Eating out, guests, and situations out of your control

One thing about me that all my friends notice almost immediately is how much I like a schedule. I like to know how each day is going to play out. Obviously, that’s not possible a lot of the time, but when it is, I like to be in control of my time rather than be at the mercy of someone else’s plan.

This has been a boon to me in terms of weight loss over the years. When I was a calorie counter it was always much easier to count calories eating at home. I work from home, and that helps me cut down on the mindless eating and surprisingly caloric meals I consume with other people. If I have my way, I don’t go out to eat more than once or twice a week, and one of those times is a scheduled weekly lunch with my mom.

This might make me sound incredibly boring, but try losing a lot of weight when you eat out all the time. It can be done, but it’s not easy. Just watching everyone around you get the most delicious things on the menu while you’re stuck with a salad or baked chicken or fish. If you’re with other women who are watching their weight maybe you don’t have to worry about being the only one who doesn’t want a bread basket or chips brought to the table before the meal, but if you’re with guys…well, I think you know.

When I lived in Rome, I refused as much as possible to eat dinner out unless it was mandated by my husband for work reasons. Lunch I could handle, because I was very selective in what I ate, and despite what people think about Italian food being fattening, the Roman kitchen is quite conducive to weight loss and management as evidenced by all the ridiculously thin women in stylish clothes and the highest of heels. But still I had to draw the line somewhere, and dinner for me is usually the worst meal to dine out. I go to bed early, so the food just hangs out in my belly wreaking havoc, and people are usually more inclined to drink more and thus eat more. Also, Roman meals last a long time, and they always have bread at the table that becomes something I can’t look away from especially if I’m with boring company. If I asked for the bread to be taken away, I would probably be banned from the restaurant as well. Therefore, eating at home for dinner and most lunches worked well.

Another Roman luxury for me was that I lived across from a daily farmers’ market where I could get fresh fruit and produce every day so eating at home was always delicious and rarely boring. I don’t have that here, but at home I can still manage my nutrition better than eating out. And eating out in the U.S., you almost always have to make compromises on nutrition which isn’t good for your health or your waistline.

But when guests come to town, and particularly if they’re staying in your house, either you have to be on top of it in the kitchen, or you go out to eat…a LOT. I’m the latter. I don’t like cooking for anyone else really, so when people stay with me, we eat out. We go where they want to go often, and therefore I ate at Sonic this month for the first time in two years. I love fast food, but I don’t eat it….unless someone is staying with me and wants to. And what’s more is that I ate lunch and dinner out a lot, and even, God help me, breakfast one time. (Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out so I never let myself do it. Some people find that breakfast fills them up, but for me it is just priming the pump to eat all day long!)

Last month I had three sets of visitors. I ate out a lot. I gained weight. I felt awful physically and emotionally. Sure, I love my friends and family. But I don’t love gaining weight. When you’ve been really fat, that quick weight gain sends you down a shame spiral and convinces you that since you’ve gained five pounds in rapid succession you’re sure to gain ten and then twenty, and so on until you’re once again a contender for a reality show about fat people.

And that’s the real problem. What should be a fun experience is really a stressful event that keeps me perpetually worried and nervous. Eating out once or twice a week is nice. Eating out every meal or even twice a day for multiple days makes me fat and angry with myself. My little sadist comes out in these times. I don’t say masochist, because the thoughts I have towards myself are truly sadistic. I don’t enjoy being hurt, but I seem to enjoy telling myself how bad I am for eating, how stupid and how ridiculous. And I know as well as anyone that doesn’t help. It’s just an expression of frustration that I feel and express over and over.

That month of having visitors and eating out put three pounds back on me. Some would say I’m overreacting and that three pounds isn’t that much, but those people don’t have to work as hard to get that weight back off. It takes me so long, and it takes so much effort that I don’t know if I can do it again. Sometimes it seems too hard.

And there it is. That’s the thing everyone who wants to lose weight needs to know. It is hard. It never stops being hard. It is something I have to think about and try to deal with every single day. And it’s not just me. I used to think there were lots of people who could maintain a perfect shape without thinking about it. I’ve never met one yet. Even those who seem like they’re not thinking about it, are thinking about it. Men and women.

The point: If you don’t want to think about this and stress about it and work on it daily, then don’t even start. I would totally understand. In the end, you’re the only one who is going to benefit from the weight loss, but you’re the only one who’s going to suffer to attain it so decide before you begin if you really want it and all the crap that comes with it.

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