While most people like to start their summer-body diets in early spring, I prefer to put mine off until mid-July or even August. Waiting gives me the element of surprise, thus allowing me to sneak up on the calories which, since they don’t see me coming, makes it so much easier to defeat them.
I could try to burn calories at the gym, but that is just what they would be expecting me to do. And besides, how do I know if I really got rid of them? If calories would shriek in agony while I burned them, at least I would know I was making progress. But no, they stay quiet. Are they dying honorably? Planning a counterattack? Rallying reinforcements while wearing tiny little heatproof combat suits?
There is just no way to tell. So instead, I have decided to stop ingesting quite so many of my mute, impervious-to-fire little friends in order to achieve my late-summer slimming objectives. My goals are pretty minimal, actually, because every chart I have read says that I am the perfect weight for a 5’ 7” woman. And sure, I happen to be 5’ 3” … almost. At least my driver’s license says I’m 5’ 3”, but it also tries to pass off that middle-aged, wrinkly woman in the picture as me, so I ask you, who lied to whom first?
We’ll just have to agree to disagree, judgy DMV photographer with your twitching motorcycle mustache, disparaging smirk, and raised bushy eyebrows, all meant to convey disbelief after peeking at my self-reported weight and height. You say potato, I say french fries. It’s all good.
But now I am ready to diet. And really, how hard could it be to lower my calorie intake for a little while? When I tried to do so in the past, back when my driver’s license statistics were actually close to accurate, I found dieting to be as easy as learning my ABCs … if I had to learn them in Arabic … with letters that change shape depending on position … and words without the benefit of vowels … and sentences that read from right to left and probably translate into phrases like: “This is impossible! Stop it at once and eat a damn cheesecake!”
But that was because I didn’t approach the whole dieting thing properly. This time, I am starting sensibly by spending hours in front of my computer, in really cute workout clothes that I don’t want to ruin by getting them all sweaty at the gym, reading countless “how to cut calories” articles. I was discouraged at first because most experts suggested that I cook my own food at home, claiming that to do so would make it easier to control portion size, avoid fatty foods, cut calories, and blah, blah, blah, blah. They lost me at “cook at home.”
It’s not that I don’t have a great deal of passion when it comes to cooking. I do. I am extremely passionate about the fact that I do not want to cook. I feel very, very strongly about this, and my husband, Jeff, is completely supportive of my stance. I think he got tired of resetting the kitchen timer — which he charmingly refers to as the smoke detector (he’s such a cutie) — every time I cooked.
I was ready to give up on my summer diet plans and just pull out the cheesecake when the fates smiled down upon me and I stumbled upon a whole bevy of research and articles on how a person could eat out and still keep those stoic, silent calories at bay. Eureka! I wiped the cheesecake crumbs off my keyboard — it was just “practice cheesecake” in case my research proved fruitless — and shared the good news with Jeff. We could continue eating out and I could still lose weight.
He looked doubtful, possibly because of the cheesecake stains on my new Lululemon jacket, or possibly because, on our very first dinner date, I selected fully loaded potato skins and a banana daiquiri topped with whipped cream as my appetizer and then proceeded to order dinner. Since it has always been extremely important to me that all waiters and waitresses be impressed by my sophistication and skillful ordering skills — and that I become their favorite person at the table — I will always believe that the incredulous look on our waitress’ face was brought on by respect and pure admiration.
But to his credit, Jeff put his doubts aside and is now completely supportive of my new diet plan. Because, frankly, we are going to eat out anyway.
And I am ready to share it with the world. The “dieting while dining out” plan. Not my cheesecake. Get your own.
Select the restaurant carefully.
At first I thought this meant we should choose a place where I have irritated the staff the least. Next to me, Meg Ryan in the movie When Harry Met Sally would be considered a completely low-maintenance diner. My added requests, substitutions, and little tweaks to the entrees are locally legendary, and most waiters know to bring a full-sized notebook when taking my order. They might find me less annoying if I would just copy Meg Ryan’s most famous dining out scene instead.
But as it turns out, restaurant selection here means you should pick a restaurant that has plenty of lower-calorie options available. I didn’t even know those existed.
Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets.
I don’t really like all-you-can-eat buffets because they make me nervous. I’m usually eyeing that last slice of pepperoni pizza, and the thought that the person in front of me, who is taking way too long putting croutons on his Caesar salad, might take it before I get there is just heartburn inducing.
Plus, I start to worry that the staff working the buffet is judging me when I come back for seconds or thirds. I usually feel the need to explain to the bored looking people in hairnets that I am actually getting extras for someone else and then wave vaguely at an imaginary “someone else.” At least I don’t take it as far as to actually sit at “someone else’s” table in order to keep up the ruse because that would be crazy.
If you must go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, experts suggest you use the smallest plate possible when getting your food to help control portion size. That would mean I would have to come back to the buffet four or five times and be forced to pull up a chair at a stranger’s table, pretending to share food, in order to avoid looking glutinous. So, no.
