Hello and welcome to Theresa’s weekly blog. This week I want to begin a series of blogs to help you get through the summer fun and the vacations and travel, abstinently, happily and with enjoyment. Today we are going to talk about eating abstinently in restaurants, then we will discuss airplane, long car rides, and boundaries with others, I hope you will enjoy this and I hope it will help you. If you have effective suggestions for managing restaurants and travel, please send them on and I will include them in future posts. Always be welcome to comment, let me know what you need and how I can help.
Dining out can be a pleasurable experience or an anxiety producing, nerve wracking battle. Here are some suggestions for comfortable dining out experiences.
1. Abstinence is an attitude. In the past you may have gone to a restaurant as part of your addictive eating pattern. Abstinence requires a better reason to eat out. Focus on why you are there: the people, companionship, business, friendship, celebration. Sharing a meal should be a peaceful and comfortable experience.
2. Fast food restaurants are convenient, but rarely have foods that are good for you. I want you to avoid them as much as you can.
3. I want you to sit in the restaurant or elsewhere and taste and enjoy your food. It is not acceptable to eat in the car while driving. If you must eat in the car, park your car under a beautiful tree or piece of scenery and enjoy your meal.
4. Plan ahead. Make sure there are foods appropriate for you to eat, if you have never been there before. Most restaurants have their menus on line now, so you can check what’s available in privacy. If you need to, call the restaurant in late afternoon, when it is not busy, speak to the manager or the chef, and ask what is in the foods you want. Ask what special accommodations are available – can you get it plain? Sauce on the side? Without breading?
5. Be specific about your needs and don’t act like this is a bother for them. About 20% of the restaurant’s charges come from the food; the rest are for the ambience, servers, chefs and clean up people. You deserve to be accommodated; this is what the cost of your meal reflects. You are paying for this! It is not wrong to ask to be given what you pay for.
6. Even at shore and vacation areas, you can find decent meals. You just have to be smart and determined about it. Take a salad, then go to the grill and get your protein. If it is a buffet, walk down the buffet line backwards first, so you can see what is available and give yourself time to decide. Speak to a manager if you need help finding what you need.
7. Don’t let yourself get ravenous before a restaurant meal. The food will arrive about a half hour after you walk in the door. Plan for this. There will be lots of smells and unfamiliar situations, and you may feel triggered. If it will be more than 5 hours between meals, move a metabolic forward to cut your hunger. If you don’t have a metabolic to move, call your dietitian or sponsor for help.
8. Do not plan to be perfect!! Call your sponsor, physician, dietitian, or other support person and agree what adjustments you are safe to make. Think about bookending this if you are nervous; bookending means you talk to someone you trust before you go in, and she is waiting for you to call her and tell her you are ok at the end.
9. If you are meeting others, arrive early enough to be comfortable. Relax. Take your time. Think!! Pray!! Focus on why you are there and what you want to do at this restaurant. It isn’t about the food; it is supposed to be about the people, connection, support. Pay attention to your priorities.
10. A large menu is often intimidating to people new in recovery. Look for your meal by categories. Is there a plain protein here? What starch do I want? Where are the vegetables? What else do I need? If you check the menu beforehand, you will find this easier. Call ahead or ask for the manager if you are confused.
11. Speak to your server by looking him/her in the eye, smiling, and using their name. No one does that. It makes them pay more attention to you.
12. Do not be afraid to ask about the ingredients, but do it discreetly and effectively!! Try the following steps:
a. Choose 2 items from the menu that you would like to eat.
b. Look your server in the eye and smile warmly.
c. In a friendly way, say something like, “I’m sorry if it’s a bother, but I have some serious food allergies.”
d. Ask open ended questions, “Tell me about the grilled salmon.” or “Exactly what is in the marinade?” or “How is this prepared?”
e. Decide – don’t allow yourself to get into a long debate!! Pray, pick something appropriate and relax.
13. You do not have to be perfect!! If the meal comes with a food you know will trigger your cravings, discreetly and graciously send it back and order a different meal. If the proportions are wrong, there’s butter on the potato, or too few green beans, pray over it and let it go.
14. Pray before you go and while you are there. Ask your Higher Power to provide protection for your food plan and direction for your choices. Or ask for an Angel to be put in charge of your food for tonight.
15. Now Enjoy!! My daddy always used to tell me that the purpose of life was not to get to the end of it, but to enjoy the trip. Taste and enjoy your food and let it nourish your body as it deserves to be nourished. Let the food become the nourishment of the body, and an expression of gratitude for all the things the body does for you.
Enjoy this lovely season!
Blessings to you,