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Does Eating Out Change Your Behaviour?

The question I asked on instagram was whether or not your behaviour changes based on your environment. I asked some slightly deeper questions in the stories and boy did you guys bring up some gold. So, here we go...

Why is it important to pay attention to your environment?

Following a tonne of study in the realm of consumption spaces, obesogenic environments (yes, they are a thing) and the ethnography (the scientific description of peoples, cultures habits, and mutual differences) this topic fascinates me. Combine this with years of working with 1:1 clients looking to lose weight, improve their health and get better clarity around nutrition, I've seen first hand how our consumption spaces can affect our health.

Eating Out & Your Health

Eating out is an absolutely brilliant way to get together with friends and family, try new things and take the stress out of having to cook your own meal. Together with this huge enjoyment factor comes a plethora of intricate factors which change the way in which we behave when we enter these scenarios.

What Factors Come Into Play?

- A heightened sense of being seen

- An anxiety of making food decisions in front of others

- Limited menu choices

- Portion sizes outside of our control

- Timing of meals out in association with weekends & holidays

Behaviour I See Often:

- Ordering something 'easy'

- Ordering based on what your friends or family might think - even if it is something you aren't keen on

- Ordering based on cost

- Ordering something 'healthy' you didn't really want and eating everyone else's leftovers

- Getting flummoxed by menus and panic ordering

- Ordering more with a fear of being hungry later

Instead of ordering exactly what we want, what we feel like and what we know we'll enjoy, all these external factors come into play. If we're out and ready for indulgence, over ordering, over eating and loving it is absolutely great. Where the problems lie is in the psychology of taking actions that do not align with your overall goals and values. For many people, not considering these external factors manifest into feelings of guilt, knowing they have acted in a way that doesn't serve them.

What Are The Most Common Problems And How To Tackle Them?

Do you struggle to find healthy options even when you want them?

This friend thought he was being a real joker... but actually makes a good point. In a study on childhood obesity in the UK, your proximity to fast food outlets (together with a number of other factors) contributed to your likelihood of being obese.

It goes without saying, that having to drive 45 mins to get to a MacDonalds, makes you less likely to go, than if there is one on your doorstep, that you see every day.

Actively choosing not to go to consumption spaces that you know will be a struggle is always a good place to start.

Fast food is fine when you feel like it. But if you know it is becoming too regular and a bad habit for you, that's when it's time to rethink. It's worth bearing in mind that even if you go into MacDonald's with the best intentions (congratulations to my beautiful client who recently managed to order a bunless chicken breast burger....) when you see the other items on the menu and are with others ordering a burger and fries, it is going to be hard not to cave.

Which brings me on to the next topic... people.

Do You Order Based On The People Around You?

This is a funny one and multi-faceted. As a human being we love to please people. We subconsciously want the waiter to like us so don't want to make our order complicated.

We want to order something 'easy' so it doesn't take too long. Some shy away from ordering anything too expensive for want of not looking showy or causing an issue if you're splitting the bill. Some order vegan food because their out with their vegan friends.

Don't underestimate how much your company can impact your food decisions.

We all know that feeling of food envy.

When we're eating out this is combined with the pressure to make a snap decision - we may not come back here, we get one shot - may as well order the biggest and best thing on the menu. This stems from an ancestral belief that food is scarce. Well, not any more.

We've all done it. We have amazing intentions of ordering a salad and then our friend next to us orders the giant ribs covered in BBQ sauce.... and our great intentions melt away.

If you're known as being a 'big eater' and feel like your friends expect you to order large meals or lots of food, this can be particularly problematic, but is something you seriously need to overcome if you feel like it's a problem for you.

Portion Sizes & Lack of Control

Even if you have; avoided MacDonalds and ordered the chicken salad (despite being sat between a vegan and friend who has ordered a sloppy burger and fries) you've got a few more elements to contend with.

The portion sizes in restaurants can be HUGE. They want to make people feel good and come back for more. Portions aren't a huge issue to restaurants and isn't often where they make their money. Throwing more size (calories) at a plate makes them look generous and costs them very little.

For you however, despite having made some really good choices, the need to finish your plate of sugar laden salad, enough to feed two, leaves you feeling lethargic as all the blood rushes to your stomach to digest your food. Being OK with leaving some food on the plate, giving away what you don't want, or simply taking note and choosing differently next time is all you need to do.

If you've read this far.... well done! This was quite the essay and I feel we've barely scratched the surface.

If you notice yourself taking on these behaviours, feel free to reach out for a chat. My framework for changing your fitness, nutrition and mindset covers a number of factors including your environment.

Our 5 Step Framework For Change...

- Mindset

- Environment

- Habits

- Fitness

- Nutrition

Send me an email to drop me a message on 027 265 0350. Or click below to book a Consultation.

Sources and additional reading...

Obesogenic environments and obesity:

Obesity Evidence Hub:


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