Let me set the stage.
You're sitting there, sipping on your seltzer water with lemon, chatting with a friend, menus in hand and the server comes over to take your order.
"Would you like any appetizers to start?", he asks.
You and your friend look at each other and quickly study each other's faces. "How are we doing this?", you think. "Are we being good or are we going to order what we REALLY want?".
You eye the bruschetta appetizer on the menu but then you rationalize that if you're going to eat carbs like that, you might as well order the pasta bolognese dish that you were sort of eying, too.
But, "I don't know", you backtrack, "I could keep this really healthy and actually like myself after the meal. I haven't been to the gym all week, I'll sure as hell not go tonight after a big meal!".
Your friend interrupts your mental gymnastics and answers the servers question with an upbeat, "No, we're all set!" and you quickly switch personas, getting ready to order a Greek Salad with grilled chicken, with no cheese, no croutons and dressing on the side, extra pepperoncini (because we need SOME flavor going on, right?).
How many times have we each gone through this in our lifetime?
I can remember so many dinners where my friends and I would sit, catching up over open menus, sending the server away five times because we "haven't looked yet" and then I'd slowly feel that creeping anxiety build...
Are we going to put on airs about being perfect with our diet or are we going to actually enjoy what we eat tonight?
Are we going to order everything we never let ourselves have and celebrate girl time, life, whatever we can think of to celebrate, or are we going to get real specific about our dietary needs, and ask the chef to:
"hold the sauce"
"put the dressing on the side"
"please swap in cold-pressed extra virgin organic olive oil instead of canola oil".
How many times have we ordered first in a group and by the time the server made his or her way around taking everyone's clean, healthy orders after us, we grab the server before she leaves the table to sheepishly say, "Can I change that side of fries to the seasonal veggies, instead?".
It's almost like it would be easier if we submitted our orders ahead of time so as not to be influenced by each other's on the wagon or off the wagon choices, right?
I think there are 2 things at play when this happens:
1. We are still looking at food as either bad or good. As long we believe that food is either bad or good we will have a mental "approved" or "unapproved" list of foods. Approved foods fit perfectly into the mold of anything we've ever read about healthy, weight-loss friendly foods and anything else...it's going to derail us. No in between...zero gray area.
I was dropping my kids at school this morning and heard a radio morning show talking about what to eat to lose weight. One jock said: "Do you know how much FAT is in a caesar salad? You might as well just eat a sandwich!".
It's this type of all-in or all-off thinking that makes it impossible for us to actually succeed longterm on a diet. Because, we'll either opt for no dressing at all, barely enjoy the salad and eat cookies in an hour, or we'll opt for a big 'ole sandwich because we might as well "just go for it".
Couldn't we order the Caesar salad, get the dressing on the side so we have control over how much we use but still enjoy the hell out of it? Can't we have some cheese on top? At least, we'd get some great nutrients and actually feel satisfied after the meal instead of the dissatisfaction we'd have walking away from a grilled chicken breast and steamed veggies! And, wouldn't that fat in the dressing be a drop in the bucket compared to the 3 cupcakes we'd eat mid-afternoon after our bland "perfect" choice?
Something to consider.
2. We believe that our meal selection defines us. We want to be known as fit and in shape and health conscious so when we're with people who's opinions matter the most to us, we can't possibly show any flaws. And selecting anything that isn't completely clean, well, they're most definitely going to be thinking, "I can't believe she's eating that GLUTEN!". So, we learn to eat clean in public and cheat in private...as if that actually helps us long term.
What if we shifted our perspective and allowed ourselves to live in the middle of deprivation and indulgence? What if we recognized that this shift might allow us to feel more satisfied after meals so we DON'T go binge later. What if the absence of those binges now helped us step into our power to order whatever the heck we want at a restaurant because we know this strategy is working for us longterm?
Thankfully, years later, after practicing moderation for quite some time now, things felt more natural. I didn't gorge myself on food. I didn't make snide remarks about eating some of the bread, like "Oh man, I'm being so bad!".I had some wine. I had some oysters. I had some bread dipped in olive oil. I ordered a phenomenal cracked pepper crusted steak with AMAZING brussel spouts and broccolini on the side. I ate to 80, maybe 85% fullness and walked away happy, satisfied and not stuffed. I had candy after but one or two, not the whole bag. I took home the leftovers and made it into an amazing breakfast.
Start to notice: do you feel anxious making your menu selection? What's coming up for you in that moment? Could you enjoy what you really want in moderation and be better for it in the long run?