I had a SPEED Weight Management Coaching client email me this:

My weekend was bad [she means her diet] because I went to dinner with friends on Firday and had breakfast with my family on Sunday.

My response was something like “… so get to the part that makes your weekend bad.” Are we supposed to never eat out again? We’re making a lifestyle change, right? That’s the catch phrase now, isn’t it? Well, freaking out every time you’re asked to eat out is not a healthy lifestyle decision.

You can literally eat out every meal and lose weight. If you don’t believe me, check out Fat Head. Not only did Tom Naughton eat out 3 times/day for an entire month, he ate mostly at fast food restaurants. And he lost weight while doing it. Tom’s big on personal responsibility and I agree.

Here are the steps you want to take when deciding to eat out:

1. Try to pick the restaurant. Choose a restaurant that provides their menu and nutrition info online.

2. Before you go, look at the nutrition info and choose a meal you’ll enjoy and figure out how much of it you can eat.

For example, if you choose a Hummus and Goat Cheese Salad with Salmon from Gordon Biersch you’ll see there are 1800 calories in this meal. Since that may very well be more than you typically consume in a day, you won’t be able to eat the whole thing. By the way, this salad comes with a hefty serving of bread. Avoid the bread and you avoid a pretty good chunk of those calories. I’d estimate at least 400 calories from bread alone, and that’s being conservative.

3. Follow the plan. That’s it. Your mind is made up, now instead of having to worry about what you’re going to eat and how this whole trip is going to ruin your attempt to lose weight, you can just sit back and enjoy the company of your friends and family.

4. When you get home, journal about the experience. Celebrate the fact that you were able to enjoy a great meal with great people and it fit perfectly into your plan. Remember this for next time.

What to do if you can’t plan ahead:

Sometimes people will choose the restaurant for you or you won’t have access to nutrition info. The first thing you want to do is stay calm. Seriously. People get all nervous about this stuff and it’s really no big deal. Nervousness shows that you really care and are trying hard, but it’s counterproductive to get all worked up. So, step number 1 is:

1. Take a deep breath, smile, and pick up the menu.

2. Order a simple item. Think “meat and veggies.”  Keep in mind that restaurants add calories to things in ways you can’t fathom (see Gordon Biersch salad above). The more lavish the meal, the more opportunities the restaurant has to sneak in calories, sugar, etc. Try to stick to water with your meal. If you’re bothered about having a drink, say you’ll be the designated driver and you’re not comfortable having even one drink.

3. When the food comes, eat slowly and enjoy every bite. Eat until you’re comfortable, not stuffed. And most importantly, have a good time.

4. Go home and journal.

The big picture

Remember that it’s all about the big picture. If you go out to eat and the meal you choose puts your calories over your weight loss threshold and into a maintenance area for one day, big deal. Try to picture a graph of your weight loss over time. There will be little bumps, spikes, dips, and flat areas, but overall the line will travel from the high left to the low right.

How to "survive" dinner with the family on a weight loss plan