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How do those of you that eat out often not gain weight?

  • t

Are you gym addicted? portion controlled? what is it?

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  1. Yes and yes. Despite all the various fads and claims, the only way to maintain your weight is to burn as many calories as you take in.

    Portion control is especially important -- most restaurants serve much bigger portions than a person should eat on a regular basis. Most good diet plans will give you various techniques for figuring out what a "real" portion should be.

    Other ways to eat less when eating out are to share portions with your dining companions and to *talk* with your dining companions so that you eat more slowly and don't over order because your body hasn't realized how much it's already consumed. Don't feel like you have to order an entree -- maybe an appetizer (or two, if you were going to order one and an entree) will be just as good (or better: in a lot of restaurants I know, the appetizers are more interesting than the entrees).

    A couple of other tricks are to avoid consuming "unmindful" calories, like automatically emptying the bread basket while you're waiting for your order (my downfall is chips in a Mexican place -- I eat the whole basket and then when my entree comes I'm not hungry!) or drinking several high-calorie beverages (coke, beer, some cocktails) -- a lot of people don't take the calories in their beverages into account when they think about how much they ate, and they can add up.

    As for exercise, aerobic exercise burns more fat while you're exercising, but weight training (or strength training, as they prefer to call it these days) builds muscle mass that will burn more calories 24/7, so you should include it in your gym regimen. Adding muscle mass means you might not lose weight, but you'll be losing fat, and your clothes will show it, even if your scale doesn't.

    And finally, walk to and/or from the restaurant, or take a walk after your meal (which will also help your digestion). A lovely dinner and a walk in the moonlight -- what could be better?!

    1. Actually I eat less in restaurants - at home it's so easy to have 'seconds' and to just load up my plate with large portions.

      In restaurants I usually don't order dessert and will share a couple of bites. For my palate, most desserts are not that great after a couple of bites anyway.

      Do lots of walking if you live in a big city like New York. That helps too. That's how I also discover great restaurants! ;)

      1. The trend of "small plates" is very helpful. But if I go to a place with standard huge restaurant portions, I share, or take part of it to go--usually good for one or two more meals at home or work.

        Not a big fan of fried foods, so I usually avoid those. If the server asks if I want bread, I say no thanks.

        It's good to plan ahead...if I'm really in the mood for dessert, I only have an appetizer beforehand.

        And...walk everywhere!

        1. I don't have a car and walk a lot. If I stopped doing this, I think I would gain 20 pounds in just a few months.

          1. planning and exercise. numer 1 - look at the meal in its entirety, not individual courses. if you have a fattier than average app, then look to balance with a lighter entree, take advantage of fish and summer. if an entree looks great, lighten up on the app. say no to the dessert menu, do not even look at it, i have never met one that did not have at least one "gotta have." anti-chowhound advise number 2 - no booze. look at the calories. number 3 - exercise, in a big city try to walk, to and from the restaurant or take a nice walk after. likewise try to hit the gym regularly, and while your sweating it up don't fret about what you ate the night before, but think about what you can eat the following night because you are being good and pumping iron.

            1. Portion control...have them take away the bread basket after you have sampled, i love she crab soup--so have a few luscious spoonfuls then push it to the other side of the table and make sure the server takes it away...same if I want dessert-I ask for the check at the same time so I can enjoy a little and then leave when I feel too tempted to eat the whole thing.

              When I am really trying to lose weight instead of just maintain, no cream, no processed meats like sausage and burgers, and watch out for the calories in drinks. And I go to Sushi or Vietnamese when I feel too heavy.

              Of course smalll plates are the prefect example. Sometimes I got the snotty waiter that looks at me when I order 2 apps, or soup an app with no entree...but hey I am paying him, so who cares.

              1 Reply
              1. re: WellFedRed

                Good example about the she-crab soup - I had a similar experience recently that illustrates my own point about noticing satiety.

                I ordered oyster stew. Basically, six fat oysters in hot heavy cream and butter. I snatched up the first oyster and greedily clamped down on it, causing an explosion of almost atomic oyster essence in my mouth. It was EXACTLY what I wanted to experience. I ate another, it was wonderful but not orgasmic. The third and fourth went to my companions, who also swooned. I ate my third oyster and a spoonful of cream/butter and that was all I needed. The wautress removed the bowlful of of cream, butter, and the last lonely oyster who had died in vain - I had had my fun and left probably a thousand calories in the bowl, a thousand calories that in years past I probably would have mindlessly sucked up along with a basketful of prosaic french bread and butter, a total waste of calories. I guess maturity is knowing exactly what it is you do want, and what you don't need.

              2. I gain weight.

                1. b

                  Portion control, and both weight training and cardio (weight control is far better when you do both). Also, I don't nosh.

