Several years ago when I decided I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, I thought of all the things I would change. Things like never eating sugar, actually anything white got the axe, except for egg whites and cauliflower. I subscribed to Clean Eating magazine and vowed that I would cook all my meals and never step foot in my company cafeteria again. For the most part, I decided eating out basically had no place in my new lifestyle.
Eventually I stopped going out to eat altogether or, when I did, I smuggled in my own food. Yep, I brought my Rubbermaid to restaurants. I even started turning my nose up at going to dinner at friends' homes. After all, they didn't eat like I did, or heaven forbid, steam their vegetables.
Looking back, you might say I was a bit neurotic and I would wholeheartedly agree. The truth is, I was trying to control every aspect of my diet, but it was a joy-sucking chore and the worst part was that it was unnecessary. I tried to control every element of my diet and it was depressing.
Oh, I felt accomplished, but now I realize that I really was deprived. I missed out on sharing good times and meals with friends and family and even potential professional opportunities as I especially steered clear of work outings. I must admit, I'm still not too fond of the office cafeteria, but when the odds of you getting food poisoning aren't in your favor, you would be too.
When you decide that you're going to adopt a healthier lifestyle, you may think you need to forgo eating out, because staying at home gives you more control over what you eat.
But dining out is about so much more than just the food. Don't miss out on socializing with friends, panicking over what to eat when you're traveling or just enjoying a night off from cooking.
Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.
― Ruth Reichl
Stress free eating out is enjoyable, and with a few tips, it becomes no big deal.
Save room for the good stuff!
When dining at a new restaurant, go online to check out the menu. This will help set you up for success. Knowing what you're going to eat when you walk in the door or having narrowed down the selection to a few choices ensures that you have thought through your meal and it will be more balanced than, say if you just ate on a whim. Figure out where your protein, fat and carbs will come from. If there's a dessert that you really want to try, you'll know not to dive into the bread basket or load up on a side of mash.
Mind Your Portions and Macros
If you are an avid calorie counter and tend to weigh your food regularly, you probably have a good sense of what your portion sizes are. This can get a bit trickier as you move away from calorie counting, but it's nothing to worry about. Take notice of the portion size of food you eat when at home and simply eat to the same scale when eating out and take the rest home for lunch the next day.
For the intuitive eater, you probably already have a system in place for managing your portion sizes and macros. As a general rule I eat about 1-1/2 palm size of protein, ½ palm of fat, a fist of starchy carbs and as many veggies as I want. This can be adjusted depending on current goals, but in general, this is what I do. Over time this just becomes a habit and pretty much effortless whether eating at home or away. It's also portable!
Another great tip whether eating at home or out on the town is to eat your food slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to send out satiety signals. Slowing down your eating will allow you to stop eating before getting over full. Plus, if you're enjoying a splurge, why not savor each and every bite?
Chicken Tikka Masala – Yummm!
Watch Out for Sneaky Calories
What sounds like a pretty healthy meal can actually turn out to be a calorie bomb. Stay on the lookout for dishes that have sauces or are creamed, crispy, breaded…you get the idea. Not that you have to steer clear all the time, but know what you are eating. Of course beverages like soda, juices, lemonades, etc., unless they have a sugar substitute, are usually packed with calories as well and probably should be avoided in general. Opt for sparkling water or unsweetened tea instead.
Eating Out Mindfully and Stress-free
To sum things up, if you eat out regularly or travel a lot, aim to eat a bit closer to what you would normally eat at home most of the time. Over indulging on the regular won't help you reach your goals and will probably just lead to a lot of frustration.
If you eat out a bit less frequently and want to splurge, go for it. If you happen to be going to the restaurant that makes the best vodka sauce in town, enjoy! I am a sucker for chicken tikka masala and make a point to get to my favorite Indian restaurant every now and again. It is definitely a splurge as not only do I eat the tikka masala, but I sop up the sauce with naan as well!
A splurge once in a while will have minimal impact on your progress when looking at the bigger picture, but may do wonders for your soul! Don't miss out on the simple yet fulfilling things by limiting your diet to only what is prepared by you. Get out and enjoy life!
