It’s fun to go out with someone special and enjoy a delicious meal at a restaurant on occasion. But if you’re living the fitness lifestyle, dining out on a regular basis can seriously affect your progress, especially if you’re dieting to lose body fat. Here are a few things to consider.
You are not a machine; fitness needs to be a lifestyle that is sustainable. That includes leaving some room for enjoyment of the simple things in life, like eating out. Unless you have a pending event, the odd meal or item here and there won’t stop your progress and can serve to recharge both your mental commitment and metabolic activity. The key is to know your limits and always listen to your body as it will quickly tell you when you are reaching the danger zone.
If you rarely go out to eat, say once every month or two, and then you don’t have to worry about it. Just go out and have fun, you’re not going to do any noticeable damage to your progress. If you go out a bit more frequently, say once every 1-2 weeks, and then you will need to be a bit more mindful of your choices. You can still have a lot of freedom, but don’t go way beyond your usual caloric intake for the day (don’t eat like it’s your last meal on death row!) Be somewhat sensible and mindful of what you are doing. Have the meal you want but watch out for adding too many extras on top like the wine and the dessert. The good news is that for most, your body will stop you long before you do too much damage. But for some, you have to let your mind take over. Remember, you’ll be back again, so you don’t have to try everything now.
If you find that you must eat out often (more than once a week) then you will have to take control over your actions. Maybe it’s due to traveling a lot, or maybe it’s work related, you still have to be in charge of what you put into your body as much as possible. Don’t give in to what others are doing.
Order from the menu as closely as you can to what your ideal meal would be if you were at home. Choose the leanest protein source like chicken breast, fish or egg whites, the cleanest carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice or just veggies, and avoid any extras if possible. Remember, most restaurants prepare foods for taste and appearance first, not for health, so even your best choices can have some hidden calories. That lean fish may be prepared in butter. That baked sweet potato or fresh salad may come loaded unless you remind them to put everything on the side. Do the best you can at keeping things under control. Then just get back on track with your normal diet. If you’re getting ready for an approaching event or have a time-related goal, your best option will be to avoid the restaurant food and prepare your own. If that means you’re at a work luncheon and not eating, you can still fulfill your social obligations without compromising your progress.
But for the most part, eating out is not something you have to give up for fitness. You simply have to be smart and responsible and use control and common sense. The more you eat out, the more you will have to be selective. The less frequently you eat out, the more you can let your hair down and enjoy. But you still have to be in-tune with how your body responds. It will tell you what is or isn’t too much by your progress and how you looks and feel 4-7 days afterward. Ideally, you’ll be right back on track after that little break, filled with energy and new determination. If you find yourself always going backward or stuck in the same place, then you may be doing more harm than good.