You’re making all the right choices when you go to restaurants or get takeout, passing up the most tempting things on the menu, but you just cannot seem to shed the pounds you’ve been meaning to. What gives??
The answer could simply be that you are eating out - period! While it's not impossible to eat out several times a week and still lose weight, it certainly makes it way more difficult. Not to say that you can’t eat out here and there as a social thing, but more often than not, relying on takeout or restaurant food as a multiple-time-per-week thing can sabotage your weight loss efforts!
Beware of HIDDEN calories.
“But I can SEE what I’m eating and it’s just as if I were to make it at home." Here's the deal: Restaurants’ jobs are to make food TASTE good, and if that means cooking with extra oil/fat, adding higher calorie ingredients, they will do it without thinking about your waistline. These added calories rack up fast and may not be detectable by eye, taste, or texture. Remember calories are not a bad thing, they are our bodies’ energy. But when we are trying to lose weight, the goal is to be in a caloric deficit. When you take a look at restaurants that list their menu’s nutrition info, have you EVER seen a dish less than around 450-500 calories? Not likely. If so, that’s a rare breed.
Take, for example this info from a popular chain restaurant:
Grilled salmon served with jasmine rice and steamed spinach: 970 calories*
Insane. Where are those calories hidden? If you made this meal at home, it would be HALF the amount of calories.
It might be healthy - but it might just be too much
You get this great salad complete with grilled chicken, avocado, walnuts, and a clear olive oil based dressing. Tons of healthy ingredients in there...BUT it's too much of them at one time. Especially with the more calorie dense healthy foods like avocado, walnuts, olive oil...the calories rack up FAST and the workers who prepare your food aren't thinking about what an appropriate portion is for you and your goals.
One word: SODIUM
Anytime you go out to eat, in most cases, it's AT LEAST a day's worth of sodium in any given dish. Restaurants cook with a lot of salt that you can't necessarily detect through taste. This is part of the reason why you feel very bloated the day after eating out. Salt is a water magnet, so your body responds to the excess salt by holding onto several pounds of water. While this water retention alone makes the scale go up, it is not real bodyweight. However chronic water retention is not a good thing, or even a comfortable thing either, and it can leave you feeling lethargic, unmotivated, and tired.
When dining out: you are more likely to be tempted
With so many options to chose from, it's easier to stray from the cleaner options on the menu and splurge a little bit. Not to mention: Friends and food - they go hand in hand. There is no doubt that food is social! When eating with a friend, you’re certainly more likely to eat more than if you were eating alone. Additionally, if your friends are choosing something more indulgent, you’re more likely to follow suit.
What's the takeaway message? If your goal is weight loss, cooking most of your meals at home can be a game changer for your results! We are NOT saying you can't enjoy meals out, please do! But when it becomes excessive or just too often, it can really hinder your health/fitness goals. Save eating out for social occasions, and if you do that, you can even afford to get something more indulgent off the menu rather than torturing yourself by getting a salad (unless you want the salad, then go ahead and get that salad!). If eating out for lunch or dinner every day is your thing - it's not impossible to lose weight of course, but you're going to have to make sacrifices somewhere else so long as weight loss is the goal.