Eating out, whether it’s at a friend or family member’s house, a wedding or other social event, while travelling, at a church potluck lunch or a restaurant, is a joyful part of life. It's also a good place to remember that we mustn’t let “perfect” get in the way of “good enough”. Now, that’s not an excuse to let yourself have free reign of every poor choice available… It is permission to enjoy one of the true pleasures of life – eating food and drinking beverages in the company of others, and partaking of meals that others have prepared.
Eating together is a basic human activity. It feeds both body and spirit. My church has a slogan that encapulates this so well. For Everyone Born, a Place at the Table. Isn't that a lovely idea?
As a mom and spending most of my adult life being the household "cook and bottlewasher", I LOVE eating food that others have prepared. When at home, I shop for the food and prepare the meals for the most part, simply because I want to have control over that part of our lives. I was always the mom that made my kids balanced lunches every day for school, even to the end of high school. And made my husband's lunch for work every day, usually because I was the one aware of the leftovers status and the contents of the fridge. So, relaxing and allowing someone else to feed me felt like a vacation...
Nowadays, when helping clients to find their way through the new world of low carb eating, I often recommend that the first few weeks are spent at home, getting used to the different eating pattern and becoming metabolically fat-adapted by eating mostly meats and vegetables, incorporating the optimal primal fats, avoiding sugar and processed carbs, and learning to listen to the signals from one's own body.
But real life for many of us involves the social aspect of eating - eating out or entertaining. For some of us, eating out is a necessity if work includes travel or business meals. Becoming a healthier person doesn't mean crawling under a rock and refusing to interact with others over food. And I have news for you...
It’s possible. It’s not even that hard. Once you are fat-adapted, you are not a slave to your appetite or cravings. Waiting for meal service at a nice restaurant does not mean diving headfirst into the bread basket. And there are Primal-friendly items to choose, even at roadside gas station convenience stores and fast food outlets.
I recently spent a week in New York City with my three best girlfriends from highschool. We ate at pubs, diners, cafes and had our own breakfast daily at our AirBnB apartment. I managed to stay low carb throughout the entire week easily, and never felt the least bit deprived. Breakfast was cold meats and cheese, dipped in purchased guacamole, or eggs and bacon, or omelets, made for the whole bunch of us. Lunches and dinners were generally some variation on a bunless burger or a bigass salad, and at our fancy-scmancy last supper out, I had spectacular New York Style smoked brisket. It was no problem to order whatever burger I desired (it was blue cheese burgers all the way this trip!) and just say, "No bun please.", and the servers never batted an eye. I would also swap out fries for salad without a problem and my plate would arrive with a big pile of lettuce and tomato, topped with a gooey blue cheese topped burger. It was decadent! Salads such as a Cobb, with avocado, hardboiled eggs, bacon and blue cheese were also mouth-bombs of flavour and texture. Afternoon beverages were a necessity, as we were exploring the city during a heatwave, but while my friends would choose milkshakes, I would find an upscale coffee bar and order an large iced coffee with cream - yummy and no carbs, just healthy fat. We would sit and slurp and people-watch - such a great city for people-watching!
I didn't worry about a bit of breadcrumbs that might have been in the burger mix. I did't stress about which oil had gone into the dressing on my salads. What I did manage was to avoid most of the added sugars, probably 90% of the bread or wheat products, and stayed away from deep-fried things. I made sure that I found some macademia nuts and kept them around for snacking if necessary, but thanks to my fat-adapted status, it was seldom necessary. I never had "over-eaters regret", that bloated, almost painful feeling that you can get from eating too much of the wrong foods. And I didn't come home with 5 or more pounds of vacation weight. I did enjoy a bite of a friend's New York Style cheesecake (twice!), killer mashed potatoes with my brisket and some chocolate. Again, no regrets...
Low carb eating is not a reason to get all uppity and place unreasonable expectations on chefs or servers in restaurants. Eating low carb is not an "allergy". Just pick something off the menu that meets most of your expectations, subtract the parts that you don't wish to have, pay willingly to upgrade to what you do want, and tip generously when the restaurant graciously gives you what you have requested.
The reasons to eat away from home are varied, but remember that it's as much about the ambiance of the place you are visiting and the people you are with, as it is about the food. Wonderful culinary experiences are a great part of life's adventure, so don't let self-guilt or fear get in the way of living your life to the fullest. There's a balance between staying true to your desire for health and wellness, and living in the moment, experiencing all the aspects of your current situation. If tasting a particular food or beverage is part of experiencing a new culture, go for it if you wish. If you don't, fine, but don't beat yourself up about either way.
Food is joy, food is medicine, food is fuel, food is comfort. Eating together is a way to connect with others. Providing food for others or accepting food from others is an act of community. Wealth and poverty can be defined by food abundance or scarcity. Don't let an eating regime get in the way of this important way of connecting with each other and our joint human experience. But also, don't let the act of eating away from home derail your commitment to yourself and your health. There is a balance - perfection is not the goal - good enough is a worthy goal in this situation.
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!