How To Eat Out And Still Lose Weight

29 Nov 2021

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How To Eat Out And Still Lose Weight

Eating out can be a stressful endeavour for many who are looking to make the most out of their body transformation. We all know that for optimal results, living in a bubble where everything you consume is measured, portioned out correctly and consumed at the same time each day will get you there.

But let’s be honest, that is completely unrealistic and in the real world we simply are going to have to eat out at some point while still having the intention of losing body fat. Luckily, most places these days have very healthy options that you can choose from but we also know that it’s not as easy as just “order a salad and shut up”, especially when you’re around friends or family who are consuming way more than just a salad.

Not to fear though. In this ultimate guide we are going to break down as many scenarios as we can that will not only allow you to still reach your transformation, but more importantly, teach you how to do it in a way that doesn’t leave you starving all day by excessive buffering but instead, gives you a blueprint on what strategy to use and when.

Restaurants, Business Meetings & Social Events

When approaching any event where you need to eat out, the most important factor will always be your mindset surrounding the event. Far too often, there can be a lot of anxiety in the lead up, especially if you are in the middle of a diet or at the tail end of a grind. 

Unfortunately, this not only leads to making poor choices but it also makes it hard for you to enjoy the reason that you’re there, to actually socialise with people! That’s right, the food is something that comes with the experience, not the other way around and the sooner you can realise this, the better off you will be for the reasons mentioned below.

Nobody Actually Cares What You Order

People are too concerned about what they are going to eat so just pick the meal that is going to line up with your goals the best. 

This is true for many other situations as well such as the gym. People care more about how they look vs what you’re doing so use their narcissism to your advantage!

You Don’t Need To Have Appetizers, Desserts, Drinks Or The Complementary Items

Just like many people use alcohol as a social lubricant, the act of eating in and of itself is another strategy humans like to use when they feel relatively uncomfortable. Instead of feeling like you need to eat, try engaging in a conversation with someone and making yourself the life of the party. You will be surprised by how effective this can be in deterring unwanted comments regarding your food choices.

Go into the event with confidence and make it about the company and you will find it much easier to stick to your guns.

Prepare For The Wait

Many places will serve appetizers and drinks with a lengthy delay until the mains arrive. This means that by the time everybody has arrived and ordered, you could be waiting up to an hour or more before your main meal arrives. 

This is done deliberately as appetizers are literally there to make you want to eat more. Where people go wrong is thinking that a small nibble here and there will satisfy their hunger while they wait when in fact, the opposite usually happens. They get even more hungry and because they have already taken that first bite, the “f**k it” mentality kicks in and things go south real quickly.

Not to worry, one of the easiest ways to counter this is to use the “protein pre load” strategy which is outlined below.

There Is Always A Good Choice You Can Make

If possible, having a look at the menu ahead of time will allow you to know exactly what you want to order when the time comes. This will remove a lot of decision fatigue
 
No matter where you go, a really simple guideline to follow would to be use the "one plate rule" meaning you simply just have a main, no appetisers, desserts or drinks and on that plate you want to have:
 
a) 1/2 the plate should be made up of fibrous vegetables. Don’t worry too much about the type, just load up on as many as you like while making sure to ask for the sauces/dressings on the side.
 
b) There needs to be protein on there (ideally 1/4-1/3 of the plate). If you can get a leaner source such as chicken breast, fish, soy mince, quorn or tofu then great but if you only have the option of having something a little fattier such as beef, chicken thighs or salmon then that is completely fine.
 
c) If you’re in a fat loss phase, everything else "on the side" would be the safest bet here..
 
The main goal here is to keep things simple, high volume and opt for lower calorie options. Remember, the goal of any restaurant is to make your food taste sensational meaning there will be hidden extras in their salads and cooking methods. Don’t be too worried about them as we are not trying to calculate the exact calories, just make the best choice we can given the circumstances.
 
Check out some of the meals below to get an idea of what we mean.