                  1. After a lifetime of fighting my weight, it's finally been stabilized for the last 5 years and I don't even ever have to think about it any more. I discovered there is this little voice. I only eat what I really, really want to eat, and stop when the little voice says, "Hmm...maybe that's enough" or, "Hmm...I think I'll wrap this up and eat it later" or, "Hmm...boy, the first few bites of that tasted outrageous...but now it just tastes so so" and I stop. Now that I'm never thinking about what I should or should not eat based on some external artificial criteria, I find I actually sometimes crave fruits, vegetables and salads and sometimes I crave stuff that I used to think of as forbidden. But the little voice tells me when to stop - it's also accompanied by noticing a subtle physical sensation of fullness and stopping. When the good and evil moralizing goes away once and for all, you're just left with enjoying what you want to eat when you're hungry and stopping when you're full. I walk a lot, I take a vitamin for insurance, and I drink an awful lot of tea, which seems to calm me on some deep level - a level that I used to have to over-eat to achieve. I'm very grateful, actually.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Niki Rothman

                      Thank you. I seem to remember that little voice, will try and commune with it.

                      1. re: Niki Rothman

                        I have lost my little voice. Actually, I think I have stuffed it's mouth full. For the last dozen years or so I've stayed skinny mainly because I get so much exercise...but in the last year I've put on 5 unfortunate pounds.

                        Once I start eating the little voice is quiet until about 30 minutes after I'm finished and then, too late, i hear "you shouldn't have eaten that...it wasn't even good".

                        Thanks, now you tell me.

                        1. re: danna

                          What do you mean by, "...now you tell me"?

                          1. re: Niki Rothman

                            I think the poster is saying that to his/her "little voice" - wishing that it had spoken up earlier.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              yes, exactly. my little voice has begun to offer only annoying hindsight.

                              1. re: danna

                                Now, I'm going to suggest something here that may sound a little strange at first, but trust me. When you are in a relaxed mental state, talk nicely and respectfully to your little voice about how realize it is a loving, powerful potential guardian for you, and how you need it to be responsive to your best interests while you are eating. If this subject is really important to you - eating only really delicious food and stopping when you've had enough, rather than way too much, you can consciusly strengthen the little voice. Changing behavior needs to be done mechanically at first, but later with practice, becomes more automatic. Engage in dialog with the little voice often when you are relaxed (and later to give you strength when you are in an eating situation where you might slip and eat way too much because you go unconscious) and invite it to become more helpful, protective, lovingly vigilent of your best interests - in a good way. This could be a surprisingly pleasant experience for you, the conversations will undoubtedly teach you a lot about your relationship with food. You know the little voice exists, it's just slow right now because you aren't working with it at all. So, respecting and cultivating it - invite it to become stronger by engaging it often. The goal is that it should help you to eat only the most delicious food and to help you stop when you have had enough, but not too much.

                                1. re: Niki Rothman


                                  i was starting to wonder how i managed to be thin for so long and then abruptly gain 10 lbs after moving in with my boyfriend. (eating out at 10:30 at night with him doesn't help.)

                                  anyway, you brilliantly formulated what we women who have been thin all our lives do to stay thin, thank you for helping me find my way back!

                                  to opra-fy it some more, i think communing with the voice has a lot to do with feeling good in your skin. no wonder overweight people get into eating cycle binges.

                      2. They just don't know how to cook, so it all evens out.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ODB

                          hmm. that definitely is true for some people. i had a banker friend that did no cooking and ate large meals every time we were out together. meanwhile, i was the one gaining weight.
                          i suspected that people that aren't watching their portions at restaurants or exercising are not eating the rest of the time. that doesn't work for me though, i'd go insane.

                        2. Its a combo of a few things:

                          1) sensible calorie controlled other meals

                          2) portion controlling- don't be afraid to ask for a box when the meal arrives, and put half in there

                          3) ordering sensibly

                          4) exercising

                          I struggle with every pound. But, as long as you are smart and watch yourself, you can eat whatever you want, in moderation.

                          1. r
                            Robert Lauriston

                            No portion control, though I don't like too much rich food at one seating. I'm not very interested in sweets.

                            I excercise every day. Either half an hour on an elliptical trainer at the gym or an hour-plus walk or hike, plus weight training twice a week.

                            If my weight creeps up, I exercise more or cut back on wine.

                            1. Who says we don't gain weight? Actually, I tend to diet when I'm not eating out and when I do eat out, try to be reasonable about what I order.

                              1. Funny I stumbled on your question when I did...at this very moment I'm simultaneously surfing two message boards (I'm on vacation and catching up). One is on chowhound.com and the other is on cyclingforums.com. I guess that's MY "secret tactic". Passions for chow and fitness. (Not surfing multiple sites that is.)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MSPD

                                  Hey! we're twins! Chowhound and MTBR/RBR are my two playgrounds. There is no guessing what I might weigh if one didn't balance the other, more or less.

