Enjoying good food, having fun and spending quality time with your partner are important parts of life and not something which should be compromised when working towards optimal health.
In this article, I am going to outline 5 Mindset Shifts and 3 Practical Tactics that can be implemented to optimise for both progress AND enjoyment in life.
MS 1 – Enjoy the food
MS 2 – “Fuck it” doesn’t work.
MS 3 – Make smart choices
MS 4 – The food is wasted anyway, you don’t need to finish it.
MS 5 – Don’t over order.
PT 1 – Save up for the big purchase.
PT 2 – Tip the daily balance.
PT 3 – Water and veg FTW.
Now, common approaches to eating out when on a health drive are either to avoid it entirely OR to think “fuck it” I’m going to do whatever I want and just get back on track tomorrow.
Neither of these is ideal and if you feel you need to take the “fuck it” approach then you may need to re-evaluate what the rest of your lifestyle is looking like. It’s also possible that you are simply unaware of HOW to integrate ‘fun’ into your lifestyle.
In short, this is a very flawed way of looking at it and is likely to hinder your success in the long term (I am super happy to be proved wrong!).
So let’s work out HOW to optimise for both progress AND fun!
MINDSET SHIFT 1 – Enjoy the experience.
When you eat good food you’re doing it for enjoyment right? So enjoy the food. Eat slowly. Go to a nice place. Don’t think in quantity. Think in terms of “quality” and flavour. You get the maximum enjoyment from food in the first 3 bites and often by the 10th bite the flavour is significantly reduced. This is why super nice restaurants or tasting menus have such small servings. You don’t need more to maximise enjoyment.
MINDSET SHIFT 2 – ‘Fuck it’ doesn’t work.
If you find yourself going down this route then this is the first sign that you may be doing something wrong and are at risk of falling off the wagon and not being able to sustain it. The fuck it or ‘occasional blow out’ approach may work in the short term but in my experience fails in the long term. There is no NEED to take this approach and fun can and SHOULD be integrated into your lifestyle.
MINDSET SHIFT 3 – Make smart choices.
This is all about choosing what you’ll enjoy most or pleasure per mouthful. There are only a set number of mouthfuls until you are full and stop enjoying the food so make the most of each one. What are the things you REALLY want to eat or try? Order those. Not fussed on fries? Ask them to be swapped out. The bread looks a bit stale. Ask them to remove it. Don’t just eat it out because it’s there. You’re above that.
MINDSET SHIFT 4 – You don’t need to finish everything.
I know there is a fear of wastage but this is simply the scarcity mindset and a habit likely ingrained from childhood. If you order the food, it’s already wasted. Either it goes in the bin if you don’t eat it or it goes on your belly and you have to deal with it. This is why clearing your plate after you stop enjoying it is pointless. A practical tip here is to declare that you are full then scrunch your napkin onto the plate to stop you picking at it mindlessly.
MINDSET SHIFT 5 – You don’t need to over-order.
You can always order more food later. Over-ordering is again just a scarcity mindset (like you’re panicking that there won’t be enough). Recognise this. Slow down. Breathe. Think #abundance. Go further and purposefully UNDER-ORDER until you realise that this is, in fact, enough. This also solves the food wastage issue. The biggest revelation for me was that I only needed half a pizza (bearing in mind I’m a big guy at 194cm). Now, I automatically share it with my girlfriend, however hungry I am. Half a pizza plus a side salad and maybe a starter is enough.
These are the mindset shifts required to make this effortless.
Now for some practical advice on how to ensure you hit your goals. Food in restaurants is often higher in calorie than food that you cook at home so taking some precautions to balance this is sensible and means that again, you can get the best of both worlds.
TACTICAL TIP 1 – Weekly balance.
Think of your food intake as a weekly figure as opposed to resetting each night. This means if you know you’re going to be eating out on the weekend then drop the calories very slightly earlier in the week. This is the same as ‘saving up’ to buy something. You spend less in the preceding months so you can buy something bigger in the future.
TACTICAL TIP 2 – Daily balance.
Similar to above, if you know you’re going to be eating more in the evening then having a huge breakfast or lunch probably isn’t needed. Some people work well fasting all day. Some people end up overeating if they do this. Find your groove but a decent compromise is focusing on lean protein and vegetables in the day leading up to a meal out so you’re not filling yourself up but also not too hungry. Remember, even if you do overeat, the calorie balance over the week is most important (and please don’t try to ‘burn off’ the food with exercise the next day – this is a BAD precedent to set).
TACTICAL TIP 3 – Order salad and sparkling water AS WELL as everything else.
Make sure to ask for no dressing as oily dressings can rack up calories super easily. Order these as well as everything else. This will take the edge off the hunger plus provide a load of nutrition/hydration and it means you can enjoy your main food MORE because you’re not WOLFING it down.
So, that is that!
The key takeaway here is to work out how you can enjoy regular meals out while still reaching your goals. Compromises have to be made compared to what you were doing previously but in my experience, you can still get the best of both worlds. As always, any questions, reach out and I’m looking forward to chatting!