Weight loss and eating out

Continuing my week of weight loss related posts, this time it's about eating out.

When I lived in New York, about 80% of my meals came from outside - restaurants, fast-food places and takeout. Coupled with that and 80-100 hour work weeks, I basically ran myself into the ground. Nowadays I don't eat out nearly as much. This has a lot to do with a change in lifestyle of course, but it I also consciously made the decision to try to cook for myself as much as possible.

That doesn't mean I never eat out - far from it. I love a great restaurant experience. But when I go to a lot of restaurants these days, I run into what we call around our house the I.C.D.B scenario. I.C.D.B. stands for "I can do better". It's not that I am such a terrific cook, but it's just hard to get simply prepared, great food that is not too salty, or too oily, or too sauced, or something at a run-of-the-mill restaurant. (I know that at lot of diet books say you should tell the waiter to do this and that for you, but I'm the type who hates making a fuss.)

This isn't a knock against restaurants in Zürich or Switzerland. I encounter this all over the place. This past year I had this experience time and time again when I was on the road - in England, the U.S., Germany, Austria, and yes, even in France and Italy.

The thing is, most of the time I would rather eat quite simple food, even if I'm not trying to lose weight. Restaurants in general, especially if they are moderately priced, don't do simple food that well. Take a plain mixed salad for instance. I can make a huge and tasty salad, with the kind of dressing I want in the precise amount I want, much better than most restaurants. Or, something like a plate of pasta. The restaurants that actually serve freshly cooked pasta piping hot in reasonable portions, like we have it at home, are getting rarer.

There are exceptions of course, and I love to go to some favorite restaurants or discover new ones. But even the best restaurant can't really prepare food the way I want it exactly - especially if I'm trying to lose weight.

So, my general restaurant philosophy goes like this:

  • Try to only go to places where the food is really, truly worthwhile.
  • Avoid places that serve mediocre food. A mediocre meal is a wasted meal.
  • If I do go to a great restaurant, I'm going to enjoy myself - and compensate for it before and after.

This philosophy is a pretty good deterrent for those times when I'm starving and the smell of french fries comes wafting over from the golden arches. Of course, it doesn't work all the time, but it does most of the time, and I'm happy with that. It's served me so well that restaurants are not a major problem for me any more in terms of trying to eat well (I have many other problems, but that's for another time).

While we're at it - you know what's the most dangerous fast-food chain? It's not McDonalds or Burger King or Pizza Hut or KFC. In my opinion, it's Starbuck's. A coffee seems so innocuous, so low-calorie - and it is (caffeine issues aside) unless you add tons of sugar and cream and things to it. Even a soy latte, which seems to be like the energy drink of choice of many of my female American friends, is 112 calories - for a drink! I used to be addicted to Starbuck's myself, but now I stick to the regular cafés that are thankfully plentiful around here, that serve normal sized cups of coffee with maybe a small amount of milk or cream. I don't think human beings were meant to be drinking 16 ounces (450ml) of coffee with milk or cream and sugar at a time.

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Weight loss and eating out

I definitely agree on the ICDB thing. I had an instance of this recently with my New Year's Eve/engagement dinner. It was me and my now fiancee, and I just knew I could do better shelling out for fresh, high-quality ingredients. It was a success.

You also get to control your portion size at home, which can really affect how much you eat. I've looked at perfectly reasonable portions in restaurants, portions that I'd in fact prefer to larger ones if I was thinking clearly, with a measure of disappointment. I was saying in my head "How much did I pay for this?" It's silly.

Rich | 8 January, 2007 - 18:11

Weight loss and eating out

Rich I know exactly how you feel. A lot of the more expensive restaurants nowadays are serving quite small portions...when I get one of those I do feel a bit cheated, even though I know that 1) the portion size mades sense for multiple courses and 2) I'll be comfortably full at the end. But portion size = small is a good thing anyway...just have to keep reminding ourselves of that i guess.

maki | 9 January, 2007 - 16:25

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