Dining Out Mindfully and The Daily Bite

Today’s food:

Today's food choices, clockwise from upper right:  multivitamin and calcium supplements x2; Panera Power Breakfast Egg White and Roasted Turkey bowl with pesto; homemade lettuce wrap filling; baked mozzarella and ham (a riff on Macaroni Grill's Baked Mozzarella and Prosciutto); Syntrax Matrix Mint Cookie protein powder; grilled shrimp.

Today’s food choices, clockwise from upper right: multivitamin and calcium supplements x2; Panera Power Breakfast Egg White and Roasted Turkey bowl with pesto; homemade lettuce wrap filling; baked mozzarella and ham (a riff on Macaroni Grill’s Baked Mozzarella and Prosciutto appetizer from their Italian tapas menu); Syntrax Matrix Mint Cookie protein powder; grilled shrimp.

Today was a relatively busy day as I was on the go for a good chunk of it, which meant eating meals away from home.  

I knew this was going to happen, and I planned accordingly.  I had scoped out the menus of both of the places I knew I would be, and decided on what I would eat long before I darkened the doorstep of either place.  I had a plan in place, and I was determined to stick to it.

And for the most part, my plan worked.  At breakfast this morning, I ordered the Power Breakfast egg white bowl with turkey at Panera from their “hidden menu,” minus the peppers and spinach since I am not clear for raw veggies yet, and I asked for the pesto on the side.  I asked for a box with my breakfast because I knew I would not eat all of it (I only ate half).  I asked for a drink cup but did not immediately fill it–in fact, I waited until a half hour had passed after I ate before getting up to get some tea.

At dinner tonight, we were at a local pub we go to quite often since my alumni association was having a happy hour there.  My husband and I had decided before we left the house that he would order their surf and turf plate and add shrimp to it, and that I would eat the shrimp.  This worked out beautifully for both of us–he got his lean protein and veggies in, and I got my lean protein in as well in a perfect serving.  I drank 2 1/2 24 ounce tumblers of water during the happy hour, being sure to stop drinking 30 minutes before I ate and not starting again until 30 minutes after I finished eating.

But today, I do not feel as though I was as successful as I could have been.

So where did I fail?

In each situation, I was visiting with friends and trying to eat at the same time.  Before surgery, eating and visiting was easy–we would talk and laugh and eat with ease.  But before, I never once considered how much I was eating, how fast I was eating, or even what I was eating until the meal was over and I was overly full.  Now…I can’t do that.  The capacity of my sleeve doesn’t allow for it, but I also don’t want it to allow me to do that.

Now, at this early stage of eating soft solids, I have to focus on what I’m eating, the pace at which I’m eating and the quantity of food that I’m eating.  Planning ahead takes care of the what I’m eating.  Planning ahead at this point does not help me to manage other aspects of my environment that influence the process of eating, and this is where I believe I have failed.

In both situations today, I felt like I could not fully attend to visiting with my friends AND what I was eating and how I was eating it.  The what was not the issue since I’d predetermined what I was going to eat; pacing and the quantity of food were.  Because I was not at home, I could not measure what I ate–something I have been doing since I graduated to soft solids.  I had to approximate and listen to my internal cues for fullness.  Also, because I was not at home there were more things to distract me from focusing on what I was eating, which made it difficult for me to chew things thoroughly to a paste as I’ve been doing for the past week.

I am unsure as to how to build my skill set so that I can successfully dine out with friends and visit at the same time.  This was not something I’d anticipated being a difficult thing to do, yet the problem has arisen.  As frequently as I find myself away from home for meetings and such that take place over mealtimes, this is something I have to learn to do, and do in such a way that my nutrition plan is not compromised.  As I have said before, life must go on.  And in my life, dining out is something that happens more often than not.

I realize that I can have interactions with friends and family that do not revolve around food, but today’s gatherings were things that happened to revolve around food.  Those sort of things are not going to go away in my life, and I’m not going to avoid them in an attempt to stick to my plan, unless there is absolutely nothing available for me that will allow me to stay on plan at this stage of my weight loss.  I am too early out to start sneaking in foods that I might try during maintenance, and I am still learning what I can and cannot tolerate–simply put, it is too soon to really push the boundaries eating-wise.  I won’t lie to you, at happy hour there were plates of appetizers that pre-surgery, I’d have cut someone for because they were just that good.  Tonight I looked at them and my brain really, really wanted them because it could smell them (and by default, taste them), but my stomach would never have been able to handle any of them well.  The Fat Girl really wanted a cheese stick, but Thinner Girl had to forcibly lead her away from the basket on the table and remind her that those cheese sticks were not on plan and that they wouldn’t do anything to help both Girls achieve health.  But that’s an entire post for another time–perhaps tomorrow.

So how do I handle visiting and eating?  I did try to cut my food into small pieces before I ate so that I wouldn’t have to worry about doing it as I went along, and I did visually divide each dish in half so I knew what I’d be able to eat.  But where I slipped was talking and eating at the same time.  Again, this is a situation that will repeat itself plenty of times in my life and I need to learn how to navigate it.  Perhaps it is something that will come with practice; perhaps it is something that will be learned as I go along, and perhaps it is something I just need to be entirely more mindful about.

Hive mind, do you have suggestions for how to tackle this issue?  As I approach the school year, this is an issue that I must wrangle with simply because I eat lunch with 3 others.  We are a chatty, social bunch, and I would hate not being able to eat with my colleagues.  Having lunch in isolation is not a habit I want to get into, as teaching is an insular enough profession.  I don’t need that reinforced by eating alone.  I enjoy the company of the people I work with, and lunchtime is the only time we have to really be social with one another.

I will learn to deal with this problem and hopefully find a solution that will allow me to continue to socialize while I eat and stay on plan while doing so.

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