Addicted to Eating Out?

(I wrote this 4 years ago just before I HEALED myself of my own restaurant addication, the suggestions I offer come from my personal experiences and the thought processes that I used to unravel my own compulsion to eat out, probably needs some editing, but here it is anyway).

According to Wikkipedia, “the term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences to the individual’s health, mental state or social life”.

For some people, “eating out” can become as compulsive and habitual as an addiction to shopping, alcohol, drugs or sex.
To be fair, few of us recognize “eating out” as an addiction, yet if one recognizes that they have a compulsion to “eat out”, then we must consider that addiction is a possibility; and perhaps we must also consider addressing it with the same care that we might any other form of addiction.

For practical purposes, people who eat out a lot spend a lot more money on food than do people who eat at home. If we consider money as an exchange for life energy, we have to consider then whether “eating out” might be an equitable exchange for life energy expended. This poses the question “does eating out compulsively or habitually, add value to our lives in proportion to the energy that we must spend working to make the money that foots the bill”?

How much is too much?

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, on average people eat out 11 times in 2 weeks.  Considering this average, we know that there are just as many people who “eat out” close to 22 times every two weeks as there are those that rarely “eat out”.

Let’s break this down then. At 3 meals per day, we eat 42 meals every two weeks. For those people who eat out the most, they eat out, just over half the time. I propose that these numbers are actually conservative. How many of us prefer to paint a pretty picture about our health and lifestyle choices; whether in our own minds as a form of denial, or to hide the truth from others, out of sheer embarrassment?

If how much is too much, is not apparent to you, consider the 80/20 rule. Eat healthy 80% of the time and allow for 20% margin of flexibility for spontaneity, time crunches, food served by friends and family etc. If we eat out more than 20% of the time, we would do well to consider being impeccable with our food choices at home. For those suffering from illness and degenerative
diseases, as well as pregnant women and growing children, it would be ideal if at all possible to eat the best quality nutrient dense food, 90% of the time at home and of course foods infused with love and nurturing care.

So what is the big deal about “eating out” anyway?

Here’s why. The 4 biggest concerns that are worth considering about “eating out”, is the quality of the foods ingredients, namely:

refined fats and oils (pro inflammation, lack the integrity to build our cell membranes and myelin sheaths which impacts not only every organ and system of our body, but also our ability to think and how we feel)

refined sugar and flours
(destabilize blood sugar, reduce intestinal transit time leading to the putrefaction of proteins and fermentation of carbohydrates in the gut )

pesticides and herbicides (toxicity)

additives and preservatives (toxicity)

antibiotics (kill good intestinal flora and allow “bad” bacteria to multiply which creates intestinal dysbiosis and toxicity, initiate allergic pathology by proliferating bad bacteria such as Candida which creates holes in the intestinal wall and therefore allows undigested food particles to enter the blood stream causing the immune system to launch an allergic response to those foods , diminish capacity to produce nutrients in the intestinal tract)

What all these aforementioned ingredients have in common, is that they are foreign to the human body and cause both toxicity and a nutrient deficit. This happens in two ways:

1) whatever nutrients were taken out during their refining, must be pulled out of our own nutrient and enzyme stores to digest the refined food

2) because of their toxic nature, we must again call on our own resources to effectively break them down into waste products, this again uses up more of our enzymes and nutrient reserves, while straining the liver

Besides the obvious affect on our health of eating poor quality food, “eating out” denotes that we are always on the run. We have to ask ourselves, what are we running from and what social and nurturing qualities are we missing out on, the ones we cannot order off the menu?

How does the nature of a restaurant, being fast paced, commercial, and impersonal affect the energy of our food? We rarely get to see the chef, never mind have the opportunity to connect with and thank him/her. What is the real cost, not only to our health, but to our soul of pacifying our need for a village? We get the buzz of humanity and we interact with a few strangers, but
do we really meet our need for connection with a wider community?

So how does one transcend the compulsion to “eat out”?

Awareness of course! We must as with all addiction, admit to ourselves that we have a problem and equally as important, we must remain conscious even as we act out our addictions. On those days that we eat out, despite that we know that we are just stuffing down that nagging feeling of lack of harmony and balance, we can still take note of what we are doing and why we are still doing it. This is not to shame ourselves, but to continually call ourselves back to the question, “what is it that is lacking in my life that causes me to continue to be addicted to eating out, what need am I trying to fulfill”.  This awareness allows us to question our motives even further.

The insight makes no difference in our experience of living, if we do not keep calling ourselves back to it, and allow it to inform our actions.

So the next time you are about to “eat out”, take a deep breath, then pause and ask yourself these questions.

“Why do I want to eat out right now?” (notice if your “why” is positive or negative)

“What am I really hungry for?” (notice if what you truly desire can actually be provided on a restaurant menu)

“Will this restaurant, both the food and the atmosphere nourish both my mind and soul”? (notice if you are willing to settle for whatever you get)

“What will “eating out” cost me financially, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually? How can I get a better return on my investment?  (it might be helpful to make a list eg: if a meal costs on average of fifty dollars, how could you better spend that fifty dollars, or if it takes one hour to drive to a restaurant and back, how could you better spend a time segment of one hour?)

If your “why” is something positive, like a break from routine or to celebrate your own or another’s success or to meet with a good friend, then likely you are not eating out because you are addicted, but rather for the luxury, beauty and pleasure of it.

However if your reasons sound more like an excuse and you are embarrassed to admit how much you actually eat out, then you likely have an addiction to eating out.

If you consider this, it is easy to see that addiction to eating out, like any other addiction, is a coping mechanism to avoid transforming areas of you life that have important health, lifestyle and psycho/spiritual implications. One could say that eating out is a symptom and that lack of balance both biochemically and in one’s lifestyle, plus lack of inner fulfillment are the pre-disposing root causes.

If in the moment, we decide act on our impulse to “eat out” and over ride our consciousness to make a choice that is more in alignment with our health and well-being; we can overlap our consciousness into our acting out of the addiction. This has
the potential to transform us as equally as does self awareness and self discipline. Here’s how:

1) make a list of restaurants that are nourishing and nurturing to your body and soul; put it up on the fridge (this will inspire you to go to new places, which takes some of the habit out of the addiction)

2) look for what is right about the place you’ve chosen (take the focus off the fact that you have chosen to act out the addiction and you will feel good while eating the food which allows you to digest the food well and subsequently be more nourished by it)

3) chew each bite consciously and slowly (savour the food and initiate optimal digestion)

4) forgive yourself by accepting yourself where you are at today; know you are doing your best in this moment

5) acknowledge that by choosing to feel good right now, you are bringing yourself into greater harmony and alignment with your intention to make eating out a luxury rather than a compulsion or perceived necessity; just relax knowing that by the quality of your consciousness, in time, the compulsion to “eat out” will fall away

Once the bill comes, objectively and again with out blame, but rather with curiosity, ask your self the following questions:

1) Do I feel fulfillment, satisfaction and value in having made this choice?

2) Was this choice in line with my values and purpose in life?

Finally, don’t forget to write your insights down. Buy a journal so that you can fit it into your purse or pocket. Get your thoughts on paper, so you can refer back to them and track your progress and successes.



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