Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reader Question: Since you don't dine out, what do you do with your friends?

I mentioned in my last post that I rarely, if ever, dine out. I didn't elaborate but a reader tweeted me about it-

PurtyinOrange asked:

@bitchcakesny It's so hard to break that social eating out cycle - so what do you do with your friends instead?
My initial response was that I'm actually not very social. Believe it or not, I've been a loner since I was a child and I still spend a great deal of time alone. I think people assume that I live a wild and crazy life, but I really don't. Anyone who knows me will tell you - I'm usually in bed by 10:30 and I often don't socialize (ie: see friends) at night more than once a week - sometimes not at all.

But the more I thought about her question, I realized what a great blog topic it would be because I *did* used to dine out with friends in my eat-whatever-weigh-whatever-and-hate-myself days-

  • I used to go to brunch. Often.
  • I indulged in pizza and burritos. Especially after drinking.
  • I ordered take out. Regularly.
  • I went on dinner dates. Weekly.

I engage in those activities now, but only on rare occasions. And they have to be pretty special.

If I do get a meal outside, it's often more functional than anything (say if I'm out all day). And there are only a handful of places I am comfortable going- most of which make the food in front of you (Chipotle, Cosi, Subway). But then occasionally I will treat myself to a local place in my neighborhood with great vegetarian fare (Boneshakers, Papacito's), usually after a big bike ride.

If you are interested, these are the reasons I don't enjoy eating out, after the "food should not be entertainment" theory I subscribe to:
  • I don't trust the cleanliness of the food/kitchen/preparer(s).
  • I don't want to be subjected to/distracted by/tempted by food.
  • I don't like eating while talking (it takes the focus off the food - I feel like dining and socializing should be two separate things).
  • I don't like having other people watch me eat.
  • I am vegan and health conscious and don't believe there's (for example) no oil or MSG, or I worry that they shared a utensil that touched meat or something else I don't want to ingest.
  • I don't like using silverware other people have used.
  • I don't want to see/smell meat that other people are eating.
  • I know I can make a better, healthier, lower point version of whatever I am going to eat. So why stress myself out *and* pay money for a meal that's not as enjoyable and also higher in calories, fat and points?
So that's my crazy in a nutshell. But I did used to eat out with friends. These days, however, this is how I spend time with them instead:
  1. Bars. I realize this may seem counter intuitive to some of you (empty calories? alcohol? but you work out! why do you drink?) I'll remind you that Weight Watchers works to fit your lifestyle. Nothing is off limits. I love beer and I do not deprive myself of it. The way I handle a bar night/event is that I decide ahead of time how much I will drink that night (24 - 48 ounces of beer, max) and I log the points ahead of time. I drink *slowly* and I drink seltzer or water in between sometimes. I also bring my own snacks (most often a banana and almonds) - just in case. I don't always eat them but I like having them with me so I don't end up buying a burrito or other snacks on my way home when I'm buzzed.
  2. Activities. I like bowling and old school video games, which they just happen to have at some of my favorite bars in the neighborhood. So the focus is not just on alcohol, but you get to do fun stuff and hang out too. But for non-alcohol related activities with friends, I've worked out with them at the gym, biked with them and ran errands or shopped with them. Again, no food involved.
  3. Parties. I love when my friends have house parties! I treat them the same way as bars - plan the amount of beer I will consume that night and bring my own snacks. Of course if they have some cut up vegetables or something light and vegetarian, I may have some of that as well - but I eat a real meal before I go.
  4. Transit Adventures. You may not know that I am a big fan of NYC Transit (I have a blog about my commute and transit related adventures, too) and a few times a year, I attend events that the NY Transit Museum offers. I've attended these tours and events with a few different people, as well as alone. Again, no food involved.
So to answer your question, that's what I do with friends instead. I no longer consider sitting around a food-filled event an option for "entertainment". If my friends do go out to eat, but are doing something else too, I always join them for the 'something else'. I avoid the food portion of the event and I think they understand and respect that.

If you are trying to get your friends away from the restaurant-as-social-activity cycle, I'd say suggest other things you can do together. Or try to pick a restaurant that gives you the most choices. You can also consider meeting them towards the end of the meal and not being there the whole time. There's always choices and different ways of handling every situation. You just have to think differently.

You may never feel the way about food/dining out as I do and may never want to feel that way, but it works for me. In the end, it's all about finding what works for you. Remember: You always have a choice. Choose wisely!


  1. Thank you for this post! I find myself going out with friends after they guilt me "come on, everyone's going to Logan's, just come with us!" When in all actuality, the food there is no more delicious than the food I make at home. You've given me the confidence and great alternatives for when I just have to say "no thanks!" Have an awesome Friday, bitch cakes!