Strategies To Eat And Lose Weight

By far, the biggest mistake we have seen across the board when it comes to planning for a meal out with friends or family is excessively buffering either on the day or throughout the week. If done too aggressively, many simply lose control at the event due to being so hungry when they arrive. 

You combine high levels of hunger with everyone around you eating very palatable food, even the most strong willed people will have a hard time navigating this. Instead of trying to beat the game through heavy restriction, we believe that incorporating strategies that take the emphasis away from number crunching and move towards a more reasonable middle ground is best. 

We know that tracking everything you consume is not something you want to do for the rest of your life so doesn’t it make sense to have strategies in place that when implemented correctly, automatically reduce your intake at these events without needing to input every food item into myfitnesspal? 

A Simple Swap

Ideally, we want to get everyone we work with to a place where they don’t need to buffer whatsoever as they have the knowledge and mindset in place to eat normally for the day while simply swapping out one of their meals for what’s on offer at the social event. Usually this will be the largest meal of the day for that individual meaning if lunch is their bigger meal but they are attending a dinner event, they would move their regular dinner to lunchtime.

Granted, this may be harder in a fat loss phase (albeit still possible) but it should definitely be the approach most should take during their consolidation (reverse dieting) and investment (muscle building) phases. 

Many long term RNT’ers such as Shiv and Sanjeeta can easily go to an event, select the most appropriate meal for their goals without the need to buffer or do anything drastic.

Applicability:
  • Great for one off meals at a place you’re familiar with.
  • Can work well during the process phase (fat loss) but does require a good understanding of nutrition.
  • Suitable for individuals who have more calories to play with.
  • The venue must provide protein rich options.
  • Ideal choice for consolidation and/or investment phase. 

Protein Pre Load

As simple as this strategy is, it truly can be a game changer at keeping your appetite in check while also giving you a big boost in protein meaning you don’t have to worry about it when you sit down for your meal. Here is what you do:
  • Add 30-50g of whey/vegan protein powder into a shaker or blender.
  • Add 3g of xanthan gum (thickening agent).
  • Add 400-600ml of liquid.
  • Add some ice if using a blender.
  • Shake or blend until you get a smooth consistency.
The combination of the protein powder along with the xanthan gum will give it a slightly thicker texture and slow down absorption when in the stomach. This will allow you to go into your event with a full stomach, reducing the chances of you making a poor decision.

The closer you can consume the shake to the planned meal, the better the impact!

Applicability:
  • When you know the venue you’re going to doesn’t provide many protein rich options.
  • Longer social events where you know there is going to be a lot of finger food or snacks being served.
  • Venues that offer more shared plates/tapas style cuisine. 
  • Venues where there is a long wait between appetizers, mains and deserts.
  • Having a meal with the family where you know the majority of the food is calorie dense.
  • During the middle/end of your fat loss phase when managing hunger becomes more important.

Crank Up The Volume

One of the cues that our brains use to detect fullness is through the stretch receptors in the stomach. When the walls of the stomach expand enough through mechanical distention, satiety signals are sent to the brain to tell us to stop eating. This is independent of calories and explains why you can eat 2000 calories worth of cookies (low volume, high calories) in 5 minutes yet struggle to consume 100 calories worth of broccoli (high volume, low in calories).

Our bodies and brains therefore get accustomed to consuming a certain amount of food and fluid each day. Using this information, we can actually temporarily “trick” ourselves into thinking we are eating the same amount of food by removing foods from our diet that are relatively higher in calories and adding in more lower calorie options. 

The aim is to make each of your normal meals “weigh the same” meaning you can create a buffer throughout the day yet still feel like you’re eating the same amount of food, leading to high levels of fullness while giving you extra calories to work with at the social event.

The best satiating combo will usually always be a combination of foods that contain a significant amount protein, fibre and water so we want to make sure we are prioritising foods that fit that criteria.

