Oh yeah! A date night this week.
I’m very psyched about that. Our friend Kiernan hangs out with our son for a few hours every 2-3 weeks so my husband and I can have an official date night. Unlike most people in the US, who eat outside the home an average of 4-5x /week, we really only go out for dinner on these planned nights, unless we are on vacation or out of town, or on an occasional lunch with a friend, but not often in between.
There are a few reasons for this. One being there aren’t too many places to go. We live in a small community, and most of the restaurants worth going to are either super-expensive, so you don’t go very often, or the food is mediocre or at least equal to what we can make ourselves, so we might as well opt for home. Also, when you don’t feel like cooking, the urge to call for delivery is non-existent because no restaurants offer that here. And of course, with my son’s nut allergy, it’s tough to go anywhere spontaneous, we have to preview menus and make calls to restaurants prior to going to ensure his safety. And take out? Again, too much work learning all the ingredients. This gets a little tiring.
So yes, date nights are special. And in preparation, I get super-excited, start thinking about where we are going to go, what I might have, and then think about my diet for the next few days so I can plan accordingly.
My friend Chris, who is also my most loyal blog reader and commenter (thank you Chris, you are the best!), posted a funny observation on her newsfeed the other day. She was at a conference dinner with a group of cardiologists, and she noted most ordered steak dinners with a beurre blanc sauce, with wine and dessert. She was a little surprised they didn’t go for more heart-healthy options considering their profession, and when she asked them about it, they mentioned it was a splurge meal.
Funny. But I can definitely relate.
One of the things I love about date night, or going out at all, because I don’t do this often and I plan carefully, is that I can and will eat whatever I want.
When the server comes over to us and asks if we would like the wine list, of course! Appetizer? Absolutely, how about the Duck ravioli with Potstickers, or at one particular place…Parmesan truffle frites (!!). Bread. Oh yeah. Salad too? Yup. Entree? The fish special sounds pretty good over a decadent Wild Mushroom Risotto, with fresh vegetables of course. And for dessert.. that Molten Chocolate Cake sounds amazing. And no, we will not share…
I get a lot of stares. I think mostly because people wonder how the heck anyone my size can eat so much. Maybe they think I’m one of those annoying people who can stay slim and eat like a lumberjack, and giving them that impression is kind of fun. It drives me crazy watching someone hold back from ordering what they really want at a wonderful restaurant. No butter for bread, or even worse, no bread at all. A salad or boring chicken dish for dinner. And, oh no…no dessert, that would be bad! My biggest pet peeve is skim milk in a cappuccino or latte ?? I mean really, that can’t be all that good? And then the person looks miserable during their meal, and stares longingly at everyone else’s, sad about their need to be “good” , but also feeling virtuous they were able to avoid temptation, while others were not.
How is denial good? I just want to say to them, be careful about what you eat the rest of the time, but when it’s worth it, enjoy!
A few weeks ago I did a search, wondering if I could pin down a statistic estimating the percentage of people who lose weight who eventually gain it back. There really wasn’t a specific number aside from “most”. But the one concrete number I saw more frequently than others was “over 80%”.
It’s no wonder so many people do gain that weight back. Because when on weight loss programs,we are told we need to deny ourselves of everything we love. No alcohol! No sugar! No bread! And then when we lose the weight on this quick fix denial diet, we are so scared to eat anything ever again because we are afraid of gaining the weight back. The problem is though, we all love food! We love the smells, the tastes. We love to be with friends and family, and wonderful foods are always around. Denial is not sustainable for the long-haul. If you love and appreciate different foods and cooking, continuing to say “no, thank you” forever just sucks the life of you.
So “most” of us fail. Because we can’t live up to the ideal of eating perfectly clean 100% of the time. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
According to the Center for Disease Control and other sources, including my own experiences, keeping eating patterns consistent as much as possible day-to-day, and planning for special occasions, is one of the best ways to keep your weight in-check over time. Many people, I know, cringe at the idea of keeping a food journal, but it’s really helpful in learning how much you eat throughout the day, and weaning yourself off the foods that can put you over the edge. A journal can also tell you the reverse: when I have eaten well, often I can see there’s some room on the menu for a little decadence. I have been keeping a relatively loose journal for about four years.
My basic diet, during the day typically includes: Breakfast: coffee with cream, melted cheese (either swiss or cheddar) on mixed grain bread (homemade), 4-5 oz of homemade whole milk Greek yogurt. fruit, a little maple syrup. For lunch: local eggs, one or two depending on what style. Sometimes with veggies. Perhaps another piece of bread or more yogurt. Snacks: Sunflower or Pumpkin seeds. Fruit. Sometimes cheese and crackers. Often frozen blueberries with whipped cream. For dinner, we rotate meals with lots of fresh veggies, local beef or lamb or chicken or fish, a few times per week, quinoa or pasta. And wine, a little most nights.
And that’s it. Kind of boring but it works for me.
But then, on date night, or dinner at a friends house? Watch out! Similar to Chris’s cardiologist friends (assuming they are being honest and not just embarrassed to be caught in the act of eating the opposite of heart-healthy…she did say they were all in good shape…), keeping to relatively similar meals most days, and keeping to the exercise schedule, I can splurge when it’s worth it.
I stagger the good with the not-so-good .
If unplanned decadent treats tempt me, I decide if it’s worth it and if it will balance in my plan, and make a decision.
If I’m indifferent, I don’t eat it.
Now obviously this strategy will be more complicated if on vacation, or on a business trip or during the holidays and for some reason huge amounts of tempting foods are placed in front of you at each meal. It’s much harder to plan that way and say no, so you need a slightly different strategy. But when at home and with a typical routine, this works really well.
If you are a good- food-loving person who struggles with finding this balance, try to find that menu consistency day-to-day. Try eating in more often, or taking your lunch to work or when on-the-go. This strategy may help you to enjoy yourself a little more when it’s truly worth it. Because that one piece of Toblerone pecan pie, or a few glasses of Cabernet, or piping hot sourdough bread, or cream rather than skim, these will not make you gain weight by themselves, but being able to indulge in the sensory smells and tastes when the time is right is sometimes just what you need to find that strength to be disciplined and on track the next day.
Now, to decide where to go for date night tomorrow night…I think the Parmesan truffle frites may be calling my name!
Do you have a good strategy to balance your love for different foods with achieving a healthy lifestyle? Would love to hear your stories!
CDC article on Maintaining Weight: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/keepingitoff.html
To check out my Exercise Strategy, because eating this way is dependent on staying active as well: https://afitandfocusedfuture.com/2013/03/19/strong-arming-the-future/
Myfitnesspal – a great website w/ mobile apps for keeping a food journal to help keep yourself in check: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/