  2. "No thanks", is certainly an alternative but an occasional dinner out is fun. Millions of people dine out without getting sick, you can do it too. I'm a vegetarian (not vegan) and can always find something good to eat. Maybe you just haven't found the right restaurant. I think you are missing out but - to each her own, right?

  3. Weighting Around- I'm going to sound like a typical NYer here when I tell you we have the most and the best of everything. There are restaurants with food that I enjoy. And I have never had food poisoning in my life. What I don't enjoy is the experience of dining out with friends, so I don't do it often. Like I said, I do it sometimes but rarely and only for special occasions. I also realize not everyone will share my opinion, and that's ok too. But through personal experience, I have realized that's what I prefer. And it's pretty impossible to change my mind about anything. :)

  4. I've definitely cut back on dinners out with my husband this past year while I've been working hard on program. But we still go out from time to time. There's a great steak place near us; I like a nice strip steak and baked potato. I cut my portion in half and use flex points, and it's great! It's not easy, and I wouldn't want to eat out more than once a week, but it can work.

  5. Fabulous post- I love eating out- but keep it to a minimum and places I know that I can get something that won't destroy my diet. Thanks for the thoughts on ways to not eat those tempting burritos on the way home.
    Marie @ Lemondrop ViNtAge
    Happy Chinese New Year giveaway

  6. A few people have mentioned that I have to check out your a fellow NYCer. I love that this is the first post I read! I find myself feeling anxiety when friends just want to go out to eat...I don't find it all that fun sometimes! I like cooking, a lot..I actually miss it on nights I decide to just go out to eat so that I see some friends.

  7. Sheryl - You are so smart. I too despise eating out with people, but I sometimes get stuck and have to do it - most of the time for work. I just shy away from it and make excuses... it's often awkward. I should instead voice my opinion/preference, just like you do, I'm sure people would understand and hopefully respect that. The way you put it in this blog post makes perfect sense - I feel the same way but I never would have been able to express it so clearly - that's why I love reading your blog so much!! You are so awesome! :)

  8. for me what's harder than eating out is eating at someone's house. often for family events we are at someone's house for most of the day. i try to bring things that are healthy, but it can be hard to resist the spread of snacks and treats when you are there hanging out for most of a day. it can make something that is supposed to be fun, spending time with family, not so fun at all, full of anxiety.

  9. Fantastic post. This is something I've been thinking about lately. I'm actually considering staying away from restaurants for the rest of the year, as a commitment to myself and my health. It bothers me that our culture puts so much emphasis on food. We are obsessed! For example, my 22nd birthday is coming up and the first suggestion people have is that my friends and I should all go out to eat. Is there nothing else to do?!

    One of the things I loved about my ex was that he sometimes opted to stay home and cook together instead of always going out to restaurant for dates. And that's even more romantic!


  10. I prefer my own cooking 99% of the time to dining out, tend to sit there and think "I'm paying x-number-of-dollars for this??"

    Like you, though, I will dine out occasionally if it's worth it or I have no other choice (such as when traveling). I remember your last birthday week you had pizza a couple of times, no? Pizza is the one thing I really don't make better myself. ;)

  11. Cinemarie- I was thinking about you recently because I haven't see you lately! (twitter/flickr) Hope you're doing great. :)

    Alexia- I agree. I would MUCH rather cook for, and with, a date than go out to eat. It's much more fun and sexy.

  12. Hi...Ive been reading your blog ever since I saw it on my friend Sues read hers as well..In any case I thought Id say hello...I blog less frequently than Id like but I do have two...I really like how commited you are and you are very insightful..I am a WWer trying to get to goal once and for all...This post is great and something I need to remind myself of...take Care..Ashley

  13. P.S. Sheryl, from Leo only child to another, I'm also perfectly content to be alone. I think being raised as an only, you need to get comfortable alone in order to survive! I have a big family now so it's rare and most appreciated when I get those moments to myself.

  14. Great memory, Rapunzel! Yes, I hit all the most famous NYC pizzerias because 1) I love pizza (it's my fave food) and 2) I knew I was going vegan and it was my 'last chance'. I don't know if you noticed, but I did all of that alone. As I mentioned in a previous comment to Weighting Around, there is definitely food I enjoy. It's the "dining with friends experience" that I do not enjoy.

  15. Excellent post especially because I think a lot of people are left with "But what would we do then [if we didn't go out to eat]?" Bowling is a perfect example though I often walk the lake with friends which gives us much more gabbing time plus exercise. We're having friends over for dinner in a couple of weeks which works for us, and every once in a while we'll go out. As married folks we just go out less so, in some ways, you may be preparing yourself for what may lie ahead. :)

  16. Our girls night is always dinner and a bar. Luckily I missed the cookie party in dec...thank god...because I was out of town. I was actually afraid of that.

    I'm a knitter and a few of my friends are interested so we will take a class together in the Spring. You can't eat if your hand are busy knitting. lol

  17. Our girls night is always dinner and a bar. Luckily I missed the cookie party in dec...thank god...because I was out of town. I was actually afraid of that.

