Eating out and losing weight: Is it possible to do both?

dining out

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, my family very rarely ate out. In the 70’s, stopping at a diner was considered a rare treat for us. In the 80’s, it was either a diner or McDonald’s.

We dined out a bit more often in the 80’s, not because we needed to, but because my father made more money than he did in the 70’s.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom until all of her children were grown. She didn’t enter the workforce until in her 50’s. So she was always home to make us breakfast before going to school and to make dinner when we got home.

What a difference 30 to 40 years makes

pizza deliveryRestaurant-industry sales show an alarming trend. 2013 is projected to hit $660.5 BILLION dollars in America alone.

When you consider it was only $42.8 billion in 1970 and $119.6 billion in 1980, it’s obvious people are eating out more than ever before.

Do I really need a citation to argue how America’s waistlines have changed in the last 40 years?

Very well.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report in 2004 comparing body mass index from 1960 through 2002.

In 1960, the average woman over age 20 weighed less than 140 pounds. In 2002, the average woman weighed 163 pounds. By 2010 the CDC would declare 35.9% of our population obese and 69.2% overweight (including obese).

Cause and effect?

ribs and friesI’m not going to argue that eating out is contributing to increased weight gain. At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to choose what to put into her mouth and how much.

If you do any looking around the internet, you know it is possible to lose weight eating almost any type of diet, including the Twinkie Diet, the Potato Diet, or even the McDonald’s Diet. Go ahead and Google them if you like.

I’m not saying to try to lose weight by following those diets, but they make one thing very clear.

When you reduce the number of calories you eat to less than how many you expend per day, you’ll lose weight.

So can you eat out and lose weight? Of course you can, but only by paying attention to how many calories you’re getting when doing so.

You have to be willing to do your homework to find out how many calories are in the meals, drinks, appetizers and desserts you’re ordering if they’re not readily available to you on the restaurant’s menu or website.

meatball pastaYou can’t assume that ordering salad is the healthy choice. McDonald’s salad that contained more calories than their burgers should have taught you that lesson. You can’t make assumptions.

No food is a “safe choice” when eating out. A restaurant is interested in its bottom line. It’s going to provide what people seem to want and make it as tasty and memorable as they possibly can so you keep coming back for more.

That all too often translates into using high-calorie sweeteners and fats.

You must self-advocate

The only person who is going to look out for your interests is you.

If your favorite restaurant doesn’t list nutrition facts for its meals, ask them why they don’t. Request that they consider doing it.

Ask the waiter or waitress if their menu has small or light portion options.

drink with fruitGone are the days when eating out was a rare treat, but how often you decide to overeat while dining out needs to return to being a once or twice a year special occasion if you’re to maintain or lose weight.

Even if you are armed with nutrition facts, the best way to tell when you’ve had enough is to eat mindfully and to eat slowly. Listen to your body and quit eating when you start to feel full. Have the remainder of your plate boxed up as soon as you decide you’re done.

And if you’re already full, don’t order dessert!

Your Turn

Have you ever requested nutrition facts while dining out? What strategies do you use to cut down on how much you eat while eating out? Please share in the comments below!

Resources referenced

CDC Advance Data From Vital and Health Statistics, Number 347 – October 27, 2004
National Restaurant Association 2013 Restaurant Industry Pocket Factbook
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  1. cj says:

    LS! Great article! You did a fine job of NOT demonizing eat outs. And you put the responsibility squarely on the eater. Tammy and I try to eat measurable food items when we eat out. Meaning, we eat mostly whole foods or ones that are lightly seasoned. Of course, we cannot know exactly what is in restaurant food, but I can feel reasonably safe with grilled veggies, hummus, grilled chicken, a fruit cup and the like. These foods I can look up on a calorie counter and get a reasonably close estimate. Cream sauces and complex items such as casseroles, I have no chance at measuring and stay away.
    Have a hazy, crazy Tuesday!

    • Lori says:

      CJ, if I attempted to demonize eating out, I would be struck down as a hypocrite, indeed! Every single picture included in this post was snapped from the plate set in front of me at a restaurant over the last few years.

      I love dining out with my kids. We have great conversations during supper time at home, but the change in atmosphere once in a while always spices things up.

      We definitely need smaller wi-fi devices though. You should see the looks we get when we show up with our lap-tops to have a brainstorming session. 😀

      You and Tammy have done a wonderful job of balancing the love of eating out and keeping it healthy!

      • cj says:

        Thanks Lori!!! We get those looks too since we both take our laptops to coffee each morning, but we could not care less! We have fun things to do online like commenting on your blog!!! For cripes sake!

        Have a wickedly fun one!

        • Lori says:

          Do you have matching laptops? We have bright red ones from Alienware. I think that is part of the reason for the looks, too – between the color and the alien head emblem on the covers. Mine is huge so I don’t take it often unless I think we’ll be able to get a big round table that sits six or more for just the three of us. Otherwise, there’s no room to eat. lol My son’s is the smallest – almost more like a net book, so we don’t feel so out of place taking his.

          I’m so happy you consider reading and commenting on my blogs fun! I really liked Tammy’s latest post. I think I went a bit overboard on my last post on Blithe Niche, though. Over 2000 words! hee!

          I hope you’re having an awesome day!

          • cj says:

            We do have matching ones!!! Black Dells. Need new ones badly if we are to continue and get better at blogging. But they need to be lighter, faster and have longer battery life. Oh, and must not break the bank!

            Thanks Lori and I will pass your kind words on to Tammy;)

            Have a tremendous Tuesday!

          • Lori says:

            The not breaking the bank is the hard part. lol As long as you’re not still running Windows 95 on your ‘puters, don’t sweat the small stuff. Use ’em til they crash. My desktop computer was 10 years old before I finally said it could rest in peace after its last crash. That’s how we all ended up with matching Alienwares – well matching in color anyway. We each have a different size.

          • cj says:

            Lori! If my computer crashes, I’ll poop my pants! I have it all backed up, but even so! But I get, why spend when you do not have to?

            An aside here. I was going to comment on Caitlin’s last post, but I did not want you to think I was being creepy. She did a nice job writing and her hair is, as she says, very cute;)

          • Lori says:

            Well, why spend when you don’t have to, but if you feel like it needs to happen soon, at least save up for it first. Don’t do like I did. My son’s computer is paid for, but mine and my daughter’s are still sitting on a charge card from little over a year ago. Not smart!

            Creepy blog commenting stalking dude! lol PAH! Caitlin follows my blogs and knows you and Tammy are “regulars.” I think she’d be thrilled to have your positive feedback. She’s still getting comfortable “putting herself out there” with her writing.

        • Caitlin Fegely says:

          I wouldn’t be creeped out if you said something lol! ^.^ I had a mini war over me between my friends on fb plus I know you from my mom. 😀

          • cj says:

            Thank you Caitlin! In that case, I think it’s so cool you write for the fun of it on this blog. Sure wish I started writing at a younger age. I love it now though! And although I love long hair, your looks fantastic shorter!!! Have a marvy fun weekend!

            p.s. mini-FB wars really suck!