An important note here is that drinking water alone does not have the same appetite suppressing effects that have been touted for many years. The magic of water only comes through when it is found in the food matrix mentioned above. Here is an excerpt from this article, stating what the lead author found.

“Feeling full depends on eating a satisfying amount of food. Tiny portions just don't do it no matter how much water you drink on the side. The energy density of food, or the ratio of calories to the weight of food, is what matters. Foods with a high energy density have lots of calories in a small serving and are typically lower in water content. For example, a 100-calorie serving of raisins, a high energy density food, contains only one quarter cup. A 100-calorie serving of grapes, a low energy density, high - water content food, contains one and two thirds cups.”

Staying hydrated comes with many other health benefits, but trying to drink a gallon of water to curb your appetite may only be delaying the inevitable.

Example Day

Let’s take two meals (breakfast and lunch) where the above guidelines would be put in place.

Breakfast #1- Weight = 450g Calories= 489

Bagel- 100g (250 calories)
Protein Powder- 30g - (121 calories)
Peanut Butter- 20g (118 calories)

Breakfast #2: Weight- 650g, Calories = 256 calories.

Egg Whites- 250ml (126 calories)
Assorted Vegetables- 200g (50 calories)
Bowl Of Mixed Berries- 200g (80 calories)

Lunch #1: Weight= 505g, calories =505

Chicken Breast- 150g (248 calories)
Olive Oil- 5ml (45 calories)
Sweet Potato- 200g (172 calories)
Assorted vegetables- 150g (40 calories)

Lunch #2: Weight = 600g, calories = 351

Chicken Breast- 150g (248 calories)
1cal spray (2 second spray)- (5 calories)
Pumpkin- 300g- (104 calories)
Green Vegetables- 150g (20 calories)

Not only have we increased the total weight of both meals, but we have also brought down the calories significantly with a few minor food swaps.

By implementing this same strategy across the day, you would have essentially created a very large calorie deficit without feeling excessively hungry and giving you a much better chance of success. 

Applicability:
  • Very good strategy to use at the tail end of a diet.
  • Having a meal with the family where you know the majority of the food is calorie dense.
  • Before any fine dining experience where portions will be relatively small but with plenty of variety such as engagement parties, weddings and cocktail parties.

What About The Calories?

In light of our motto of “teaching you to fish” we are not going to give you a list of each food or drink item and their corresponding calorie allotment. You can find this information with a simple Google search and practically, we don’t want you trying to figure out the exact calories you are consuming when you’re going out for a meal.

Are we saying that calories don’t matter? Of course not, but if you approach these situations with the intention of staying on track by making sensible choices and implementing the strategies outlined above, you will by default, consume less calories.

You don’t need to know the exact calories of something to make an informed decision but it does help to know the following:
  • Salads that contain a lot of dressing, oils, nuts, olives and other high fat items can easily be over 1000 calories. Ask for the dressings on the side and examine each ingredient before ordering.
  • Lean meats and roasted vegetables/potatoes are still cooked in more oil/butter than you think. 
  • The sauces are extremely calorically dense. Ask for them on the side or omitted completely.
  • Opt for tomato based soups/dishes, not cream when appropriate.
  • Alcohol has plenty of empty calories that add up quickly, especially mixed drinks and cocktails.
The below table taken from here illustrates just how many calories you’re taking in with certain beverages with each serving size.

Light beers and single shot hard liquors mixed with diet sodas clock in at ~100 calories with wines around ~130 calories per glass.