    I'm a knitter and a few of my friends are interested so we will take a class together in the Spring. You can't eat if your hand are busy knitting. lol

  18. Awesome, lady, and I so appreciate it! Thanks!!

  19. Great post! Meeting up at bars and standing is much more fun than sit-down meals for me because I can easily move around and chat with everyone rather than just one or two peeps. I think my goal for March will be avoid dinner dates. :)

  20. Yep, I do recall your pizza meals to be solo, as was most of your time that birthday week. I didn't think that was unusual; on the contrary, I envied you and am planning to do something similar for my birthday week this year! (Aug 20 as

    NY has the *best* pizza, hands down, but we have a few NY-style places here, run by former New Yorkers, that are *almost* as good. ;)

    So, now I know that should I ever visit you in the city I'll invite you out for a beer, but not dinner. That's ok with me! :)

  21. I admire your tenacity ~

    When I go out it takes EVERYTHING I have to not eat the wrong stuff... so I too stay away from eating out much.....

    Thanks for the post....

  22. Great blog entry! Generally speaking, I'm out of my comfort zone in a restaurant. I'm prone to making poor choices and the noise level in most restaurants doesn't really lend itself to a good chat with friends. I'd rather stay home and cook something healthy and delicious.

  23. I think it is great that your choices work for you, the problem is that in households these alternatives do not come as easily. I can say that eating at home with your family opposed to eating in restaurants certainly makes sense, but some of the thoughts you mentioned seemed more like a "fear" of food rather than coming to terms with yourself and your relationship with food.

  24. I think your dining habits reflect a great commitment to what's important to you. Some people might forego the beer, and dine out more with friends, but you chose what's important to you and what works for you. I agree that what you prepare yourself is always going to be better than what you order out. You know what you put into your meal! I think my choices might be slightly different (I have kids, different world), but I think the point is to make your choices and stick by them. Thanks for the inspiration!

  25. What do we do with friends??? Well, we don't have too many friends!! We will have dinner at our house or go to theirs. My BIL and SIL are probably are "best friends". We moved here to be close to daughter, SIL and grandsons so we spend time with them. I personally don't like to spend the money to go out to eat very often. My husband is the cook at our house and is good at it. I don't eat that much at one time so I prefer to eat at home. Even years ago my son's friends called me a "grazer". Besides, when I'm not working I like to stay home. After seeing BitchCakes' bike, I think my husband and I should get bikes this summer. We have lots of designated trails we should get off our behinds and ride!!!! I work with a NY transplant and I can't imagine the daily routine of commuting and getting home at 7 or 8 p.m. That doesn't leave much time for other things.

  26. I totally agree with you on this, Sheryl. That expression "I'm just here for the food"?? Mine is more like "I'm not just here for the food." I can have just as good of a time just socializing and interacting with people or being active. It's really been a huge shift in my mindset! My world used to revolve around food, it feels very freeing to realize there are more important things (to me).

  27. i am so so so happy to have read this post! i feel all those things except i never thought about the reused utensils...but um i can add THAT to my list!

    i am a loner too, much moreso the past year..for pretty much the same reasons; other than my social saturday long runs. other than that i pretty much prefer to be alone because well, i think people in general are kinda stupid for the most part! ;o)

  28. I am not a loner and I love to eat out, but the best choice for me is to limit that to special occasions. Unfortunately, some of my friends don't accommodate that very well! I just had a friend ask to get together for dinner recently and I very honestly shared that I am trying to eat healthier and asked if we could do something non-food-related instead. You would not BELIEVE the pressure she put on me to go out to eat with her! As if it were the ONLY thing we could do to have fun! She's not a close friend and I don't mind just saying no, but it irritates me that people aren't more imaginative and/or sensitive to others' needs, especially when we are up front about what we want and why.

    *stepping down off my soapbox*

    Thanks for sharing the background behind why you don't eat out very often!

  29. Coming from a family background where love was expressed in food, means having a real hard time breaking the social eating habit. So instead I simply host dinner parties. That way I am in control. In control of what foods are served, quality/quantity and cleanliness. Bad service aggravates me too much when we eat out.
    Thanks for your blog it does inspire me!

  30. I love your honesty. I feel the same way about so many aspects in this post. Your so right about always having a choice. Reading this post was a great reminder of that fact.You've also made me realize that is OK to do what works for me. Thanks !

    I never miss one of your posts, and although I don't comment much, you are a huge source of inspiration to me! I think your amazing! :)

  31. Just wanted to let you know that this website ( lets you choose with 500 or less calories. A real timesaver for those of us that have to eat out once in a while. I can't believe I had a Chipotle Burrito bol today that was only 375 cals for lunch! Very satisfying. Love your blog.