I have been in a long search to discover the secret to avoiding destructive eating habits at a restaurant. Recently my family has been eating more meals out in restaurants. I have found myself wanting to drift back to old, destructive habits. Somehow when I go to a restaurant, even on an ordinary day, I begin to feel like I am on “vacation”. My mind starts to wonder if it wouldn’t be fun to have an appetizer to “share”. Then when I am looking down the menu for my entrée I start to look for the “special” item I don’t get to have unless I am in a restaurant. Generally this means it has more salt, more fat and even more sugar. I also look for what I can get the most of for my money. Then at the end of the meal comes the debate about dessert. What excuse can I make to justify dessert—hard day at work? Mid-week splurge? I deserve to be pampered? It is just not that hard to come up with an excuse if you are looking for one.
It is like a great kiss in an epic movie where the woman goes weak in the knees and succumbs to the suitor. My classic response to food is to give in and swoon at all the possibilities on a menu. Then as I begin to hate myself for making the “weak” choices I do, I begin to see my relationship with food more like an abusive marriage. I keep getting beat up, my head slammed against the wall over and over again and yet I can’t resist and come back for more…until death do us part from heart disease, diabetes or cancer.
It is hard to break old habits. No one understands this better than I do. But it is possible. How? Let me give you an example. Since we have been going out to restaurants more, I have been talking about sharing an entrée with my daughter or husband. This worked some of the time but often we didn’t want to order the same thing or somebody was too tired or too hungry to share. Then my husband came up with the idea of us each ordering what we wanted but asking the kitchen to only serve us half of our order at the table and package the other half to take home for lunch the next day. This is working! It is amazing how you don’t miss what you don’t see. And even with half the amount of food on our plate, when we finish it we are perfectly full. So full, in fact, I don’t want dessert.
We are actually having fun with this new approach. It is a new game we have invented. We are hardly “perfect” when we go out to eat but we are definitely ordering and eating less and enjoying the effort. I have, in fact, lost weight because I am not over-feeding myself. I am even sleeping better. It is a huge help to have my family’s willingness to play our new “game”. With their help I am getting into a new habit. Soon I want to be practiced enough to make the “serve half” request on my own. I know it is one of many steps towards a healthier lifestyle and it feels wonderfully liberating.