People often recommend making your own meals at home if you want to lose weight. True enough, research showed that home-cooked meals are healthier, as they tend to contain less sugar and salt than processed food and fast food. In addition, people who eat home-cooked meals regularly are found to be happier, especially if they enjoy them with their families. Social connections formed over meals help cultivate a sense of belonging, which boosts mental health and reduces symptoms of depression.
But ironically, people who feel stressed or depressed often overeat to get a pick-me-up. They’d usually finish a whole tub of ice-cream, or order fast food meals to their heart’s content. When asked why they won’t cook instead, they may answer that they don’t have enough time and energy.
This turns out to have a scientific explanation after all; eating for emotional relief is found to be linked to depression, which may become a result of being overweight or obese.
Considering all of these, if you live in an area full of dining establishments nearby, will it make you more prone to weight problems and depression? Let’s find out what research reveals:
Who’s to Blame for Obesity?
The public tends to point their fingers at fastfood restaurants when asked who’s to blame for obesity. However, in a study conducted by two food economists, it was found that restaurants, groceries, farmers, and governments weren’t at fault for the rising number of obese individuals. Rather, it’s the individuals themselves who should be accountable for their own weight problems.
The researchers surveyed more than 800 people in the U.S., asking them to classify seven different entities (individuals, parents, restaurants, food manufacturers, farmers, gov’t policies, and groceries) as “primarily to blame”, “somewhat to blame”, or “not to blame” for obesity. 94% of 774 usable responses classified individuals as primarily or somewhat to blame, making it unexpectedly clear that many people don’t blame the food industry for the growing obesity problem.
These results support past research about food policies, such as the requirement to disclose calorie information on restaurant menus, and why they don’t always produce the best results. According to Brenna Ellison, co-author of the “Who’s to Blame for the Rise of Obesity?” research, the U.S. being an individualistic society makes it not so surprising that people would put the responsibility for obesity on themselves.
How to Stay Fit and Healthy When You Love Eating Out
From the research data above, we can gather that we’re more in control of our eating habits than we realize. Unless we’re suffering from chronic overeating or binge eating disorder, both of which require cognitive behavioral therapy to be managed.
If you love eating out, whether in local eateries, fancy restaurants, or hotels, here are some tips to maintain your healthy choices:
- Choose your order ahead of time. Almost all restaurants have an online menu, so make your choice earlier to avoid the temptation of ordering so many dishes at once.
- Choose an establishment with a healthy menu. This means avoiding fast foods, or anywhere else that serve unhealthy meals.
- Walk to your restaurant of choice. Since you live near a commercial area full of dining establishments, it would be easy to pick a restaurant that’s only walking distance away from your home. Make dining out a physical activity by walking toward that restaurant.
- Eat slowly. It takes only around 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re already full. Eating fast will convince you that you’re still hungry even after that period, so chew your food well and savor its taste.
- Order a balanced meal. Make sure you have vegetables, protein, carbs, fiber, fat, and other essential nutrients on your plate. Ask for a salad dressing on the side so you can control its portion size.
- Opt for broiled, grilled, or steamed dishes. Those are cooked with less fat, as opposed to fried, breaded, smothered, alfredo, rich, and creamy dishes.
- Ask to have your diet accommodated. If you are a vegan, or allergic to a certain food product, don’t hesitate to ask the waiter to tweak your orders. Many restaurants allow “off-menu” orders, perfect for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone generally health-conscious.
Eating Healthy When Traveling
It can be tricky to eat only healthy meals when traveling abroad because the language barrier might make it hard to communicate what you exactly require. But of course, that doesn’t make it impossible.
Registered dietitians recommend snacking on non-perishable snacks, such as dried nuts, protein bars, and jerky. Drop by the local grocery store too to restock your healthy snacks and to pick up other healthy foods along the way.
If you’d rather skip the plane food, bring oats and soup cups and ask the flight attendant for hot water. This will fill you up without the guilt, and without paying the hefty meal charges.
Staying healthy is a lifestyle that requires discipline, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Once you feel the benefits of your diet, the many restaurants and fast foods around your area can’t lure you anymore.