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No, We’re Not Going to Applebee’s

The “Unhealthy Food Does Not Cross My Threshold” concept has three parts to it. First, we talked about cleaning out your cupboards, pantry and fridge to create a “safe haven” of healthy food choices at home. Last week we looked at those ubiquitous “treats” that are everywhere in our toxic food culture. I know, I know, I picked on your Pumpkin Spice Latte. (Don’t you wish you’d dreamed that up and received a royalty every time Starbucks sold one?!? Yeah, me too.) And finally, we need to tackle eating out, since most of us eat about half of our meals away from home.

It’s one thing to put up the force field when passing by Auntie Anne’s in the mall or drop the “Cone of Silence” when the movie theater popcorn calls to you, but what do you do when you’re invited to happy hour after work on Friday night or grandma wants to have her birthday dinner at Applebee’s?

We’re social animals by nature and food is one of the ways we connect with friends and family. Anthropologists will tell you that’s been true throughout human history.

So do we decline all social engagements and sit alone in the dark eating yet another “Lean Cuisine”? Or cave and give in to the moment, resigning ourselves to a less-than-stellar dining experience that sacrifices our eating goals for the sake of “going along with the crowd”?

Um, no on both counts.

There are several important principles to keep in mind when eating out. Each will help you navigate these food encounters that are littered with caloric and emotional landmines.

First, don’t be passive for petessake! If it’s important to you to stay within your calorie range for the day (hint, hint: it is!) then by all means, be the squeaky wheel! Be the one who suggests a new place with healthier menu options. Maybe grandma hasn’t heard of your new favorite place and would welcome a change from the usual “unlimited salad and breadsticks” at Olive Garden.

Second, go along when you have no better option. Grandma’s got her heart set on Golden Corral or your co-workers beg you to join them for drinks and apps (that’s 20-something for appetizers) after work. Sometimes you go along to get along because that’s your only feasible option without seeming like a total stick-in-the-mud. But even in this scenario you’ve got choices. Scour the menu with a critical eye, looking for the code words that will keep your calorie intake in check: steamed, grilled, and poached. Ask for nutritional information. Most large chains have them.

Then whatever they bring you, cut it in half. You heard me, half. Restaurant portions are ridiculous. They are almost universally twice as much as anyone should eat in one sitting. Have them bring the box when they bring the food and divide it before you start so you avoid fudging. I know you, you’ll fudge so just do it.

As for the drinks and apps, honestly there are few good options here. If you have the willpower to resist the apps, more power to you. I don’t so I just don’t do this. People tell me about “skinny” drinks all the time. Well, if you can make that fit into your calorie plan for the day and you can’t tolerate soda water with a twist of lime, then okay. We’ll talk much more about alcohol in the weeks to come, but for now know that whatever you decide, it still has to work within your calorie parameters.

And finally comes the paradigm shift (geez, I love these things!). Your new, healthy way of eating is not an inconvenience to anyone else. You are not being “difficult” or “high maintenance” to insist on a dining experience that supports your weight loss goals. Instead you are a shining beacon of light and inspiration to your family and friends, who probably eat way too much crap anyway. They will marvel at your newfound commitment to healthy eating and will soon be hounding you for diet advice!

The three aspects of the “Unhealthy Food Does Not Cross My Threshold” concept work together in harmony. You create a safe haven in your home, you protect yourself from the marketing noise that tells you that you deserve high-calorie “treats,” and finally you vigilantly navigate the complicated world of dining out.

Ultimately, the threshold is you. Your body – your mouth! – your health. It’s not selfish to insist that only the best foods go into it.

The be-all and end-all of weight loss is not a diet book that tells you to eat X, Y & Z. It is knowing at your core that you are worth the time and considerable effort that are required to do the best you can possibly do for yourself every single day.

Is losing weight hard? If it were easy, who’d be fat?!? Of course it’s hard! But it gets easier. And you’re so damn worth it!

Let’s go get it!

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

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