perfect world, fresh fruit and veggies would be sold on every street corner, you could walk (briskly) to work down a sunny tree-lined avenue each morning and return with plenty of time to cook a sensible dinner. And when you did dine out, restaurant portions would give you exactly what you needed to feel satisfied and maintain a healthy weight.

But as we all know, no matter how hard you try to control your individual environment by stocking your fridge and your cupboards with healthy foods, cooking your meals with little added fat and measuring out portions, the minute you step out the door, your good behaviour is put to the test in perilous and persuasive high-calorie surroundings.

One of the most rigorous trials presented by the outside world can be the group restaurant dinner. And on a recent Friday night outing, I noted perhaps the most overlooked and greatest challenge - it’s not the foods on the menu, but the actions of those around you that can have the most significant impact on your diet’s success.

While you probably have all the rules for enjoying a leaner restaurant meal down pat when you leave the house - resolving to order the mixed salad, grilled chicken and fresh fruit, when the first person to order opts to begin his meal with cheesy garlic bread, are you tempted to follow suit with a less-than-healthy starter? When everyone at the table reaches for the breadbasket, do you suddenly find your fingers wrapped around a warm roll? Do you feel pressure to order more heartily, to avoid being thought of as a killjoy?

It’s certainly harder to stick to your dieting guns when your dining companions seem to be having such a fabulous time. You might even begin to question your desire to lose weight when you’re in the company of those who seem so carefree about their own eating habits (and weight). But if you could fast forward to the next day when you recall your intentions to slim down for good , doing what everyone else is doing will likely lose its attraction.

So how do you savour a night out on the town without scrapping your sensible eating habits or getting scratched off the list of “fun people” by your friends? While you may not be able to control the behaviour of those around you, you can learn how to handle the obstacles they push in the path to your goals. Rather than sacrificing your social life for a slimmer physique (and no one to show it to), realise that dining out is an expected part of life and zero in on ways to grapple with it. Here, three tips that can get you through group meal experiences time and time again:

3 tips for a kinder restaurant experience

1. Announce your intentions to run for weight loss success.
One of the first things you should do when you decide to lose weight is enlist the support of your friends, family and colleagues. They’re not going anywhere, so forget about notions to lose weight 'in private'. They will eventually notice your new and improved eating habits anyway and you’ll be forced to either tell them or make up bizarre excuses as to why you’re ordering the poached salmon instead of your usual favourite, pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.

More importantly, filling in others will set the dining out barometer to 'comfortable' and your friends will know not to offer you a bite of dessert or they may even reform their own eating habits. You might find a few grateful others at the table who are watching their waistlines, too.

If you haven’t done so before reaching the restaurant, don’t be shy about informing your friends about your weight loss goals when you sit down. Just assure them that your eating habits are your eating habits, and that making an effort to lose weight doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a meal out (especially if you’re following the eDiets plan). Then, steer the conversation away from food - there’s so much more to life than eating!

2. Do what you’ve gotta do.
When you’re going out to eat, keep the personalities of your cohorts in mind. Clearly, some people will be more encouraging of your weight-conscious decisions than others, so be ready for those who attempt to topple your good behaviour with comments like… “Come on, one little bite isn’t going to matter.” The same goes for those who watch everything you put in your mouth and feel the need to ask, “You’re on a diet - should you be eating that?”

Both kinds of outside pressure can put the brakes on your diet. Say no firmly to offers or suggestions to eat something that doesn’t go along with your meal plan and reiterate your reasons (see point 1). And give the details of your plan to those who want to know if you shouldn’t be eating something. Be specific. Throw in numbers and statistics, if you must. They won’t be so interested in what you’re eating anymore when you provide them with the precise formula for determining body mass index. Also, know when to remove yourself from the situation. If your friend’s cheesecake arrives and the temptation/running commentary becomes too much, excuse yourself to use the bathroom.

3. Find new favourites - they’ll get old eventually.
Getting together for dinner can mean meeting up with another kind of old friend, too - a restaurant or cafe that you and your crew have been visiting for years. But if that favourite hangout offers super-sized portions, it might be time to end this potentially dysfunctional relationship. Tell your friends about your weight loss goals and be armed with a list of alternative eateries that offer a wider range of cuisines, from light and lean to rich and hearty, so everyone is happy. If old habits die exceedingly hard and no one is willing to budge on where you meet, eat a light meal before you go and remember why you’re getting together (hint: it’s the conversation).

When it’s the meal itself that you and your friends bond over, sharing a plate of chicken wings or splitting a pizza, suggest a smarter starter like the vegetable platter or order your pizza without cheese on half. Change can be good for everyone. If your friends have never tried hummus, they may have you to thank for introducing their taste buds to something great!

Table For You
Restaurant dining doesn’t have to be treacherous. It can still be a treat when you’re trying to lose weight, as long as you mind the menu and consider your “partners in dine.” You’re in control of your body and your weight, no matter who’s at the table.

Start a diet plan at tescodiets.com

Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.