Ah January, how I love to hate you. After months of holiday-induced bouts of gorging, often involving things I would never normally consider consuming (chocolate and caramel-covered Rice Krispie treats??!), I find myself looking at every January as kind of a winter detox session - austere, cold, and comfortless as the month itself. And if I’m serious about undoing the damage of December (not to mention November) then I’ve definitely got to avoid those outlets of overconsumption known as restaurants, right?
Good news! That assumption just may be wrong! An article published today in the January Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior has given me a glimmer of hope. Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin looked at 35 women aged 40 to 59 years old who reported eating out an average of 5.6 times a week. Participants were screened for eating disorders or health problems that could influence the study.
One group of women received counseling and training on what the researchers called “Mindful Restaurant Eating”, which included lessons on portion sizes, being able to identify hunger cues, and being more fully aware of what you are eating (so that you can hopefully feel more satisfied). The control group received no training.
All participants were asked on three separate days to recall what they ate over the past 24 hours. When the results were in - guess what - the training helped. After six weeks, the mindful eaters had significantly less weight gain at the end of the study than the control group, even though they were still eating in restaurants as often as before. Overall they reduced their caloric intake by almost 300 calories per day, and that reduction applied to what they ate at home as well, so the training benefited them away from the watchful eye of a waiter. And they even lost a little weight.
Now, as I contemplate my menu options for the near future, I’m beginning to believe that an occasional foray to my favorite food purveyor won’t completely derail my healthful intentions. I just need to be more mindful of what I’m eating, savoring each bite and being careful of portion size.
And turn a blind eye to the dessert cart
Would You Stop Eating Out to Lose Weight? [Elsevier]
The Effect of a Mindful Restaurant Eating Intervention on Weight
Management in Women [Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior]