help me order myself to order right!
August 4, 2011 12:28 PM   Subscribe

How can I trick myself into ordering food at a restaurant that is within my diet plan?

I need to lose weight and I have researched and decided that the plan I can probably do most easily is low(er) carb. I have been fairly successful with it when I prepare my own meals but when I go out to eat, I have such trouble making myself order the low carb option. It should be easy enough to order a salad with chicken on it or some sort of meat and veggies but for some reason, I always convince myself that it'll be ok to have the bacon, lettuce, and lobster flatbread instead (just as a possible true life example from today's lunch).

I need some good ways to trick or convince myself to do this. I know it's silly but I think something could work if I could figure out the right thing to do. So far I was thinking of these options:

- tell myself that if I order something "good" right now then I can have something "bad" at the next meal (and then repeat, repeat, repeat).
- have someone else order for me
- don't even look at the menu and just ask the waiter to bring me a salad with chicken on it.

Let me hear whatever tricks you use to keep yourself on your diet plan. Thanks!
posted by dawkins_7 to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Try weighing yourself every day (at the same time), and plot on a graph the running average of the last five days. You should then be able to see each week, and to some extent each day or two, whether what you have been doing very recently is helping or hurting your progress. I find that the immediate feedback is important to keeping on track.
posted by fritley at 12:32 PM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I always order a side salad first, and eat all of it before I'm allowed to eat anything else. If I get a burger, that means a salad instead of fries, and the entire salad gets eaten before I touch the burger. This usually means I eat only half the burger, and take the other half home to be eaten with a salad for lunch the next day. If I'm ordering an entree, I'll often ask for double vegetables and no starch--still with a salad first.

I think the key to this is to try to limit eating out to opportunities/times when you're less likely to be rushed; it's hard to eat sensibly when you've got an hour for lunch and can only pop over to the sandwich shop. Would it be possible for you to bring your lunch, and save the eating out for dinners?
posted by stellaluna at 12:33 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

i'm a vegetarian, as such, when i go to a restaurant i quickly skim the menu, discarding every suggestion with chicken, beef, lobster, ham, bacon, octopus, etc. this leaves with with three or four options and then i select the one that looks best. every once in a great while i have to go back over the menu and figure out what i can remove meat from because there are not good vegetarian options, but i don't even look a th meaty stuff until i've determined that i can't just order off the menu. maybe something similar would work for you?

play a little mental game - carbs are poison. if you HAVE to, you can ingest tiny amounts of poison or get a dish that has poison on the side, but you'll be far safer to get a non-poisoned dish. so, set yourself up for success, only consider and ponder the low carb options. some places even make this easier for you by having a separate section of the menu for weight watchers/south beach/curves/etc. otherwise, your salad options are usually not anywhere near the pot roast on the menu, so only read down so far.
posted by nadawi at 12:35 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

the bacon, lettuce, and lobster flatbread instead (just as a possible true life example from today's lunch).

This is a perfectly good low-carb lunch if you skip eating the flatbread. If you're tracking carbs/calories (and you should, at least for a while, because it's both eye-opening and a good way to keep yourself from cheating. Mostly.), then it can be fine to order the sort-of-carby thing if that's your carb intake for the day. Likewise, it can be fine to get ice cream for dessert if that's your sweet and calorific thing for the day. It doesn't have to be all deprivation all the time. That's a good way to fail.
posted by rtha at 12:37 PM on August 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

A diet plan with zero tolerance for cheating is unsustainable, particularly when it comes to low carbing. Pick one day a week (or every two weeks, or three, etc. depending on your willpower) and make it your carb-up day: drastically cut your fat intake and replace all those calories with carbs.

Carb-ups are (probably) a necessary and healthful component of ketogenic dieting, and it placates the evil Carbocracy overlords to give in to their wishes and binge on breadsticks once in a while. It also stimulates leptin release, which is a good thing - you don't want your liver to completely forget how to process glucose.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 12:38 PM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Whenever possible, I like to look at the menu in advance online, and decide on a full stomach, in the cold light of day, exactly what I'm going to order. I enter it into my calorie-counting program, then and there. If I've eaten somewhere in the past, I can do this trick even if their menu isn't online, by re-entering my good choices from the past (*cough* if any).

