Eating out can be difficult when you’re on your wedding diet (or any diet for that matter).
The uncontrollable nature, temptations and amount of food available when going out often makes trying to lose weight a mental nightmare, plus stops you enjoying an occasion that you usually would.
In some cases people try to avoid going out altogether. This definitely isn’t a good thing.
If your diet restricts you from doing things you enjoy, then it’s not the diet for you. I say this simply because your diet shouldn’t be something you start and stop or go on and off, but a lifestyle of balance where you can enjoy everything in moderation.
Cutting things out and avoiding certain activities is only going to make you wish for the day the diet is going to end, and this is going to make it ever more difficult to get the results you want. A good diet needs to be sustainable. If you can’t sustain what you’re doing, then you’re ultimately gonna fail.
I’m going to split this article down into 3 parts:
- Planning where and what you eat
- Planning your day around going out
- Re-framing the reason for going out
Planning where and what you eat
First of all, you may go out for dinner, but sometimes lunch, so where I mention dinner, the same will apply for lunch as well.
Secondly, it’s important to remember that you have control over most of the situation when you eat out, even if you don’t pick the restaurant. If you have been invited for a meal at someone’s house though, you may have to plan the outing a little differently.
When you know you’re eating at a restaurant:
The first thing to do is find out where you’re eating. If you have a choice, pick somewhere you know will serve healthy and low-calorie options.
Once you know where you are eating, you can usually go online and find their menu. This way you can pre-choose what you’ll eat to fit in with your calories for the day. Write it down so you remember.
Writing down what you will have before you get to the restaurant means that you won’t have to choose under pressure at the moment of ordering, plus you won’t have to look at the menu again and be tempted by other food (while possibly hungry).
Websites and Apps like MyFitnessPal often have the calories and macronutrients of popular restaurants in their databases if you can’t find a particular restaurant’s online menu.
Even if you don’t choose where you are eating, you still have control of everything you put in your mouth while eating out.
When eating out at someone’s house:
This one can be a little more difficult as it may make some people feel rude asking what they will be eating after they have been invited out.
The best way to tackle this is to be as honest and empathetic as possible. Tell the host that you have set yourself a challenge to lose weight for your wedding because you want to feel the best you can on your big day. Tell them that you are really looking forward to the meal and would like to plan it into your day. Ask them if they know what they will be serving and whatever they say, tell them that will be great. You don’t want them to feel bad as they have put effort into inviting you out after all!
The host’s answer to your question is only to stop you worrying that you don’t have any control over what you’ll eat. Once you know what you’ll be eating, you’re not in the dark anymore so you can relax a little. You can then plan it into your day using the tips in the next section.
Planning your day around going out
When you know you’re going out you can make sure you plan ahead for the meal.
You have a few choices here. You could:
- Reduce your calories on the day.
- Reduce your calories on the days leading up to the event.
- Decide you’ll eat to your maintenance calories (what your body requires for the day rather than to lose weight). Doing this means you won’t lose any weight that day, but you won’t put on any either. This isn’t a big deal as the amount of weight you lose in one day is a very tiny amount in the grand scheme of things.
Reduce your calories on the day
Most people are used to eating 3-4 meals per day with similar calories in each. If you know that one meal you’ll eat during the day will have a greater amount of calories, then you can simply eat fewer of your calories in the other meals of the day.
Let’s use the example of Kate who is on 1,500 calories per day and picks a meal that’s 500 Calories plus a glass of wine that’s 250 Calories for the outing she will have in the evening. That leaves 750 Calories for the rest of the day. This could be split however she wants. She may have two meals of 375 Calories (breakfast and lunch), or even fast until lunch and have the whole 750 Calories in one go.
Fasting (or Intermittent fasting or IF) is a popular strategy to save up calories for certain times of the day when you know you’ll be eating more. There’s nothing magic about fasting as some people think though – it’s just a way of controlling how many calories you consume. It’s been popularised in diets like the 5:2 or the 16:8.
In the example, Kate could even fast all the way until her evening meal and consumed the whole 1,500 Calories in one go if she wanted to enjoy herself much more. It’s all about the compromise for gain later on.
