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Think before you eat.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I have a work friend who is trying to eat healthier, and he occasionally shadows what I'm eating when we go to lunch because he likes the results I'm getting. I don't mind that at all - I'm always happy to share what has worked for me so far.

But my friend isn't seeing results, and I've lately observed that he often finds himself with a high-fat lunch despite his best intentions. I think what's been happening is he forgets about all the extras that add up to a lot of calories and fat - the french fries, cheese with his chicken sandwich, mayonnaise instead of mustard, high-fat salad dressing.

We all have a compulsion to clean our plates; either because we hear our mother's voice about all the starving children, or we feel guilty about wasting food. So my friend, when his food is delivered, invariably finishes everything, and instantly regrets that he ate too much.

When I go out to lunch, which happens a lot because I travel often, I plan the entire meal before I order. I check the side dishes to see if the restaurant offers fruit or steamed vegetables instead of french fries, I look for the sandwiches that don't have cheese, or I ask for the condiments or salad dressing on the side. By the time I've ordered, I have a good idea of how much I will be eating and an estimate of the calories and fat in my meal.

In some restaurants, a side salad or a couple side dishes are my only option. I am comfortable ordering two side dishes, or the house salad and a side dish. Many restaurants only offer huge portions anyway, so it's very difficult to stick to a light meal.

My friend's struggles have reinforced for me that I need to do a lot of planning before I eat so that I don't inadvertently get more than I want and succumb to temptation. I also have to feel comfortable throwing food away. I don't NEED to clean my plate, so if I find myself in a situation where I'm served more than I want, I eat a little bit and throw the rest away. I rarely take leftovers because I'm traveling, and even when I'm at home I try not to bring the extra food home.

It's important for me to be aware of everything I eat, and that requires me to pay attention at every meal. I'm rarely tempted into something fattening, because I didn't plan for them in advance.
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