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Social Eating And Traveling Tips.

Its one thing to stick with your diet regimen when youre at home, in control of the contents of your refrigerator and your portion sizes. But what about going out to dinner with friends? Worse, how do you stay on track when your dream vacation has you seated by the dessert cart at every meal?
Eating right when youre out of your comfort zone can actually be easier than when you are at home, so long as you think smart and plan ahead.
Getting in shape can be an arduous journey, and you should allow yourself to celebrate along the way! However, celebrating doesnt mean two helpings of dessert. Instead, focus on these simple tips to help you enjoy your dinners out on the town without compromising your weight loss goals.

Daily Plan

Incorporate meals out like any others. Dont skip meals beforehand, setting yourself up to be starving, then overeat. Plan. Dont be afraid to call ahead and find out what the specials are going to be and figure out a couple of choices, so that you dont stress out when you arrive and order foods that are not the best options for your diet.

If the restaurant or event is going to serve you buffet-style, again, call ahead to plan. If thats not an option, here are a couple ideas. First, ask someone with whom youre comfortable sharing your dietary concerns to help you. Tell him or her what foods you can eat (or what you cannot eat) and ask the person to fill a plate for you. Or second, walk up to the buffet table(s) beforehand with no plate. Just take a casual stroll around and see which foods are being served. Then decide if you would like to ask someone else to place your selections on a plate for you or if you would prefer to get them yourself.

Slow and Steady

First of all, use manners and eat slowly. Not only will this help with your digestion, it slows your eating down so that you dont gulp and be a chow-hound, eating everything in sight.

If out with others, remember you are also there for socializing, so talk between bites. Set your eating utensils down while you chew. Have a sip of water between bites. The goal is not to see how fast can you wolf down the food while someone else is talking.

Have fun along the way

Food has become our societys way of bringing people together, bonding friends, and building relationships. Unfortunately, for those of us looking to cut back on what and how much we eat, this can make previously enjoyable dinner dates to be dreaded and avoided tasks.

It doesnt have to be this way. Remember why youve been invited out in the first place: to enjoy the company of others. You do not need certain amounts of food or certain types of food to accomplish this. Still go out, but help choose a place with foods you can eat. For example, opt for a restaurant with salads and low-fat menu choices instead of a place with all deep-fried batter-dipped menu choices and heavy desserts. The worst thing you can do for your self-confidence is to shut yourself off from your circle of family and friends, or to stay shut in the house all the time. After all, when you do meet your weight loss goal, you still want friends around to enjoy it with!

Strength in numbers

If youre nervous about your willpower, go through a couple of trial runs with other friends who are watching what they eat. In this case, peer pressure can be a positive thing, as you all encourage one another to make healthy meal decisions.

Avoid the urge to compete with one another to see who can drink the most water and eat only shredded lettuce leaves. Instead, choose an old favorite and split it with a partner. This way, you wont feel deprived and your portion size will automatically be limited. Not only will your waistlines be smaller, but so will your bills!

Call ahead

Chances you, whatever restaurant you will be frequenting has heard every request in the book—twice. If youre concerned you wont be able to find something on the menu that meets your needs, call ahead and explain what youre looking for. Even if its not on the menu, they may be able to whip something up especially for you if youve called in advance.

Phoning early can also provide nutrition information for certain meals, if you need this information. And be flexible and open to new ideas. The cook may have his or her own special recipes and ideas.

Avoid temptation

There is no law that says you must have a basket of bread, butter and oil before a meal out. If it is on your table when you are seated, request that it be brought back to the kitchen.

If your dinner mates are eager to start off with the carbs, then order a glass of water and take a sip each time you are tempted to break bread. Besides, youll want the time you would have wasted buttering and dipping to spend reading the menu for smart, sensible choices.

Dont assume that youll be able to hold out on temptations throughout the entire meal. Set yourself up for success when you order by requesting they leave off the oils and sauces. Request that your meat and vegetables be steamed, not fried. Order a salad (with light or no dressing, on the side) or side of veggies instead of fries or mashed potatoes.

