What to Do When Going Out to Eat is Stressful
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What to Do When Going Out to Eat is Stressful

Does Eating Out Cause You Stress?Going out to eat used to send me into a panic.

Here is how the situation usually panned out:

1. I knew I had dinner plans, so I would try not to eat that much during the day because I wanted to save up the calories and “splurge” at dinner. I was usually so worried about keeping my food in control at dinner (i.e. not binging), that I was anxious about it all day (and usually ended up overeating at dinner)

OR

2. In anticipation of going out to eat, I obsessively planned out exactly what I was going to order (most likely a salad) to ensure I stayed on my diet. This neurotic concern with eating something healthy caused me to be stressed all day about eating out. At the restaurant, I would make myself adhere to exactly what I told myself I would eat and with this rigid food plan, didn’t enjoy any of it (and would end up binging later that night or the next day).

My main themes=anxiety, binging, and worry.  Not so much fun, huh?

Dinner plans always caused me such anxiety that even during the meal, I was so insanely caught up in my head that I rarely enjoyed the company, the conversation, or the experience itself.

Now, going out to eat CAN be a good time. Next time you’re stressed about dinner plans with friends, here are some things to keep in mind:

Check out the menu prior to arriving at the restaurant.

This is your “plan of attack” if you will. If you know what you’re working with, you are much less likely to order the first thing you see on the menu (which could end up being the double bacon cheeseburger with onion rings and mozzarella sticks). You can see the options ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Maybe you order something on the healthier side, but go in knowing your “splurge” will be to split an appetizer. Or maybe you decide you really DO want that double bacon cheeseburger with the works. Whatever your choice, the point is that you can look over the menu and know what is available.

Preparation and planning is a wonderful tool to help you when you feel overwhelmed with eating out. If you go in with a general plan of what you will order, it takes much of the stress out of the equation.

Make sure you have a snack 1-2 hours before you go.

If you barely eat anything all day in anticipation of going out to eat, you will most likely arrive at the restaurant absolutely ravenous. This does not bode well for your food selection since we tend to want to inhale an entire pizza plus 3 baskets of fries when we are starving.

When you have a snack an hour or two before the dinner, your blood sugar will be balanced and stable. And when your body is balanced and stable, you tend to make better food choices.

Most people adopt the opposite approach-don’t eat anything because you will eat a ton at the restaurant. But, the reality is, when you aren’t absolutely starving, when you’ve had something to tide you over, you won’t need to eat an app, an entrée, and a dessert. You will feel satisfied with less.

BE in the restaurant.

It’s easy to slip into our minds and think “well if I order the cheesesteak and fries, I can go to the gym tomorrow for an hour longer and work it off” or “I should order the salad. But I really want the pizza. But I had a cookie today already. Oh screw it, I’m off my diet anyway, I’m getting the pizza.”

Literally, I used to have full blown conversations in my head (with myself-I think this makes me crazy??:) ) about what I should eat, what I really wanted to eat, what the person next to me was eating,what I would not eat tomorrow if I binged at dinner, and on and on.

And that’s not even counting the times I binged when I was out to dinner. Those times, I was just so consumed with eating the most fattening, unhealthy thing on the menu and totally gorging on everything, that I wasn’t even IN the experience in any way.

But, when you actually take a second to BE in the restaurant-stay present for the conversation, notice the décor of the place, enjoy the company you are with, taste the textures and sensations of the food you are eating, and get out of your mind and into the experience of going out to eat-it’s a completely different experience!

It’s hard to be mindful, but consciously practice noticing everything about the restaurant outing, and your eating experience will be transformed.

It’s also important to remember that this is just ONE evening of many, many times you will eat in your lifetime. I used to beat myself up (and still do sometimes) when I have eaten too much out with friends or at a restaurant. It’s a hard habit to break, because we want to eat well all of the time. Reminding myself that it is just ONE occurrence and that tomorrow is a new day always helps me shake off the criticism of eating too much.

So, tell me-when is the next time you are going out to eat? Which of these tips will you employ to help keep your eating in check? Share below 🙂

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