Last night I met some of my family for dinner downtown at Benihana. In the car on the way there I got to thinking about how I've transformed through the years where food is concerned. My food life looks nothing like it did 5 years, 10 years or 20 years ago. As a kid we LOVED Benihana. It was chicken fried rice heaven (and still is for many). There were years when I was first transitioning from a meat-based to plant-strong diet that I would waffle at places like Benihana. I'd justify that it was a "special" occasion (even on a Tuesday) and reflex back into ordering the usual, steak + chicken, fried rice + loads of garlic butter. My stomach would revolt, my taste buds would explode and it would inevitably set me off on a binge. With the binge came a flood of emotions... guilt, shame, anger, sadness. I didn't realize what I was doing to my body on a deep chemical level. I thought it was just a momentary indulgence and "I'd start again tomorrow." Only when tomorrow came I really wanted to eat out again and so I did. Pizza this time. Bread. Cheese. Fat. Grease. Delicious, salted meats (pepperoni).
Once I started to understand the inner workings of my body it took so much pressure off my tender heart. It really wasn't my fault. And it's really not your fault. Consuming high amounts of fat, salt + sugar will absolutely send your body into cravings. The sugar makes you crave salt and the roller coaster ride begins. Ever notice how you eat out one night and later that night even though you're full you want to get dessert and the next day you're really wanting to eat out again? Your body is craving the junk. We are biologically pre-dispositioned to go for the most pleasure with the least effort.
High calorie content foods tickle the pleasure center in the brain and make you want more, MORE, MORE! This is how food can become an addiction and THIS is how processed foods are made. They are literally created in a lab to give you a moment of pleasure and then take it back so that you want to eat another serving (or the entire bag). It's mad scientist stuff and it's making them millions of dollars at the expense of our health.
Eating out is often a danger zone. I eat off menu a good 75% + of the time creating meals that feel good in my body. Remember it's the small steps that add up over time! I didn't wake up one day and just start eating clean. Many days I felt like I white knuckling it through tears. Some days I really, really wanted the fried rice but I chose the steamed rice. I struggled feeling like I was missing out when everyone else was indulging (you've been there, right). It was a necessary part of my journey. These days I choose the steamed rice without a second thought. It feels good. It tastes good. And the next day all is well.
5 Tips on How to Eat Out + Stay Healthy
1. Before you even walk in the door ask yourself "What would feel really good in my body?"
If your body says steamed veggies, listen + honor that request. Then when you go into the restaurant see if they have something with steamed veggies.
2. It's O.K. to order off menu. If they don't have a plate with steamed veggies, ask if they will make you some! 99% of the time they will say yes!
My favorite meal at Mexican food places is all sides. Side of corn tortillas, pico de gallo, steamed veggies (hold the butter) + guacamole. Then I make my own tacos! Bonus :: It's often really inexpensive to create meals this way. When we first moved to Texas + I ordered all sides and the waiter felt sorry for me saying that wasn't a "real meal" and gave me the sides for free. HA!
3. Always, always choose real food + ask about what it's cooked in and with.
Many times foods are doctered. At Benihana in the past when I've attempted to make the fried rice vegetarian it's come loaded with garlic butter, added salt and sugar. So yeah, that may be vegetarian by definition but it was a gut bomb for my body. Ask if they make their own salad dressings in house. Go for the house made vinaigrette when possible. Ask about how the beans are cooked. Often Mexican food places will cook their charro beans in lard. LARD! Or they are mixed with low quality meat products (ie beef stock) that include salt + sugar. Stick to foods that are close to the earth. Meaning things that wouldn't have a label in the grocery store (fruit, veggies, grains, nuts, seeds, beans).
4. If you eat meat ask where they source their meat from.
If it comes in on a big truck with all their other food BUYER BEWARE. If it comes from a local farm you're likely good to go! We recently went to a fancy pants restaurant (white table cloths, waiters in tuxedos, etc). I thought surely this place will serve happy chickens that were in the yard yesterday. NOPE! They order them from a food distributor that gets their chickens from a factory farm where chickens never see the light of day.
5. Whatever choice you make do so with a wide open heart and no regrets!
It doesn't matter if you've ordered the brownie sundae for your main meal. Enjoy each and every bite! Invite the food into your body for the highest good. The energy + attitude that you approach your meal with will determine how well it's digested and assimilated into your body. Breathe. Examine the food as it arrives. Smell it. Take it all in and say a moment of thanks for the incredible food before you.
And a note on weight. If you're looking to reduce your overall body weight research shows that increasing your calorie intake by 50 calories per day can result in an overall body weight increase of 20 lbs per year. While I DON'T count calories or advocate it I find this a really interesting statistic that emphasizes how the smallest of choices can make a big difference overtime.
We had a fantastic time last night! I ordered Miso soup, salad, brown rice + steamed veggies. It was so much food I brought leftovers home for Cliff. I enjoyed my family and my meal. I went to bed feeling really proud of my food choices and woke up this morning with zero cravings. Success!
Where ever you are in your journey with food it's all perfect + I'm rooting for you, Lacy