Photo credit: stockimages, kimberlykv, preppybyday
You've made the plunge into a metabolic reset, and you're determined to stick it out as long as it takes.
You are no longer restricting foods or food groups but learning how to include some new foods into your healthy eating plan. You love the freedom of some extra food. You can go out to eat or enjoy a piece of birthday cake, guilt free. You have more energy, you're sleeping better at night, and are killing it in the gym. You are prepared to put in the time, so that you can attain your fitness goals without sacrificing your life
But sometimes, you may feel so out of control, and it scares you!
You may not understand why you are feeling this way. After all, while you were restricting your calories, you hardly ever felt hunger. You may feel tempted to go back to restricting calories.
What's going on?
First of all, know that this has happened to just about anyone who has walked down this road. You are not alone, and experiencing these symptoms does not mean that you are undisciplined or lazy.
Experiencing hunger is a GOOD thing. Hunger and fullness are our body's ways to control our dietary intake. Both undereating and overeating have a detrimental effect on our metabolisms.
Two hormones that help us understand what is going on here are leptin (a hormone which promotes a feeling of satiety and fullness) and ghrelin (a hormone which promotes a feeling of hunger). In those with healthy metabolisms, these hormones alert us to eat an appropriate number of calories. Leptin also alerts the thyroid that there is enough stored fat for survival, so it is safe to burn stored fat. In response to a restrictive diet, leptin levels decrease or the body becomes resistant to leptin. As a result, metabolic rate decreases, body fat is stored, and appetite increases. On the other hand, ghrelin alerts your body to eat and drink by causing a feeling of hunger. Ghrelin also signals the body to hold onto fats rather than burning tem off. Under stressful circumstances (i.e., lack of sleep, emotional stress, restrictive dieting, overexercise, etc.), ghrelin increases and leptin decreases. Under these circumstances, you may find it difficult to feel satisfied, no matter how much you eat.
One purpose of a metabolic reset is normalizing hormone levels so they do the jobs they were intended to do. A common symptom of those who are undereating is the loss of the hunger sensation. This is a natural response to a lowered metabolic rate as the body adapts to an insufficient amount of calories. The return of the sensation of hunger and fullness are good things. Learning to honor those feelings is a big step in having a healthy and balanced approach to fueling your body. A primary goal of your metabolism reset should be listening to and honoring what your body is trying to tell you! Eventually, learning to honor these hunger and fullness cues will be responsible for your long-term success.
(NOTE: It is important to stress that we do recommend accurate calorie counting during a metabolism reset, since dieting has likely made it difficult to recognize these physical cues. “Listening to your body” during a metabolism reset can be tricky, since many chronic dieters will intuitively eat 1200 or fewer calories. It is important to reacquaint the body with an appropriate number of calories first, paying attention to these cues in the process. )
(To print this poster, click the image for link to a downloadable PDF version)
Others will experience a loss of control as they start re-introducing some “forbidden foods” back into their diets. After declaring these items “off limits” or “cheats” for months, you may feel like you just cannot stop eating them. This is usually a psychological issue. We usually want what we tell ourselves we cannot have! By allowing all foods back into your diet, you will likely find that you no longer feel the need to overeat these foods. There is a learning curve there, however, so proceed with caution and give yourself time and lots of second chances.
Your metabolism reset should not be a stressful time. Relax and look at this as a time to set yourself up for future success, while allowing yourself to recover from the damage done by excessive dieting. Here's a few tips to make the most of this time and stay sane:
1. Stress Less.
Stress causes a hormonal response in our bodies that causes an elevation in cortisol levels. A catabolic hormone, increased levels of cortisol will make it difficult to lose fat and gain muscle. It is definitely within your best interest to de-stress! If you are approaching this process with constant stressing about how much weight you are going to gain, how tight your jeans are, etc., you are probably sabotaging yourself from the very beginning. Find ways to manage the stress in your life, and do not allow your reset to become yet another stressor. Journal, pray, catch up with an old friend. Take a bubble bath or a long, relaxing walk.
