What Are Your Reasons for Eating Out at Restaurants?

By Darren Stehle

Recently one of my clients emailed me with his “Reasons for eating out at restaurants.”

I was intrigued because during a coaching session earlier in the week I had asked him to consider how some of his lifestyle choices were affecting his weight loss goal. Here is what he wrote:

Reasons for eating out at restaurants

  1. After we each work a long week, we are both tired and do not want to cook.
  2. I feel a sense of entitlement after working so hard that I deserve other aspects of my life to be easy (this makes me sound like a jerk!).
  3. Stress about work just makes me want some comfort.
  4. When I was a kid we couldn’t afford to go to restaurants (seems silly, but it’s true).
  5. It’s basically the only thing we do with friends.
  6. It’s quality time with each other with less tech and work distractions.

My response (name changed to protect the innocent):

Hey Steven,

There is nothing wrong with eating out at restaurants if it fits with your goals, values, and healthy lifestyle commitments. The issue isn’t eating out at a restaurant, the issue is how you choose to maintain healthier eating habits (or not) when eating out. Here are my responses to each point above.

Reason #1: We’re tired and don’t want to cook

That’s normal, so much so I think Friday nights are one of the busiest nights out at restaurants.

You certainly don’t have to cook on Friday nights if you don’t want to! However, there are always options, which require advance planning. If it works for you, establish a plan for when you cook some meals in bulk, be in on the weekend, or perhaps you prepare a slow cooker bulk meal on a Thursday night and set it to cook on Friday morning for dinner later that day.

Remember, you don’t need my permission to have dinner at a restaurant on a Friday night. It’s a great way for the two of you to come down from a busy work week and re-connect.

Reason #2: I’m entitled to eat out because I work so hard

The word entitlement is loaded with emotion for you.

Know that the words we chose create our reality. Is there another word you could use to make you feel better about yourself and thus make it easier to make healthier choices?

Do you “deserve” to eat out and “cheat” or are you “allowing” yourself to enjoy dinner out as a “reward”? Or is this even an issue of entitlement at all (see point #5 bellow)?

Reason #3: I relieve work stress by eating out

This is normal. Who doesn’t want comfort, but do your comfort choices serve you or hinder you?

Does eating out have to happen every single weekend, and multiple times? How would it feel if you established limits based on your healthy commitments? Perhaps you create the commitment to eat well 80% of the time and then allow yourself to “enjoy” whatever you want 20% of the time.

Let’s say you eat 3 whole meals and 2 snacks per day during the week, and that you eat the same number of meals on the weekend. To keep things simple, 7 days x 3 meals = 21 total meals. 20% non-compliance (treat meals) would be 4 meals.

Does this mean eat until you’re stuffed and drink to excess? I know you know that isn’t the case. Treat meals might mean having dessert, or fries instead of an extra vegetable, or once in a while having a burger.

This is not about trying to destroy all of the healthy eating you’ve done all week long.

Reason #4: I can afford to eat out

My parents also struggled financially when I was a kid. While I don’t know your parents I can say this: I’m sure they did the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time.

Why do you need to feel sorry for yourself? And how does that make you feel when you say that?

Why do you need to do something to excess for that which someone else couldn’t provide in the past? Is your career and financial success not enough for the lack of the past?

These are questions to consider more deeply. The answers may help you get clear on your motivations and choices.

Ask yourself, “With what I know now, what’s the best I can do for myself with the knowledge I have available to me?”

Reason #5: I eat out to socialize with friends

Given your long work hours (he works 12+ hours/day), if eating out is how you like socialize, then embrace it. Own it. You don’t need an excuse for eating out with friends.

BUT… what choices can you make to better serve your health and weight loss goals while still enjoying eating out? You can have both. You only have to decide on your priorities.

How do you make healthier restaurant choices? Here’s are a couple of articles that will help:

  1. Healthier Eating Strategies For Busy Professionals
  2. Weight-loss Strategies for Eating Out
  3. Nutrition and Fitness for Busy Professionals Infographic

Reason #6: I eat out to have quality time with my partner

THAT’S FREAKING AWESOME! You deserve quality time with your wife, as she does with you! For that there is no excuse needed.

So what are your reasons for eating out at restaurants?

Be well

Darren