Then I'm "committed" somewhat to a healthy meal, and there's a small but palpable barrier between me and the cheesy cheesy french onion soup with croutons. *drools*
posted by BrashTech at 12:42 PM on August 4, 2011 [10 favorites]

How often do you go out to eat?

If it's every day or several times a week, you'll need to figure out a trick to limit carbs while eating out.

If it's just an occasional indulgence (less than once a week), have a few carbs (although I'd get them from potatoes or rice rather than the demon wheat) because of what Kandarp Von Bontee mentions.
posted by vespabelle at 12:52 PM on August 4, 2011

yeah, it's at least 3-4 times a week, sometimes more. So this is not something I can just have as an indulgence. I like the idea of making one day per week a carb day. That makes sense. I'm not going completely hard-core at this point but I feel like I need to be fairly strict on the guidelines that I set out for myself at least 6 days of the week or else it seems like I'm treating myself to something every other meal which is how I got here in the first place.
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:10 PM on August 4, 2011

my trick for sticking with my diet (paleo/primal) is that I ALWAYS get the steak if it's on the menu. (although I don't crave carbs all that much at this point.)
posted by vespabelle at 1:11 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Like Vespabelle above, I try to order whatever has the most meat. If your thing does comes with carbs, try to eat all your meat first. You'll probably be too full to eat more than a bite or two of starch. I have a great advantage which I discovered last weekend after having a bite of Mr. Stardust's baklava: the combination of wheat and sugar gives me migraines. If I want to continue living pain-free, I skip the carbs.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:17 PM on August 4, 2011

I found that repeated weighing doesn't help. Instead it drives me crazy, not unlike checking the stock market every minute.

I've *really* been helped by downloading a calorie counting app onto my smartphone (myfitnesspal). I set a target weight, it tells me how many calories I have for the day, and each time I eat, I enter the appropriate dishes into the app (it has a huge database, good searching abilities, and a barcode scanner for packaged products!). Each food entry leaves me with fewer calories left for the rest of the day.

Even though I often feel hungry during the day, I keep reminding myself that it's ok to feel hungry. It doesn't mean I have to eat.

And, YAY, I've actually lost weight!
posted by jasper411 at 1:18 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding BrashTech's strategy of downloading the menu of where I'm going and planning out beforehand what I'm going to eat. I also add it into my calorie-counting program ahead of time (it also tracks nutrients) and seeing what I'll have left for dinner if I order the "right" thing for lunch.
posted by telophase at 1:28 PM on August 4, 2011

I literally ask them to leave the bread off the plate, put any sauces or dressings on the side (or don't bring any out at all). order a salad with every meal, eat it first so it fills you up. asking them to take the bread and butter off of the table is a good idea too if your dining companions don't mind. its really hard to have self control. you are not alone in this!!
posted by dmbfan93 at 1:34 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you eating with a friend or significant other who you trust to order for you? If so, *don't* look at the menu and have them pick out something that would meet your needs. They can do the ordering or you can speak for yourself.

If you're on your own and know what you want to order you can place your order over the phone ahead of time and eat it as takeout or there at the restaurant. The trick is to avoid looking at a menu. There will be no tasty pictures or descriptions to tempt you at the last minute.
posted by Alison at 1:37 PM on August 4, 2011

I will agree with the "order the thing with the most meat" suggestions. Then from there, alter your order to where you need it. Get your sandwiches or burgers without the bread. Ask for a side salad instead of fries. Get your Chinese/thai/whatever food with extra vegetables rather than rice. Etc. Everywhere I go lets me do this. Sometimes I have to pay a couple extra dollars, but I think it's worth it. I always ask them to not bring it out, because if it's on the plate I will eat it. If they DO bring it to the table, I ask them to take it away.

A "trick" that has been working for me is to make a bet with myself (and my CrossFit coach) that I would stick to my diet "for one month". Then I take a couple days off and start a new month. Having an endpoint in sight (other than my body weight) is nice.