2. Increase calories slowly.
By increasing intake slowly and steadily, you will likely experience less bloating and discomfort along the way and allow your body to slowly adjust to a higher caloric intake. This also reduces the likelihood of a sudden, shocking weight gain.
3. Honor your hunger.
If you find yourself extremely hungry, eat, even if it means you will end up over your calories for the day. Try to focus on whole foods that are nourishing. If this means that you go over your recommended calories a day or two, don't stress over it. Making sure that you are full and satiated will prevent future binges.
4. Eat more fats.
Healthy fats have a number of health benefits. One gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories, versus 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate. Eating a diet higher in fats will allow you to meet your calorie quota without feeling overly stuffed from a huge quantity of low-calorie foods. Fats also promote a feeling of satiety which usually prevent overeating. Good sources include coconut oil, whole eggs, dark chocolate (our favorite!), raw almonds, and avocado.
5. Introduce new foods slowly.
At EM2WL, we don't generally recommend restricting foods (animal proteins, gluten, dairy, etc.) unless there is a medical reason. If you are new to this process, you may be excited about the possibilities of eating “forbidden foods” once again. As you introduce foods back into your diet that you may have been eliminating, you may want to monitor your body's response very carefully. You may find that you feel out of control when you introduce ice cream back into your diet after months of pronouncing this an “off-limit” food, you can't seem to stop eating it. Subconsciously, you may be approaching this food with a “feast or famine” attitude. You may be tempted to conclude that that you just can't handle ice cream. Give yourself time to adjust to foods that feel uncomfortable. Chances are when you tell yourself you can have ice cream as often as possible, you will no longer feel the need to overeat it. We recommend adding such foods slowly to monitor your body's reaction.
6. Eat small and frequent meals
Dividing up your calories over 5-6 small meals will allow you to never be waiting too long before your next meal of snack. That way, if you get hungry, you will can have a small something without feeling like you are blowing your whole plan. Keep healthy snacks on hand. Some of our favorite go-to's are Greek yogurt, raw nuts, protein shakes or bars, beef jerky, or cheese and crackers. For best results, make sure to include a balanced combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates at each meal or snack. Making sure that you are satisfied throughout the day will go a long way in preventing binges.
7. Stay off the scale
During a metabolism reset, while you are increasing calories to a reasonable level, you should expect to see a temporary increase on the scale as your body adjusts to a higher volume of food. This weight is very rarely fat. Typically, the scale increase can be blamed on water retention. In some cases, the increase on the scale may be due to repairing of tissue damage resulting from very low calorie diets. Being overly focused on this number can be very discouraging. Understand that you may see a weight gain during this process, but that you are setting yourself up for future successes. If you mentally cannot handle seeing this number, it may be best to hide the scale for awhile.
8. Forgive yourself, and don't try to “undo” the damage.
If you slip up and binge unintentionally, don't stress about it. Acknowledge what has happened, and move on. Stressing over what cannot be undone is only going to compound the problem. Think about what might be done differently in the future and come up with your plan of attack, but understand that you are probably not bingeing because you are weak and undisciplined, just hungry. Be gentle with yourself during this process, and give yourself grace and compassion.
Trying to “earn back” calories you've overeaten by doing extra workouts or eating a bit less the next day may seem like a great idea. But it gets you into a vicious cycle of overeating, overexercising, and an obsession with trying to get the numbers just right. Remember, the cortisol response to excessive exercise often makes it more difficult, not easier, to control the weight gain and get back on the path to losing fat.
9. Have a strong support system.
Explain to those close to you what you are doing and why. Hopefully this will help them to be more understanding of what you are doing. Realize, however, that there will be those who don't understand or agree with your plan of attack, and that is perfectly okay. Check out our forums to connect with those who are at all different stages in this process. You will be able to find someone to commiserate with, encourage you, or help you work through the many questions that seem to pop up along the way.
10. Be patient and trust the process!
Above all, enjoy this time of nourishing your body and being kind to yourself. If you stick with it, this will prepare you for a lifetime of success!
If you missed them, be sure to check out the other articles in this series:
Take it Slow
How Much Cardio?