BEVERAGE | SERVING SIZE | CALORIES

Beer 

Beer (light) | 12 oz (355 ml) | 103
Beer (regular) | 12 oz (355 ml) | 153
Beer (higher alcohol, craft beers) | 12 oz (355 ml) | 170 to 350

Distilled Alcohol & Wine 

Gin (80 proof) | 1.5 oz (45 ml) | 97
Vodka (80 proof) | 1.5 oz (45 ml) | 97
Rum (80 proof) | 1.5 oz (45 ml) | 97
Whiskey (80 proof) | 1.5 oz (45 ml) | 97
White table wine | 5 oz (145 ml) | 128
Muscat | 5 oz (145 ml) | 129
Chardonnay | 5 oz (145 ml) | 128
Red table wine | 5 oz (145 ml) | 125

Remember, the number one goal of the restaurant is to make you eat/drink as much as possible meaning they must prioritise taste and texture over all else. The cheapest and most efficient way to make anything taste better is to add fat, salt and sugar so if you usually have a chicken salad at home that is around ~200 calories, it’s not a stretch to say that a similar looking item in a restaurant could be close to 500 calories or more.

The main takeaway here is that even when you do choose the most sensible option, there is still a good chance that meal will have more calories than you think. If you can taste some extra oil on your grilled chicken breast or salad, don’t stress about it. 

You made the best decision you could given the circumstances and if you focus more on that approach vs trying to be 100% bang on with your calories, you will find these events far less stressful.

Simple Tips For Different Places

The below are all examples of implementing everything we have talked about so far. Please bear in mind that the “avatar” here is doing everything they can to meet their fat loss goals while simultaneously demonstrating how you can make the best out of any situation.

This is NOT how someone needs to eat at all times. In fact, once you are at a body weight you’re happy with you should be able to go to any of these places, have whatever you like and not let it impact you in a negative way. 

What Do I Eat At A Burger Place?

Burger joints are actually a lot easier to navigate than most people think. Protein is usually not an issue and most do allow you to order “naked burgers” where you get the salad and meat/plant based alternative on its own without the buns.

If not though, the following can be a great way to still enjoy a meal without going off track.
  • Aim to order the burger that offers the leanest protein source which is usually grilled chicken breast or a plant based alternative.
  • Stay away from anything that says “deep fried” or “crispy”.
  • Ask for extra salad/vegetables on the side.
  • Remove the buns, throw away or give to friends.
  • Stay away from any other sides.
  • Get a large diet soda (or two) for extra fullness.

What Do I Eat At A Pizza Place?

Pizza places can be harder to navigate as the protein to carbohydrate/fat ratio is just not great. To get a satiating amount of protein, you will also be consuming a lot of extra calories that go along with it which is why we recommend using the “protein pre load” approach as part of the overall strategy.
  • Consume a whey protein shake consisting of 30-50g of whey mixed with 2g of xantham gum with 400-600ml of water before heading in.
  • Go for the vegetarian pizza as this will usually be the one lowest in calories.
  • Thin crusts will be less calorically dense than thick crusts.
  • Limit yourself to 1-2 slices depending on your goals. 
  • Ask for extra salad/vegetables on the side.
  • Get a large diet soda (or two) for extra fullness.

What Do I Eat At An Indian Restaurant?

Again, using the “protein pre load” strategy would be very wise here, especially if you are vegetarian/vegan. Combine that with the “one plate rule” and the following would be great options to make sure you stay on track.
  • Dal dishes that are based in a tomato sauce (not cream).
  • Grilled kebabs and vegetables.
  • Tandoori based meals.
  • Chana Masala
  • Baingan Bharta
Try limiting dishes that come with a lot of rice, are made in a cream sauce or contain really high fat items such as paneer or lamb as dishes such as Rogan Josh use the fattiest portions. 

What Do I Eat At An All You Can Eat Buffet?

Situations like this can be very troublesome for many but it’s important to look on the positive side with these too. You have access to a lot of great lean protein options, a variety of vegetables, fruits and you can serve your own portion of something small on the side if you like.
  • Definitely utilise the “protein pre load” strategy prior to going in.
  • Use the “one plate rule” and build your plate accordingly.
  • Make a mountain of assorted vegetables that covers half your plate.
  • Pick your favourite lean protein sources.
  • Add a small amount of something you really like (optional).
  • Consume diet sodas and/or water with your meal.

