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Eating Abstinently In Restaurants

As the pandemic ends and summer begins, we are finally able to return to some of our favorite activities. So, in this blog, I want to give you a few suggestions about eating abstinently in restaurants, while traveling, and on vacation.

Dining out can be a pleasurable experience or an anxiety producing, nerve wracking battle.  Here are some suggestions for comfortable dining out experiences.

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.

Avoid the drive throughs! Sit down, taste and enjoy your food. I want you to write why you feel the need to do this before you enter the drive through line. These foods are mostly refined, processed, high calorie, high sugar, high sodium and nutrient free. Choose a restaurant where you can enjoy a decent meal in comfort.

Plan ahead.  Call and ask about the menu.  Or look at it online. Make sure there are foods you can eat.  Notice the descriptions for clues to the preparation. You may find a side dish that is served with another main dish that you can use.

Or call the restaurant and ask for a manager.  Call between 10:30 AM and 11:30 AM or 3:00 PM and 4:30 PM when the restaurant is not busy and someone has time to help you.

Collect menus from restaurants you enjoy. This gives you time to reflect on the offerings and call to ask about the contents of sauces and gravies.

Do not plan to be perfect!!  Call your sponsor, physician, dietitian, or other support person and agree what adjustments you are safe to make. Excellent abstinence is better than perfect abstinence! And definitely better than sloppy or slippery abstinence!

Don’t let yourself get ravenous before a restaurant meal.  If it will be more than 6 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.  Expect the meal thirty minutes after you arrive at the restaurant; do not go more than five hours between meals and metabolics.

Arrive early enough to be comfortable.  Relax.  Take your time.  Think!! What is it the body needs? What is it your spirit needs? Assuming you are with friends, enjoy the conversation.

Twenty percent of the cost of restaurant food is the food itself – the rest is the ambience, servers, chefs and clean up people.  You deserve to be accommodated; this is what the cost of your meal reflects.

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?

Do not be afraid to ask about the ingredients, but do it discreetly and effectively!! Whenever the server comes to your table, look him/her in the eye and use his/her first name when you speak to him/her. You will be amazed at the difference this will make.

Try the following steps:

  1. Choose 2 items from the menu that you would like to eat
  2. Look your server in the eye.
  3. In a friendly way, say something like, “I’m sorry if it’s a bother, but I have some serious food allergies.”
  4. Ask open ended questions, “Tell me about the grilled salmon.” or “Exactly what is in the marinade?” or “How is this prepared?”
  5. Decide – don’t allow yourself to get into a long debate!! Pray, pick something appropriate and relax.

You do not have to be perfect!!  If the meal comes with a food that 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.

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.

When the others are having desserts, ask for coffee or decaf tea. I carry packet of my favorite in my purse just in case.

I love black cherry berry iced tea! And my inventive client told me that she asks for a glass of seltzer, an extra glass, and a cup of tea. Now she mixes the tea with the seltzer and has a glass of sparkling iced tea while the others have dessert!

Now Enjoy!! The purpose of life is not to get to the end of it, the purpose of life is to enjoy the trip!

 Please comment or question below or call or email me. Next week we will discuss vacations and road trips!

Enjoy this beautiful weather!

Blessings to you,


2 Responses to Eating Abstinently In Restaurants

  1. Edward Rubin June 9, 2021 at 6:13 pm #

    Early in my recovery a program friend suggested when you get the protein, cut off a small portion and leave it for your Higher Power. This reminds mw that the portions served at restaurants is much larger than what I would eat at home. I so enjoy reading your blogs Theresa

    • H. Theresa Wright June 21, 2021 at 11:28 pm #

      What a lovely idea. Thank you.
      I am so glad you enjoy the blogs!

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