One of the key challenges of staying healthy is eating out – especially at a business dinner. A meal with colleagues in a fancy restaurant or a friendly barbeque promises it’s time to just relax and enjoy some good food after all those hours of sustained focus at work. However, you also want to live healthily, and after a tough day you will be tired physically and psychologically, and the last thing you want is another task to focus on.
How to make the business dinner not competing with your good intentions?
It’s not realistic just to tell yourself to “hold back”
There are countless articles, books, websites out there telling you what you shouldn’t eat, what you should avoid. When you are in a state of Zen-like peace and centredness, all those articles and books are helpful. In a Zen state you have a tank full of emotional stamina, but we all know that’s not typical after a long, hard day of work. Plus, you can’t fully let it go, as you have the ‘business aspect’ also there. You may enter the restaurant with good intentions, only to leave feeling guilty that you failed again.
The fact is, you are emotionally depleted after a day of business. All the conditions around you loosen your good intentions – a nice restaurant with a great ambiance, delicious smells, something to drink, restful lights….. and someone else doing the cooking! What is more, it’s likely the people you are with are in a similar state. The only encouragement you are likely to get is to loosen up. It’s not helpful.
The practical approach.
So what can you do? For a start, don’t try not to solve all your health problems tonight. Instead, have a clear intent, and set a realistic goal for it. The good intention for tonight is to stay within a realistic zone, somewhere between Fitness-Guru-Discipline and Giving-In-Completely. So enjoy your night, but stay within a reasonable zone.
My recipe for success is:
Keep it simple.
Focus at the beginning of the evening.
Because you are emotionally tired, so you can’t do much, and as the night goes on you get more and more tired – your resolve fails. Here are three easy steps, distilled through a my own trial and error process at countless business dinners over the years, and working with busy clients !
Enjoy your food and stay healthy
1. Drink a glass of water before eating anything!
Drinking water before you eat is especially high-impact in this respect. It’s easy to make this mistake if you get dehydrated. Thirst can be mistaken for hunger, as after 30-60 minutes, thirst transforms into hunger. Drinking water will also fill your stomach a bit. People usually don’t drink enough water. Don’t get dehydrated – fill up with water.
2. Eat one salad item!
Make a contract with yourself: even though you eat that steak you love, or that special Italian pasta, eat at least one healthy salad item too; feed something to the higher powers of healthy eating. This can be as simple as a light green salad (ask the dressing to be separate), a bouillon soup, raw vegetables, or a starter that you split with a friend. In my experience green salad is the easiest; plentiful and high in fibre, and usually it’s lower cost. Salad is win: win for the lifestyle choice and the business dinner.
Remember to start your dinner with the healthy item and get your commitment to a healthy lifestyle done early in the evening.
3. Order only main course at first!
Just order your starter and main course, and then, after the main meal, you can still decide if you want to order a dessert, cheese or not. Why? If you order the dessert at the beginning, there’s 99% chance you will eat it, even if you are already totally full. It’s difficult to cancel something you have already ordered. If you delay your decision ordering the dessert later, you are free to order or not. If, you are already full, it’s easier to stop, and if you still have capacity, and want it, you get the bonus points from the waiter to order something extra previously not foreseen. If you usually don’t order the dessert at the beginning, keep your good habit, and reflect after the main meal how hungry you are.
Focus on doing healthy actions, instead of avoiding. Keep it very simple and focus at the beginning. With these principles put into practice, these are my easiest and most fail-proof actions for you to do on a business dinner:
- Drink a glass of water,
- Eat a green salad starter,
- Order only main course at first.
An easy way to remember it:
Picture yourself for a few seconds right now: you are sitting in the restaurant table as you are drinking water, eat a salad, and later after the main meal, discussing with your company whether to order or not the dessert.
Besides that it’s easy to remember, focusing only on these three strategies doubles your success rate, versus trying to keep in mind and trying to do a long list of complicated health-advices.
Does it sound too easy? Still, I encourage you to give it a go, and try these steps. You have nothing to loose. Then, let me know, how was your experience? What worked? What other strategies do you have to stay on track? Share your feedback in a comment or e-mail. Send me your questions through the Contact page and I will email you shortly.