Restaurant Diet

You’re probably scratching your head.

The “Restaurant Diet?”

Isn’t that, like, the WORST thing you could do to your health?

Yeah, we all know that eating out subjects us to bad oils, poor quality food, and larger portions than normal. Plus, temptation may get the better of us… can we say dessert? And margaritas?

But, when you’re pregnant, your nose has superpowers and cooking just does NOT appeal to you. (Yup, it’s true. Surprise to all of us!).

I went from being able to stomach a veggie hash with the previous night’s leftovers for breakfast…

… to not wanting ANYTHING to do with meat or veggies…

… to getting a more “normal” appetite back, but detesting the thought of cooking.

So, when pregnant and when in Germany, eat out… right?

Luckily, my husband and I are living in the same German city that we lived in two years ago, so we know quality restaurants to eat at.

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But, still, to go from eating out once in a while to every day is excessive.

This is what I call “The Restaurant Diet.” And while it isn’t ideal or cost conscience, it has taught me a lot.

Remember when I wrote that article about chewing your food? And how chewing can do a LOT in the way of digestion and absorption of nutrients? Going beyond just chewing food well, ridding of all distractions is another fantastic way to improve digestion.

Why? Because our autonomic nervous system, which controls activities of our organs, glands, and involuntary muscles, operates in two states:

1) Parasympathetic:  Activates tranquil functions, like stimulating the secretion of saliva or digestive enzymes in the stomach.

2) Sympathetic: Stimulates activites that prepare the body for action, like increasing the heart rate, increasing the release of sugar from the liver into the blood, and other fight-or-flight responses.

When we are distracted while eating (even if we don’t think we are), our bodies switch to the sympathetic state, diverting attention from the release of important digestive enzymes and general digestive functions. This prepares the body for action (like running away from a lion).

The result? Digestion and absorption of nutrients are impaired.

And that’s pretty much the worst combination…. Not being able to properly digest food, which affects the assimilation of nutrients that our body actually uses. Not good.

And just to clarify, distractions while eating might include…

  • Watching TV
  • Reading a magazine
  • Being in a stressed state
  • Eating while driving or standing up
  • Rushing while eating

Yeah, I’m especially guilty of both eating while distracted AND not chewing my food like a champ.

You know what, though?

I had an epiphany about 3 – 4 weeks into my Restaurant Diet.

My digestion has improved a lot. And it makes complete sense! I’ve been forced to do the many things that I KNOW would help me, but are so difficult to commit to with my Type-A, go-go-go personality, such as:

What the Restaurant Diet Taught Me

1) Sitting down to eat.

Sometimes, it’s just easier to drink my breakfast smoothie while changing a laundry load and doing the dishes, you know? But, I pay for it in the end. Sitting down at a restaurant is obviously a given, and automatically leads me to point #2…

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2) Slowing WAY down while eating.

Finally. Ever since college, where I’d scarf down meals in between class or practice, my pace of eating has been remarkable. Add to that a *bit* of an influence from my hungry 6’11” hubby, and I’ve only continued to keep the pace. Restaurants change that. Maybe it’s the social pressure of weird stares from others while scarfing my food, or maybe just the fact that I know I’m paying for this food and I want to actually enjoy the experience, but the more I’ve eaten out, the slower I’ve gotten.

3) Chewing my food so that it’s actually broken down.

This goes hand-in-hand with slowing down. I now pay attention to the food in my mouth, and use my teeth like they should be used. After all, our stomachs don’t have teeth.

4) Awareness, enjoyment, and savoring (also lack of distractions).

Distractions suck the joy out of eating. Beyond nourishing ourselves, one of the main purposes of eating is also pleasure! I’ve found so much more pleasure and awareness when eating out, from savoring the tastes and textures, to thinking about the process of my body using these nutrients. It’s awesome and I feel so much more joy during and after my meal!

5) Positive Spillover.

Believe it or not, by sheer repetition of eating out and developing all of these wonderful eating habits, I do find them transferring to eating at home. I am now aware when I start reading an email mid-meal. I find myself getting slightly stressed, and force myself to stop.

And rather than spooning some applesauce here, and downing some nuts there while standing up, I force myself to get out a plate, sit down, and shut my computer off. It may not be the most entertaining or delightful meal if I’m eating alone, but I know that my body will thank me later.

The Moral of the Story

Am I suggesting that you adopt the Restaurant Diet for several weeks yourself?

Not really, unless you have access to affordable, whole foods options. 🙂

My takeaway and charge to both you and myself is to treat eating – whether at a restaurant, at work, or at home – like you are eating out. Take time for yourself. Shut your computer and phone off. Turn the TV off. Get into a relaxed state of mind, and eat so that you nourish yourself.

You’ll find so much more pleasure and peace, and enhanced digestion and health! In fact, I may just decorate my dining room like a restaurant…

  • For more on why you should chew your food, read here.
  • For more on how to heal/improve your digestion, read here.

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Your turn!

1. Did you find it was difficult to cook while pregnant (or for your pregnant wife)?

2. Can you relate to my “Restaurant Diet” revelation, that slowing down and chewing more thoroughly is much more nourishing?