Imagine this: you’re at one of your go-to restaurants. You take a look at the menu and skim past your usual favourites because tonight, you want to try something new. You order something you’ve never tried before. And as you’re waiting for your food to arrive, someone at the table next to you receives something that looks (and smells) fantastic. Immediately, you’re thinking that you wish you’d ordered what they did. Finally, when your meal arrives, you take a bite – and it’s simply not as delicious as what you imagine your neighbour’s meal tastes like. Now you’re regretting your dining decision entirely. This phenomenon is what I like to call Eating Out FOMO.
I probably overthink my restaurant dining choices more than many people. I can’t just think about what kind of food I feel like eating. I’m also considering what food I will most regret not eating. And when I eat out with a group, I also take note of what they’re ordering. Did someone pick something that sounds more tasty than what I’m getting? Will I spend the entire meal staring at their plate, wishing it was mine? (Or worse, wishing they would just offer me a bite already?!)
When it comes to solving this problem, the more variety, the better. That means I love buffets, because I never have to worry about missing out on something. But most restaurants aren’t a buffet, so sometimes you have to get creative. One friend and I love getting Pad Thai at a local Thai place for lunch. But because of our Eating Out FOMO, we never order anything else, in case it’s not as good as the Pad Thai! Now we’ve resolved to try the rest of the menu by getting one order of Pad Thai and one order of something new, then splitting both. Not exactly the most efficient method, but at least we won’t have the regret of a Pad Thai-less lunch. #ThaiDayFriday
But now I’ve run into a bigger issue. With all of my recent interest in Tone It Up and healthy living, I want to choose healthier options when dining out. However, it’s hard to convince everyone else you’re going out with to pick a healthy restaurant. (Though if you can convince them, go for it!) So instead, you’re stuck with trying to make do at a normal restaurant. To have a Tone It Up Nutrition Plan-compliant meal at a restaurant that piles on the calories, you’re basically only ordering iceberg lettuce salads with dressing on the side. Ugh. (It’s so much easier to make tasty, healthy meals at home than it is to find them at a restaurant!) Then your friends receive their delicious food, and all you can think about is how much you want their fries… Talk about Eating Out FOMO!
What’s a healthy eater to do?
I had an epiphany recently: my restaurant regret points to a larger issue regarding my relationship with food and eating out. I’ve been so focused on the food itself that I’ve forgotten about the experience of dining with friends and family. The meal is simply a backdrop to a great time together. If we shift our mindset so that the primary objective is quality time rather than quality food, we can be much happier with both. This mindset shift is one of my goals for the upcoming Tone It Up Bikini Series, which I’ll be posting about shortly. Alternatively, you can catch up over healthy, home-cooked meals, or enjoy another activity together, like a hike or a board game!