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Peer Pressure: Dining Out with Friends & Colleagues

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By Sara Baker

I recently was traveling for work for an entire week.  Though I love to travel, I do not like being out of my comfort zone and schedule for very long.  Though I pack my oat bran and protein for breakfast and bring snacks, traveling tends to mean eating dinner out every night.    Since I work in corporate wellness, I am fortunate to travel with fairly like minded individuals.  However, we tend to dine with clients and others who might not eat as clean as I do.   Studies have actually shown that people are influenced by other’s food choices.  We all know how hard it is to say no to a glass of wine if everyone else at the table is having wine.  Or if there is a big dessert on the table that someone else ordered, you are more likely to steal some bites when you might not normally order dessert at all.

Even fit gals need a glass of vino every once in a while!

As many of you know, living the fat loss lifestyle (FLL) takes consistency and this means being consistent when traveling or eating out with others.   Now, I know that all of us get off track once in awhile and I am definitely one to indulge while on vacation but when traveling for work or eating out for a non-cheat meal I try to stick to my regular eating as much as possible.

When I was teenager, I was a vegetarian, which was neither common among my peers nor common for many restaurants to offer vegetarian options.   So from an early age, I was use to eating differently than my friends.  At first, I felt a little embarrassed as I felt I was standing out or that I was asking the kitchen to make a lot of accomdations.    No one (especially when you are a teenager!) wants to stick out or be different from others.  Everyone wants to fit in.  But because I believed in the way I was eating, eventually I got used to asking nicely for special requests and my friends learned that I would not be ordering the nachos.  :)

Though I am not a vegetarian anymore, I often still ask for special requests.  I try not to completely change a menu item out of respect for the kitchen and server but feel that it is okay to ask for simple healthier requests such as sauce on the side or no sauce at all on certain dishes or swap rice or potatoes for an extra serving of vegetables.

However, I have noticed that when I do eat with certain people, I still receive comments about my choices.  “Sara, let me guess, you are getting a salad again” or “don’t get something healthy Sara,” and so on.   You wonder if these comments are derived from that fact that my friends really want me to indulge or the fact they are feeling guilty for what they are ordering.  There are still times these comments bother me and I just want to order something similar to my friends regardless of its nutritional value.

However, I focus on the fact that I have complete control over the food choices I make and living the FFL means eating clean 90% of the time which in turn makes me feel and look my best.  Often, I have wanted to yell at these individuals and tell them that I do not make comments about their poor choice of food; they should not make comments about my choice of food.  :)  Of course, I am not going to yell but have reached the point of telling these people that I choose to eat this way because it makes me feel and perform at my best.  If I indulge (I am not talking about a cheat meal) but eat some of the deep fried appetizers or share in the colossal dessert, not only will my weight creep up, I will have fairly significant digestive issues.  I respect others choices to eat a certain way, vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, raw, etc., though I might not choose that lifestyle for myself.  Though many of my close friends eat fairly healthy, I still dine with many people who do not.  I can just hope that they will hopefully learn that this is not a phase and this is the way I choose to eat.   So anytime you are feeling pressure to order that fruity cocktail or dive into the nachos (for a non-cheat meal :)) remember that you have control of what you put into your mouth, stay strong with your eating convictions and remind those with you why you choose to eat that way. Focus on the company and the conversation and don’t give into peer pressure.

Let me know any tricks you use when dining with others! ox Sara

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