A few years ago, during one of the best wellness workshops I’ve ever attended, our facilitator suggested that when our team went out to dinner that night in Orlando we should split a meal with someone else in the group.
There was silence in the room. Nervous laughter. Rib poking. You would have thought she’d asked us to share naked pictures with one another, not a simple dinner! She patiently continued, explaining that restaurant portions had become unreasonably large at most places and by splitting an entree, we’d likely end up with much closer to the right amount of food for one meal. She urged us to trust her and to just try it!
Our group of about 16 went to dinner that night and if my memory is correct, there were a total of TWO of us willing to take her challenge. (Yes, I was one of them in case you were wondering!) My friend Sally and I split our dinner, and as you might expect since I’m writing this post, we both left the table feeling completely satisfied and not a bit deprived. It was a delightful change of pace actually from the state in which many of us often leave business dinners …tired…bloated…overly stuffed…and guilty.
I can’t say it was the first time I had ever split an entree in a restaurant, but it was clearly a seminal moment for me. I was shocked by the general unwillingness of our group to try the facilitator’s suggestion for even one meal. The next day, she admitted that this was often the outcome, explaining that our group was not unique. We’re all quite attached to our extra-large portions in restaurants and that’s precisely why they continue to grow. Moreover, in many restaurants a single entree could actually serve closer to four people than two – unbelievable.
There are a number of reasons people balk at this meal-splitting suggestion. Just a few of them are:
– they worry they might not get enough to eat
– they don’t want to compromise on an entree selection with their dinner partner
– they don’t want to be seen as cheap
– they think they might insult the waiter or the chef
– they don’t want to cause extra work for the kitchen to split the entree
In our group, all of these reasons had surfaced and more. The sad result was that only two of us had even tried the experiment and experienced the benefits!
I returned from that wellness training and shared a lot of what I’d learned with my husband…who patiently listened and (lucky me!) gamely agreed to try anything once. We went out to dinner a few nights later and I suggested we split our dinner. He agreed. And incredibly, we STILL took home leftovers. It was so eye-opening! Since that night, meal splitting has become a routine occurrence for us…a fun game even. It allows us to order more decadently than we might do otherwise, knowing that we can keep the meal reasonable by eating less of each item. (By the way the idea of taking home half of your dinner also works…but some things just aren’t as good when they are reheated!)
This past weekend we went to dinner at Jeff Ruby’s, a fabulous steakhouse here in Cincinnati, famous for great food, a larger-than-life atmosphere and portion sizes to match! We split the following:
2 (reeeeeeally big) pieces of shrimp from the raw bar
Lump crab cocktail with remoulade sauce
A green salad with dressing on the side
12 oz filet mignon (7-8 oz for him, 4-5 for me)
Potatoes Anna (and we still took half of it home!)
So were we frowned upon by the staff? Gawked at by other diners? Not a bit. The waiter at this white-tablecloth restaurant did not even bat an eye as we ordered. And as we looked around the dining room, while still in the minority, there were others ordering exactly as we had done. Maybe this is an approach whose time has come between the heightened awareness of healthy eating and the ongoing economic woes many are enduring.
I tell clients that once they’ve discovered what amount of food feels satisfying to their body for one meal, the goal is to replicate that good feeling at every meal. It doesn’t matter if you are at home or in a restaurant, you don’t want that overly-stuffed feeling when you are finished eating! Meal splitting is one of the routine practices that enables me to savor truly decadent food in restaurants without the negative consequences.
Maybe Lady & the Tramp were onto something….