I would also recommend getting a support network as well as getting really involved with your fitness plan (if they can be one in the same, GREAT). I joined CrossFit and it has never been easier to stick to my diet. 1. I work so hard physically that the thought of sabotaging it is upsetting to me. 2. It seems like people other than myself are involved with my diet, so I don't break it because I don't want to admit defeat (I am very competitive)

Good Luck!
posted by LZel at 1:45 PM on August 4, 2011

What always gives me trouble is that I'll see something I want that has removable carbs, and asking for exceptions (e.g., leave off the bun, extra vegetables instead of potato) just seems so...awkward. What has helped a lot is discovering that 99.9% of the time, these sort of exceptions are no big deal to anyone but me.
posted by gnomeloaf at 1:46 PM on August 4, 2011

Snack throughout the day, so that when you get to the restaurant you are not starving. I eat light in the morning, but starting 9:30am I begin to snack on low-carb food and high fiber fruit.

When I get to the restaurant, I have no desire to eat bread or chips and am satisfied waiting until my entree is served. I also don't crave everything I see on the menu, I order what I know will taste good and be good for me.

For me, the longer I maintain a low-carb lifestyle, the less I want carb heavy food. Today someone offered an extra order of french fries they received and I turned it down because it just didn't appeal to me. 2 years ago it would have been impossible for me to do that, fries were one of my big weaknesses. Not having an empty stomach really, really helps.
posted by lootie777 at 2:06 PM on August 4, 2011

When you think about fries, chips, ice cream, cheesecake, remind yourself of your goal, being able to run a mile, being able to wear a smaller size, being healthy and height:weight appropriate. Then give yourself a pat on the back.
posted by theora55 at 2:51 PM on August 4, 2011

The only thing that has worked for me is writing down everything that I eat. I tried using a computer app and a phone app and those just did not click for me. I now use a moleskine reporter style notebook and write everything down. I add the calorie count later if I have to look it up. At the end of the day I put the total down on a monthly calendar. If I go over 1500 calories for that day, I circle the date. I think that all of the time I spend writing stuff down helps keep me focused on the goal. I am not hungry on this diet plan and if I start craving something that I cannot fit into my calorie total I write it down on a list and when I take a splurge day I pick whatever sounds the best from that list. I also mark on my calendar my desired weight for the end of the month. I take a splurge day if I am ahead of my goal for the month. I think that it is somewhat silly that I have to put that much effort into getting myself to eat a healthy diet. But it has worked for me.
posted by calumet43 at 3:04 PM on August 4, 2011

I find it helpful to review the menu where I'm going before hand and decide what I'm ordering beforehand. Then don't even open the menu.; you've already made your choice. You don't need very much willpower to say "I'll have the lobester thing without the flatbread" or "I'll have a burger, hold the bun, and a salad instead of fries."
posted by DarlingBri at 5:23 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're going out several times a week, try going to the same set of places. I find that the more routine I consider a restaurant to be, the less likely I am to indulge. I don't always get the same thing, but knowing that nothing is particularly special at my usual lunch places means I don't think "Oh, that sounds so good... And they might never have it again, so I should try it now!" My lunch places keep the same menu for long stretches of time, so I find that I can order sensibly most of the time and only indulge occasionally when I feel it's worth the extra time at the gym (or just slower weight loss progress).
posted by Terriniski at 5:11 AM on August 5, 2011

As usual, I want to mark all of these as "best answer". I think just having a renewed focus and some shorter term goals - like a carb or cheating day at the end of the month are going to do the trick. I stuck to it this morning with my carb-free breakfast. Now on to lunch!

Thanks everyone!
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:39 AM on August 5, 2011

I used to have exactly this problem. Lately I'm doing the 4 Hour Body diet (from the book of the same name), which is very low carb but has a cheat day every week where absolutely anything goes. Looking forward to the cheat day gives me a will of steel for the rest of the week. Even in restaurants.
posted by gentian at 1:45 PM on August 5, 2011

I find it a lot easier to make 'good' choices for myself in the future than in the moment. So, I can readily convince myself not to buy junk food in the grocery store, but I can't convince myself not to eat it if it's in my cupboards, that sort of thing.

The way this applies to restaurants is that if I'm sitting there in a restaurant staring at a menu, I will not be able to resist the fatty, high calorie options. So, if it's important to me that I order well, I look up the menu online at home before going to dinner (this doesn't work with all mom&pop type places or fancy restos that change their menus every day, but it works with most mid-priced places and chains) and I decide what I'm going to have. Then, in the restaurant, I never even crack open the menu, as I've already made the choice of what to have.

If you find your commitment to your pre-existing choices wavering in the restaurant, try writing them down before hand. Somehow that seems to amp up the level of commitment for me.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:50 PM on August 6, 2011

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