                                2. Just got done living out my personal philosophy: "EAT NOW, PAY LATER!" After a delicious weekend of Memorial Day BBQ I hit the gym. And will be going there again today, or at least taking an extra-long walk with the dog. Normally I do try to portion-control what I eat, which is easy to do in a lot of restaurants - dinner is actually dinner for now & lunch for tomorrow. I hate feeling guilty about what I eat, so I try to eat what I want and just burn calories later. And when I'm on vacation I usually have no restraints - which is why my upcoming vacation to Las Vegas worries me =) I also eventually overcame my mental block about "weight": since muscles weigh more than fat, I'd rather weigh more, have some muscle definition, but still fit into my size 6.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: SanJoseHound

                                    It's really a lot harder to lose weight by exercizing than by cutting empty calories, and by "empty" I mean sugar that is not contained in a solid piece of fresh fruit, fat, superfluous refined starches, and alcohol. I feel too lazy to start looking it up today, but it is a stone cold fact that the amount of pure torture you'd have endure for your exercize to burn up a significant amount of weight, or even burn up the extra calories from a few days of binge eating for that matter, probably equals the amount of calories you'd burn if you climbed Mount Everest. Exercize to improve your cardiovascular health, to increase your balance, flexibility, strength and stamina - that's why you should exercize. But don't fool yourself into believing that as a lifestyle you can overeat, gain weight and then quickly lose it by furiously exercizing. That way lies insanity or a heart attack.

                                    1. re: Niki Rothman

                                      well put i think.
                                      no one's yet said that lots of exercise is bad for you, but i know that eating and exercising both increase free radical production, which damages your cells. hence the study that found low calorie-diet rats live longer. they haven't done the equivalent study for exercise, probably so that people don't misinterpret it.
                                      but i'm also just trying to rationalize the fact that i hate to exercise intentionally ( don't mind being active just not for the sake of "exercise.")

                                      1. re: Niki Rothman

                                        I think my post may have been misunderstood. I do not binge eat and did not mean to imply that. Luckily I've been blessed with a metabolism that even in my 30's allows me to eat what I want and with moderate exercise (about 3 times a week), maintain the same weight. Yes, the last time I went to Vegas I gained 5 pounds. I didn't have to "torture" myself into losing it. Going back to my regular exercise routine I was able to lose it in a couple weeks, which is fine with me. Its not a cycle of feast or famine for me. I just happen to enjoy guiltless eating, but I don't gorge. One of my friends came to my BBQ and only ate almonds. She says she would rather (severely) limit food intake & carefully watch portion control than do any exercise at all. I know this is an extreme example, but the opposite of me. I sampled a little of everything: baby backs, hot links, BBQ beans, salmon, mac salad, corn, and a mojito. Because everyone's metabolism is different, I'm able to add just a little bit to my exercise routine to compensate. Of course I'm not saying this strategy works for everyone, just what what works for me.

                                        1. re: SanJoseHound

                                          don't take it personally. i think both posts were in response to the idea you brought up of exercising in response to freely eating, not your habits per se.

                                      2. re: SanJoseHound

                                        A twist on that is what I do before I go on vacation or one of my vegas trips. The week or two weeks before I go, I put in extra workouts and really watch my portions very tightly. I usually end up losing a few pounds or getting leaner and increasing my muscle mass. Mentally its easier to discipline myself with the trip as the reward vs. trying to pay later as a punishment.

                                        Additionally I find that when I am on vacation, I like my leaner self so much that I'm less likely to completely gorge and manage to maintain some semblance of self control.

                                        By the time I get back from my trip, the 2-3 pounds I've gained brings me back to where I was before the extra workouts.

                                        1. re: Jase

                                          Warm lemon water helps too. It works as a diuretic and fills you up. Cuts down on the sodium you retain.

                                      3. I do not belong to a gym, and do not control my portions. I do not gain weight, and most people consider me to be "skinny"

                                        I guess I am blessed with a quick burning metabolism. I also have an acre of grass to mow ever week with a walk behind mower, and I also take a 2 mile walk at lunch 2-3 days a week during my lunch break(mostly to work on my tan, the workout is secondary).

                                        I drink 3 cans of pepsi or coke a day, a couple of beers at night, as well as a some sips of tequilla. I also eat whatever I want when I go out, or cook at home, alot of red meat, bbq pork, butter, fried foods, and carbs. I almost never eat desert, I never eat breakfast, and only eat a really light lunch most days, I typically account for 75% of my days calories at when I eat dinner. That is just a guess because I do not believe in counting calories.