Holiday Periods: Thanksgiving/ Diwali/ Christmas

First things first, 99.5% of people don’t need to be going into these celebrations with the goal of wanting to lose weight. If you have a physique competition or a photoshoot within 3-4 weeks of these events, we highly advise you suck it up, stay on plan and enjoy smelling everyone else’s food. 

For the majority, this is a time to relax with friends and family meaning if you have been working hard for the majority of the year, giving yourself permission to consciously have a little more food and allowing your weight to either stay the same or increase by 1-2% is perfectly reasonable. 

Interestingly enough, approaching the holidays with this mindset not only makes the entire experience far more enjoyable but it can also set you up for a more successful fat loss phase when you do get back to your regular routine. Think of this time as a bit of a “pit stop” or “diet break” where you refill the gas tank a little (not overflow it) to give you more miles in the long run. One small step back, three big steps forward.

Perpetually dieting can be mentally exhaustive for many people, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. By strategically breaking up your dieting phases with small breaks of eating at maintenance for a week or two, the weight loss journey can become far less daunting. Recent research has also shown this and the holidays can be a perfect time to implement these breaks.

Because everybody celebrates these events very differently, it is impossible to lay out an exact strategy or playbook in how to handle them. Instead, your mindset and the way you view the holidays are going to determine your outcomes more than any “holiday hack” or “detox protocol”. Saying that, most people would do well across the board by adopting the following behaviours.

Intention Is Everything

Intention with these events is absolutely key. Establishing what you want to get out of the day and having a plan of action will allow you to enjoy the experience for what it is, which is a time to celebrate with friends and family. 

If there is a certain dish you really want to have for whatever reason, don’t be afraid to incorporate it within moderation. If you want to go all out, then that is also completely fine. You may be surprised to hear that but there is a big difference in making that your intention vs having the intention to eat in moderation but then losing all control. Interestingly, it’s usually the latter who ends up overconsuming more and feeling guilty afterwards.

Know your intention and then ruthlessly execute.

Choose Wisely

Be selective with what you truly want. You do not have to have everything that is on offer, especially if you know what you really like.

Before the meal, tell yourself exactly how much of that item you’re going to have and commit to it with zero guilt which brings us to our next point.

Zero Guilt

Let’s say you had all the best intentions to practice moderation, make the day about your family and friends but as the day went on, you simply lost all control. You overate, you feel sick, lethargic and extremely defeated. What do we do?

First of all, unless you cheated on your partner, insulted a family member or inflicted harm on anyone else then you have nothing to feel guilty about. You lost control and ate some extra food, it’s not a big deal. If anything, it’s a good opportunity to learn and reflect on what happened with no judgement, and just get on with your life the next day.

There is no need to do a detox, hours of cardio or sign up for a 12 week challenge the day after. 

Identity

To finish things off, one of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself when deciding on how to approach any scenario is:

“What would the person who I want to become do in this situation?”
One of the most common reports amongst people who have been successful in keeping the weight off over the long term is having to completely change their identity. This meant auditing their relationships, sacrificing areas of their life that they once enjoyed and embarking on a path of prioritising self care. 

We are not going to lie to you here. This is by no means easy, it’s extremely difficult and can take months or years to lay down the neural pathways necessary for such a change. Either way, the more times you make choices that are in line with your ideal future self, the more embedded these behaviours become.

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”- James Clear.

Based on the hundreds of transformations we have facilitated, the above lines up perfectly with what we have seen in the trenches. They have full control in whatever environment they are in as they do not need to exert willpower, resist temptation or anything of the sort. They would rather just eat the healthiest options for the most part, manage their portions and enjoy the time with their family and friends. 

When that becomes the core of who you are, every decision you make will line up with that identity meaning the entire process becomes a breeze. Never again will you feel anxious when approaching social situations, or guilty about your food choices and you will never need to read an article on how to eat out.

If this sounds appealing to you and you’re serious about making a shift in your life, get on the waitlist for our January intake and learn all you need to know about staying in shape forever.

Happy holidays!

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