Bring your own…

If there are certain food flavorings that you have come to enjoy as substitutes for traditionally fattening ones, bring them along and request that the chef prepare your meal plain. If you like Splenda in your iced tea, bring along a few packets. If a dash of homegrown or store-bought spices moves your taste buds better than a slathering of mayonnaise and mustard, then bring along a shaker. Bring along you own low-fat dressing for your salad.

On vacation, save on eating out and use the funds to rent a room with a mini-fridge and microwave. Then take along (or pick up) a few lite, healthy items to eat as snacks in-between (or in place of) meals. Avoiding even one or two meals out will help reduce temptation and provides more time to enjoy other vacationing activities.

Its all in the portions

Most restaurants offer half-sizes (at smaller prices). If these are not listed on the menu, just ask, and your request will more than likely be accommodated. Restaurant portions are significantly larger than actual portion sizes; a half-size will more than adequately replace your normal meal size.

Theres no rule that you must order your meal from the entrée list. Peruse the appetizer menu for attractive (and smaller) options. You can also create a delicious and unique meal by combining various side dishes.

Alternately, you can request your doggie bag in advance. If they dont offer to package half your meal for you, decide for yourself (before you begin eating) what an appropriate portion size is and wrap up the remainder.

A doggie bag leaves you something delicious to look forward to the next day. Place it under your seat so it wont present a temptation while youre enjoying your current meal.

Fill up on the good stuff

Drink plenty of water before you leave for the restaurant, and while you wait for the food to arrive. This will help fill you up and prevent hunger-inspired indulgences.

Request your salad (and/or soup, if its not creamy) be brought out first, and dig in. By the time your food arrives, you should be able to more rationally determine what portion sizes are appropriate, and if anything needs to be avoided.

Dreaded desserts

First of all, do not order dessert until you are completely finished with your meal. You may be full and not want anything. And thats certainly not a crime!

After the meal, if everyone is splurging on the dessert menu, keep in mind that you dont have to join in just to be part of the gang. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea to end your meal. Or ask someone to split a dessert with you. Hint: Doggie bags can also be used for desserts! So split it in half and take part home for another day or your neighbor.

You have to be left out of choosing a neat dessert, either. See if the kitchen can put together a fruit bowl or a sorbet dish to satisfy your cravings without putting all your conscientious work at dinner to waste. This might be something to call ahead about..hint!

Distract yourself

Vacations should be a luxurious time to indulge oneself and have fun. Though it does lead to eating out more often, it also removes many of the days temptations: you wont be wandering over to the kitchen when youre bored, or overindulging at the grocery store and then feeling obligated to eat what youve bought.

Spend time in the pool, on the sand, and at the shops, not at the restaurants. Most vacation hot spots are ideal for eating on the go; you can pick up a small meal from a roadside vendor and eat it while walking the boardwalk and enjoying the sights and sounds.

Dont make food about suffering. If the smell of saltwater taffy engulfs you, treat yourself—to one. Having a small amount will indulge your craving without compromising your diet. Better yet, after you buy your taffy, dont begin eating it until youve walked far enough away to avoid being tempted by the smell.

Try making a rule like, If I eat, I need to enjoy a fun activity, too: a walk, bike ride, swim, tennis, putt-putt, etc. Then coordinate daily pairings or events with meal planning. Life, including vacations, does not have to be all about food. Nor does it have to focus on food.

Dont stress

Vacations and meals out are intended to be enjoyment, not torture. If you do go a little overboard, its important not to beat yourself up over it. Forgive yourself and get on with life. Simply use that experience to learn where you can improve the next time you are in that situation.

With the right approach, eating out can be a pleasurable experience. Remember, a successful diet is a lifelong lifestyle modification. You need to be able to incorporate healthful eating out activities into your routine.

What happens if you DO stress? Add extra activities to your schedule. Swim some laps. Walk or jog. Leave your wallet in the trunk and go to a mall for a shop-walk. Take a tour. Visit a museum. Enjoy a park and feed the ducks. Just get out, focus on something else and enjoy life.

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Lyle McDonald

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