                                        1. Exercise, portion control, and I guess also genetics.

                                          I noticed something over the years in Vienna (a town where I've spent some time, which has a famous food-intensive culture -- five or six meals a day, traditionally; see Joseph Wechsberg's classic little book "Blue Trout and Black Truffles"). Despite all the good "comfort" food, elaborate dumpling subculture,* and desserts, my impression has been of a not especially obese culture (in comparison to US). It's also true that they walk a lot -- it's a pedestrian city -- and they drink a lot of coffee, which may induce unconscious portion control.

                                          *See Franziska Helmreich and Anton Staudinger's wonderfully tongue-in-cheek "Nur Knödel" (Vienna, 1993, ISBN 3854474350, bilingual German and English).

                                          1. Being in NYC helps - you walk everywhere and burn it off, and there's no car to be lazy with! Being picky with food is good (i.e, no fast food) Genetics also helps too. My parents are both twigs.

                                            1. First, pick your genetic parents carefully.

                                              Kidding aside, genetics determines a whole lot about your body shape. So sure portion control and exercise, but for some people none of which works.

                                              Look at Rachel Ray. You'd think that with all the food she eats she should be 300 lbs. But watch closely and you'll see that she only takes one bite from her food. And maybe eventually she'd be 300 lbs. anyway.

                                              1. I go to the gym three times a week, and I plan ahead when I know I'm going to eat out. I'll be careful at breakfast/lunch so that I can enjoy my restaurant meal OR if I am eating out at lunch, I'll have a real meal, and eat light at night.

                                                I agree that portion control is hugely important. Most restaurants give you at least twice as much as a portion should be, so right away, I will take half my fish and set it on a bread plate, or cut off a portion of my steak, and immediately ask them to put it in a box. Whenever possible, I do half orders, or get a couple of appetizers instead of an appetizer and a main.

                                                I usually only have one glass or wine or at the most, two. If I do wine, I don't do dessert, because I have to be careful with sugar. Or if I know I'm going to have dessert, I stay with mineral water.

                                                Also, many restaurants have their menus posted on the Web now, so I'll sometimes go online and look at what they're offering, so I can have an idea of how to plan my meal. I know people have trouble with big baskets of chips and bread baskets. Essentially, I try not to even start eating them. For example, I never touch the puffy crisp things you get in Thai and Chinese restaurants, because I want to focus on real food.

                                                It also helps to know menu codes. "Crispy" means deep fried; "spicy rolls" are usually some kind of fix mixed with mayo. "Tossed with" means they are putting the dressing on the salad, and since I don't know how much they've used, I get the dressing on the side.

                                                1. Eat a lot of vegetables, go easy on the starch, sugar, and white bread, eat till you're full but not bursting, go to the gym once a week. So easy and so reasonable! Except it's amazingly difficult in a U.S. restaurant to find a meal that isn't mostly starch and meat.

                                                  1. Other than high metabolism it's up to you. would jfood like a 24 oz prime p-house every night, yup, then throw in some rich dessert and it's yippe time in the resto and belly scratching in the hotel room.

                                                    - exercise. no one likes to get up early, but jfood is in the fitness center every morning on the road whenever possible. 30 minutes at least of elliptical and then some weight machines.
                                                    - order carefully. sure having foie gras for an app and a rich entree sunds good. but choose one of the other, plan your meal as a unit, not separate edventures. if the foie or triple cheese risotto is important as an app, look to the fish for an entree
                                                    - fish - everyone can grill a steak at home, no biggie. but how many can make some of the beautiful fishes you can buy in a resto. if you hade a regretful meal the night before, look only at the fish. jfood sees to migrate to these more often these days.
                                                    - skip the booze. easy for jfood to say since he does not drink, but do you really need a scotch before dinner and a glass of wine during? lots of extra calories
                                                    - skip the dessert. this should be fairly selfexplanatory. order a cup of herb tea and some berries
                                                    - get over the psychological adventure that it's on the expense account. OK so the cost if free, but the calorie intake is still the same whether you pay or your company pays.
                                                    - try to eat a little earlier and take a walk. never happens but eating closer to 6 is better than 9. jfood has to remember this one on the next trip
                                                    - breakfast - No you do not need two eggs, bacon sausage, sweet rolls, etc. lighten up. Yes, again the company might be paying but would you eat like this in your kitchen.

                                                    Latly, reember it's a BUSINESS trip not a food marathon. Your goal is not to see how much you can place on the corporate card, but how much business you generate. View the exercise, the metings and the eating as a group of events that all need balance and focus so no one of them suffers.

                                                    1. I have a really high metabolism. And, because I've had my gall bladder removed (I had gall stones even though I was thin and in my early 20s), there is a physical limit on how much food I can eat at one time.

                                                      I exercise some, but not regularly. Despite a weakness for ice cream, I am not a snacker.

                                                      I also cook a lot, and like to think that I know what I'm doing on that front (to respond to another poster). I would think that not cooking would actually make a person more likely to gain weight. Processed foods are so much worse for you than cooking things fresh.