Something happens whenever I go out to eat. I could step out the door with the best intentions to eat sensibly, but when it’s time to order, the words fried, battered, or crispy inevitably come out of my mouth. Some people have a weakness for sugar, but fried is my favorite flavor.
Now, that’s not necessarily a big deal. In the grand scope of things, if you want something decadent I say go for it. When I order fried food I usually get an appetizer to keep the serving size smaller and/or I’ll eat half of the plate. Moderation, right? However, if you’re trying to trim down you may need to be a little more discerning with what you order and have a diet plan to follow.
Historically, this is where I’ve always gotten stuck when I’ve been in the process of losing weight. Put me in a restaurant or social event and I simply do not give a fuck. I eat and drink whatever I want, telling myself I can make it up later. It’s not because I’m deprived or starving. I see it more as my Id kicking in and pulling me towards instant gratification instead of honoring long-term goals.
I recently watched this documentary on lying called (Dis)Honesty and got an idea from it. They conducted an experiment where people were asked to recall the 10 commandments or sign a code of ethics agreement before taking the test. This group who was asked to do this was far less likely to cheat on the test than the group that was given no moral reminder. So I wondered, could I use this idea to not “cheat” or go overboard when I go out to eat?
The idea is that when I’m in a social setting I tend to give in to temptation, abandoning my own integrity. But what if I could reminded myself of my moral compass before going out? Would it make a difference? Now when I talk about integrity and morals I don’t mean good/bad or right/wrong. I simply mean following the protocols that I have set for myself for a particular goal. So to test this little experiment, I wrote a note reminding myself what actions I wanted to follow and more importantly, WHY. This is the passage:
“When I go out to eat I will be mindful of each bite I take. I will taste the food and thoroughly chew it. I will pause between bites and drink water. I will focus on my company. I will listen to my stomach and stop eating once I am about 80% full.
I will feel grateful that I have the opportunity to honor my body by nourishing it. I will be grateful that I have the privilege to access all kinds of delicious food. I will be thankful that I have and prioritize my health.
I will remember my goal of maintaining my weight and honor my body in a way that is conducive to that goal. I want to maintain my weight so I can be free, confident and comfortable.
I will be mindful when I drink and have a glass of water after each drink. I will drink responsibly so not to be suffering the next day.”
I read this right after being seated at The Cheesecake Factory on a recent date night. What stood out the most to me was the part about WHY I wanted to eat a certain way: “I am doing this so I can be free, confident and comfortable.” That really hit home and grounded me.
I’ll tell ya, I was really Jonesing for a drink that night, and after reading the note I decided that I did, in fact, give a fuck. As a result, I didn’t order a drink. It was unnecessary and not in line with the way I like to imbibe, so I felt empowered about that. I also ordered very moderately, however I got more full than I would’ve liked off bread. But that had more to do with the service and having to wait an hour for our food.
In any case, I do think reading that note did make a difference in my mindset and decisions. If you’d like to employ this method for weight loss purposes or simply to eat in a more balanced manner, I would recommend three things:
- Get in touch with the reason your goal is important and write that down. If your goal is to lose weight, go deeper. Why do you want to lose weight? What will losing weight give you that you don’t have now? Or if you want more moderate eating habits, why is that important? How would you feel if you were able to eat moderately? Those are the kind of reminders that will have enough emotional weight to keep you on track with your goals when you’re faced with temptation.
- Write down what you can or will do instead of can’t or won’t. For example, instead of saying, “I won’t eat any bread” try “I will eat low carb” or “I will eat one serving of carbs.” Often times when we try to lose weight, we get caught up on what we can’t have. This sends us into victim mode and makes the whole experience harder and more unpleasant than it has to be. Focusing on positive action (what you can do) is more empowering than the negative (what you can’t do).
- You can write down your goals and your why, but it’s of no use if you don’t actually read it. Set reminders in your phone to read the note when you know you’re going out or have a social event. Make it pervasive in your environment so that you don’t forget.
It’s easy for the Id to make us forget our goals and dive head first into the throes of hedonism. And while that can be fun, it can also be a setback. Having a reminder of why your goal is important can be our saving grace in a moment of weakness. Try it out and let me know how it works for you.