Reduce your calories on the days leading up to the event
In a similar strategy to the one above, if you know about your meal well in advance, then you can start working it into your diet plan ahead of time. This is a more relaxed approach as you can save up or “bank” calories well in advance.
The previous example talked about Kate who was on 1,500 Calories per day to lose weight and wanted to consume 750 Calories in the restaurant she’s visiting with her friends in the evening.
If she knew she was going out 5 days in advance, she could cut 150 Calories (750 divided by 5) off her daily allowance up until the day of the meal. This means consuming 1,350 Calories per day instead of 1,500, and will “bank” up 750 Calories over the week for her meal.
Decide you’ll eat to your maintenance calories
In another example, Kate could also decide that she will eat to her maintenance calories on the day of her meal. This doesn’t mean going off the diet, but just going back to the daily energy requirement for her body. She won’t lose weight on that day, but she can also enjoy herself a bit more without putting on weight.
Let me explain this one further…If Kate is on 1,500 Calories to lose weight, then her maintenance calorie level is likely to be 1,750 to 2,000 Calories.
Obviously, this won’t fit in a 750 Calorie meal, but a combination of this method and the previous calorie “banking” would work well here.
When are you invited out without notice
This is the most difficult one to deal with, especially if it’s within hours of going out.
There are a few strategies that we can implement here.
The first is to remember that you would have had calories left in your day for your dinner anyway, so you can pick a sensible low-calorie option.
You can also combine this with the “eating to maintenance level” technique mentioned above to allow for a few extra calories in your meal.
Remember that you should never feel obliged to eat anything you don’t want to either.
Re-framing the reason for going out
This one is really important to remember. Going out is not just about eating and drinking – it’s to be social and enjoy the company of others. It may even be a celebration like a birthday or a wedding.
When you go out, enjoy the social side of the event. Don’t be disappointed that you can’t have the highest calorie option on the menu. Enjoy what you are having and enjoy the other aspects as well!
Just a few ideas here – enjoy getting ready and looking good for the meal. Look forward to catching up with friends. You may even get to enjoy some dancing too if it’s that kind of event.
Also, keep in mind that you’re not restricting yourself forever. When you reach your goal weight, you will be able to increase your calories and enjoy things a little more towards the extreme side of the moderation balance.
What not to do
It’s really important to not react to going out by reducing your calories or doing more exercise afterwards. Doing this creates a negative mindset of treating food as a bad thing and punishing yourself for eating too much. This is especially true for exercise. You don’t want to see exercise as a punishment, but an enjoyable thing you can do to help you towards getting toned up and looking great in your wedding dress.
One last thing to mention is that if you do weigh yourself the morning after a meal out, take the number you see with a pinch of salt – Literally, as restaurant meals as usually quite high in salt. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the extra water your body retains because of a higher salt intake can make your weight shoot up for a few days. This won’t affect fat loss, but it may mask it on the scale.
I also want to mention that it’s not necessary to count calories, and not everyone will be counting calories on their diet. You can implement the same strategies outlined in this article by doing swaps for lower calorie options. This enables you to eat the same amount of food (so it helps keep you full), but while reducing the amount of calories you are consuming.
Examples of this would be to swap starchy carb sources like rice, pasta, potato, bread, and replace them with fibrous and leafy vegetables (most things you’d get in the fruit and veg section at the supermarket). This can include things like broccoli, courgette, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, spinach and kale. You can cook these in creative ways with spices and seasoning to make them taste amazing.
As a final thought, I just want to mention exercise. The strategies I’ve outlined in this article have been around what you consume (calories in). What you expend (calories out) is also a factor and can be a useful strategy to think about when trying to save up calories. If you increase your energy output before a meal out (whether it be on the days leading up to the event, or on the day), you’ll also “bank” up some extra calories for your meal.
I mentioned above that it wasn’t a good idea to do exercise to “burn” off calories after you’ve eaten out as it creates a negative mindset, however it’s ok to burn off more calories in your strategy before eating out as long as you see it as an enjoyable activity which is helping you towards your weight-loss goal.
If you’re counting steps, for every 10,000 steps over your usual amount for the day, you’ll burn about 400 Calories extra. So for example, if you do 15,000 steps instead of 10,000, then you’ll have 200 extra calories in the bank.