I love eating.
So does CJ. In fact, for years, we planned every outing and vacation around the delectable meal which would surely be the high point of the day. Heading to San Antonio? Google me some good Mexican. Off to New York? Better load up on the pizza. Best in the world!
I accepted the fluffy midsection I was rapidly acquiring. I live in Houston. If we’re known for anything besides oil and gas, it is surely the restaurants on every corner. Eat up!
Eating out was our favorite activity.
Every Friday for our first few years of teaching, we headed out to Del Pueblo, our favorite Mexican joint. Two bowls of chips, two beers, a Burrito Grande, and Fajitas Especiales later, we rolled out to our car and over to Blockbuster. Before we could even figure out who was going to murder who, one or both of us were snoring and drooling on the couch cushions.
And what about the Black-eyed Pea for some down-home cookin’? What would you like, sir? I’ll have the chicken fried steak. And you, maam? Chicken and dumplings for me. Two empty lick-em-clean plates later, pants-a-poppin’, we leaned back in the booth and chastised ourselves. Next time we won’t ask for the second basket of rolls and cornbread. That’s just too much.
DiMassis Mediterranean Buffet replaced Del Pueblo and Black-Eyed Pea. Hell, we were going healthy. Chicken, cucumber salads, hummus. A bona fide health food bonanza. So what if we went up three times? We didn’t pile our plates like those other gluttons.
Actions speak louder than words.
Not until our tenth or so year of marriage did we seriously entertain the thought of regular exercise together. CJ went to the gym a few times a week. We played tennis on the weekends. Nothing serious. But everything changed when, one weekend, we headed out for a walk. Over the next few weeks, we mapped out a three mile route. Three miles became four. Once we changed our jobs, we were able to walk daily. I lost a few. He lost a few. Pants fit. Pants sagged.
Suddenly my pancake breakfast on Sunday morning wasn’t palatable. No more cinnamon coffee and people greeting us with happy smiles? Nope. I wasn’t taking daily walks to go and blow my pants out on a pile of pancakes. Nope. Not even by stuffing them full of blueberries and bananas could I justify my Sunday fluffy stack of delight.
This is where most diet gurus will tell you to eat at home. Load up your plate with as much chicken breast and greens as you like! You will be happy. Restaurants are made of evil-doers intent on sabatoging your health and your waistline.
So what to do? Just push through the fact that you now hate mealtime and, really, you hate your life?
Hold on, Sally. We are not giving up our eating out.
Eating out, we realized, was about more than the food. We eat out because many of our best conversations happen in our favorite eateries. The idea to start our own business and quit our jobs and start a business together came at one of our frequent flyer cafes. Not willing to submit to broiled chicken with broccoli, we went out to lunch and hashed a plan to Save the Eat Out.
We listed all the restaurants who offered healthy choices. We made lists of our favorite meals at each restaurant and decided if they could stay or go. Veggie burger at Cafe Express. It can stay, but the whole burger was just too much food for one of us. Solution: split the veggie burger and each get a side of fruit. Supplement with a small cup full of chickpeas from the condiments bar. Delicious! Delightful! Satisfying and we’re not crying!
And you, Jolly Eater? Do you love the restaurants like we do? What conversations are you having with yourself or perhaps your partner regarding eating out? What works for you?