Becca is a busy wife and homeschooling mother to five children ages 7 to 15. About five years ago, she embarked on a journey to health and fitness that resulted in the loss of approximately 100 pounds. Today, she is a competitive powerlifter and strongwoman who loves ice cream and deadlifts. As an ISSA certified personal trainer, she is passionate about helping women to get started on a lifestyle of strength and fitness.
Guest Post by Trish
I am a huge advocate for stress management and ridding your life of stress whenever possible.
Have a stressful relationship? Get rid of it. Have a stressful job? Quit. But there are times when you can't eliminate the stress, for example, when something tragic happens to you or a loved one, or in my case, you actually enjoy the thing that is wreaking havoc on your life.
For the better part of this year I have lead a project that was under staffed with an overly ambitious timeline. To keep my sanity, I've had to make a few adjustments to my normal routine.
Get all the sleep. As the project started to heat up, I made sleep my priority above all other activities, aside from the care of my family. When my sleep is off, everything is off. I start making bad decisions and am truly just rotten to be around. I have even had occasion to fall asleep during a meeting – my colleagues have the pictures to prove it! While 8 hours (or more) of sleep is ideal, I find I can get by on 6 when necessary, getting an additional few hours on the weekend. To ensure that I get my sleep on, I have a few tricks up my sleeve.
- Tea in general is relaxing for me. I prefer a mint or jasmine green tea, but also drink chamomile when it's bedtime. Yogi Bedtime seems to do the trick if I'm feel particularly wound up.
- Melatonin. I don't use it often, but when I'm having trouble staying asleep, I find that I get 8-10 hours of solid sleep and don't wake up groggy. Usually the following night's sleep is just as good.
- When I have several ideas and/or to-dos bouncing around in my head right before bed, I know it's a recipe for broken sleep. So before going to bed, I do a brain dump by either writing down or creating a voice memo of all these things. This way I'm not worrying that I won't remember them and waking up hours earlier than I should.
Let it go. Don't be afraid to let things go. My training regimen is down to one strength session per week. Yup, just one. I could push myself and ‘get it in', but I know myself well enough to know that I'd be risking injury. In order to get in more training sessions, I'd have to rob my sleep and that is not an option at present. As an alternative, I make sure I maximize my NEAT throughout my day, walking to work, taking the stairs two at a time, etc. It's what I can manage at the moment and it helps me to still feel active.
Find something that relaxes you. A friend turned me on to Ultimate Yogi over the summer. Of the 14 or so classes, I really only do one – Gentle. This routine relaxes my body and mind like nobody's business. If I could, I'd do it daily. Whether it's yoga, meditation or a soothing bath, find something that helps you to unwind, both mentally and physically.
Eat good. Don't let stress be an excuse for a poor diet. While I'm not tracking my food currently, another one of those activities that I had to let go, I still manage to eat to my plan…most days. Under normal circumstances, I prepare about 80% of my snacks & meals. Nowadays, it's closer to 50%. However, I keep some prepared foods on hand, such as Trader Joe's lightly seasoned grilled chicken, pouches of tuna and salmon. Simply add some veggies, salsa, and avocado for a great meal in minutes. Similarly, when ordering in, I order something similar to what I might have prepared. For snacks, I keep fresh fruit, turkey jerky, quest bars and other protein supplements within my reach.
My project is in the home stretch, as they say. I'm rounding third and can almost taste the normalcy. For the past few weeks or so my work days have averaged between 12-15 hours, but amazingly, I don't feel stressed. I miss my normal, but I'm practicing patience knowing that it is not far away.
In the past, I would have been consumed with not gaining weight during this time, ‘working out' at the same level to maintain a scale number and keeping my cal intake low. Even though my training volume has been reduced substantially, my calorie intake has not changed. My strength is good and I am even hitting a few PRs. My mind is clear and focused. So much of my ability to get through this period is simply due to a better understanding of how my body works and what its needs are. After two years of EM2WL, it still proves itself to me over and over again. I miss my beloved iron that I only visit once a week, twice if I'm lucky, and my EM2WL peeps. It has been a roller coaster of a year, but I'm still thriving!