If possible, look over the menu before you even leave home.
Knowing what is offered beforehand reduces the chance of making rash decisions in the heat of competitive ordering, as the members of your dining party all desperately vie for the waiter’s attention and respect (or maybe that is just me).
And studies show that people tend to make unhealthy choices when they are hungry. That may explain a few ill-conceived wardrobe additions, several questionable hairstyles, and an old boyfriend or two. I’m sure I was just hungry.
Eat a small, healthy snack just before heading to the restaurant.
I presume that they do not mean cheesecake.
Some of us have trouble with the definition of “snacks.” I was once banned from providing snacks for my daughter’s preschool class because apparently one Fruit Roll-Up, a bag of Cheetos, two Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a grape Kool-Aid packet per child was not considered a “healthy” midmorning snack.
Whatever, Karen. I was providing fruit, cheese, protein, and a refreshing hydrating beverage, and no one cheers when you walk into the classroom with your organic, tastes-like-Styrofoam, homemade kale chips, now, do they?
Once seated at your table, don’t be afraid to ask your waiter exactly how a dish is prepared.
I have seen the look of sheer terror in the eyes of a waiter when I say, “I have a question,” because they know it will probably be the start of a very lively, and lengthy, conversation about a small change I’d like to suggest for the menu.
But if you are only going to talk about food preparation, this trick might actually work.
“You should avoid anything that is described as fried, crispy, breaded, scalloped, or with added cheese.” So, anything that tastes good?
“Opt instead for foods that have been grilled, poached, or steamed.” Is Karen back there in the kitchen because seriously …
Turn away the offered bread basket.
Well that just seems rude. The waiter took the trouble to put together the bread basket, carry it all the way across the restaurant — along with a side of butter — and graciously place all of that crusty goodness on our table. I am not going to be the one to rudely rebuff his efforts. He has feelings too.
Be the first to order at your table.
The thought behind this suggestion is that you won’t be swayed by other people’s unhealthy choices if you order before them. Unfortunately, I insist on hearing everyone’s order first. Otherwise, how can I one-up them with my order, thereby sealing my place as the waiter’s favorite person at the table? And if he doesn’t say “good choice” after I tell him what I have chosen? Then the night is ruined for me, and we might as well go home.
Either avoid alcohol completely or limit it to just one glass.
Oh, I’m sorry. I just presumed they were kidding.
If I am going to be limited to one glass, then there is going to be a lengthy discussion about the size of that glass, and most restaurants don’t have 25-ounce wine glasses stacked in their kitchen. I know. I’ve asked.
Order two appetizers instead of an entree.
I was very excited about this bit of advice. Finally, here was something I could solidly get behind. But then I reread it, and it turns out it says “instead of” rather than “with your.” It may have been difficult to read around my 25-ounce wine glass.
Ask to swap your side dish.
I’ve actually done this before, requesting to replace my broccolini with extra mashed potatoes. But research shows that if you want to lose weight, more mashed potatoes really aren’t going to be very helpful. I guess I could request a kale salad instead of potatoes, but I’ve tried kale and it tastes exactly like I would much rather have mashed potatoes.
Request that all sauces and dressings be served on the side.
Perhaps some people artfully drizzle just a touch of their side sauce gently over their food. Then there are others who stick each forkful of their entree directly into the sauce, scooping up as much as possible and then sloshing much of it across the table as they attempt to get it to their mouth. And then have to request more sauce.
And frankly, I am just too much of a lady to make my poor waiter run back and forth to the kitchen in order to get me more sauce.
Plus, no one is ever as amused as they should be when, after each sauce-dripped bite, I say “awesome sauce” to everyone within earshot. There is just no accounting for taste.
Split your entree with someone else.
Remembering to take everything you need with you when dining out is already difficult. Do you have your keys? Your phone? Your reading glasses?
But now I’m supposed to bring a ruler, height and depth gauges, and a slide caliper to dinner with me as well?
That seems unreasonable, and by the time I have finished with the preliminary measurements and calibrated the exact spot in which to begin the carving process (Measure twice! Cut once!), our dinner would probably be cold. It would just be so much more time efficient if the person I am sharing with would just fork over the entire meal.
If you order a full entree, ask for a to-go box and put half away before starting your meal.
Apparently I am the only person left who cares about the waiter’s feelings. And I really, really care. So, I am not going to ask him for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal, have him painstakingly place half of my meal into the container, only to have me scrape it out of the box and on to my plate midway through dinner.
I am here for you, dear waiter. I should totally be your favorite person at the table.
Order coffee after dinner, instead of dessert.
They are such kidders, these experts!
There it is — my diet and dining out plan. Please know that these tips really can help if you are trying to lose weight or stay slim while enjoying an evening at your favorite restaurant. Not everyone is me. (Why did the waiter just clap when I said that?)
Personally, I choose not to think of it as failing to get my “summer body” this year, but rather that I have a huge head start on my winter body. In fact, I’m here before anyone else! I win!