Eating at Home versus Dining Out
I often hear clients and "Food and Feelings" message board members complain that they do fine eating at home, but that everything falls apart when they go out to eat. This is likely due to failing to manage what you can when dining out. So here are my ideas for being mindful and proactive when you’re eating outside your home.
First off, give yourself credit for improving your eating at home. Too often, disregulated eaters forget that they do many things well because they’re too busy focusing on what they’re not doing as well as they’d like. So, stop and recognize the progress you’ve made. Next, consider that it makes sense that you’d do better where you perceive yourself in charge of all the elements in a situation—you’re the one doing the food planning, marketing, cooking, meal scheduling, and serving which makes it easier to make sure at each step along the way that you’re making positive choices. You may have fewer distractions at home and not as many stimuli during a meal as well.
When you go out, you may feel as if you’re thrown a curve ball or maybe even a barrage of them. You don’t always get to choose the time you wish to eat so that sometimes you’re not very hungry and other times you’re famished. You’re faced with a varied and expanded selection of menu items which you may view as temptations and, therefore, feel overwhelmed with so many delicious choices. You might over-focus on what others are eating and not order what your appetite is craving, be distracted by the pace at which others are feeding themselves and unconsciously match your pace with theirs, fall into socializing rather than mindfully eating, or feel tempted by uneaten food left in front of you as you wait for your plate to be removed.
So, ideas for dining out. Most importantly, recognize that power is within you around food and you take it everywhere you go. Speak up about what time you wish to eat, and negotiate an hour that will be within a comfortable hunger range for you. If possible, check out the menu ahead of time and come up with a few items which appeal to you. Then, when you arrive at the restaurant, you can decide which of them you feel like eating. Visualize eating “normally” when you’re out. Practice eating out with one person, then two, then a few, with a focus on creating a mindful eating experience. Watch for your mind drifting away from food and refocus. Check in frequently with yourself during a meal to ensure that you’re relaxed. If not, practice deep breathing until you are. Use eating-out experiences to hone your appetite connections and be super-hyper-mega conscious of eating mindfully, as if there’s no other way of doing it.