Lose Weight By Eating In Restaurants?

Ah yes. The dream. To lose weight while eating in restaurants and thus maintaining needed contact with other humans. Can it be done? According to one study, yes, it can.

Let’s pass it over to our scientific sisters at Consumer Reports for the details:

An article published today in the January Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior has given me a glimmer of hope. Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin looked at 35 women aged 40 to 59 years old who reported eating out an average of 5.6 times a week. Participants were screened for eating disorders or health problems that could influence the study.

One group of women received counseling and training on what the researchers called “Mindful Restaurant Eating”, which included lessons on portion sizes, being able to identify hunger cues, and being more fully aware of what you are eating (so that you can hopefully feel more satisfied). The control group received no training.

All participants were asked on three separate days to recall what they ate over the past 24 hours. When the results were in – guess what – the training helped. After six weeks, the mindful eaters had significantly less weight gain at the end of the study than the control group, even though they were still eating in restaurants as often as before. Overall they reduced their caloric intake by almost 300 calories per day, and that reduction applied to what they ate at home as well, so the training benefited them away from the watchful eye of a waiter. And they even lost a little weight.

Lose Weight By Eating In Restaurants [CR]
The Effect of a Mindful Restaurant Eating Intervention on Weight Management in Women [JNEB]


Edit Your Comment

  1. pop top says:

    I completely understand the need for doing studies, even for obvious things, so that we have the proper data and statistics to help fix issues in the future, but ffs. Being mindful of how much food you consume helps you consume less? Really?! I’m all shock and awe over here.

    • Coffee says:

      Also, if I want to eat healthy food in moderation, I cook it at home (and I do!)…when I go out to a restaurant, I don’t want to be mindful of anything. Gee whiz, that chicken-fried steak sure looks good and I never make food like that at home…I think I’ll have that.

      • IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

        Exactly! I can open a can of tuna at home or have a chicken breast and veggies.
        On the rare occasion I go out, I am maxing out on chips and salsa and going ham on buffalo wings. And probably a margarita or 5. I eat ridiculously healthy every other day.

        I love you Chili’s.

    • Firethorn says:

      ‘Being mindful of how much food you consume helps you consume less’ is indeed rather obvious. That a specific course of training(unspecified amount/vague content) reduced consumption by ‘nearly 300 calories’ is significant.

      300 calories a day is 31 pounds a year, 2.5 pounds a month. That can easily be the difference between an overweigh person and a ‘normal’. The difference between obesity and merely ‘fat’.

  2. ARP says:

    Small sample size and don’t mention socioeconomic backgrounds.

    If they’re eating out at restaurants, that means they’re more well to do. Wealthy people have more restaurant and food options. So the training is all well and good for people that can afford the healthier options, but some can’t. The burger is the cheapest, so they’re going to get the burger. That being said, there are options still available (e.g. substitute veggies for fries, even if you’re going to get the burger).

    • IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

      Most places you can get a chicken breast sandwich for the same price as a burger. Ditch the bread, swap the fries for veggies, and there you go.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        People need to be careful with that though….not all grilled chicken breasts are as they seem. Many are swimming in oil and have been injected with salt water. Plus, if they slather the sandwich with mayonnaise or add cheese to it, you’re looking at a sandwich that may have a worse nutritional profile than the burger.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Calorie wise, a double quarter pounder with a Diet Coke or water, and no fries, isn’t that bad for a meal. It’s a lot of fat but also a fair amount of protein with minimal carbs. It’s still probably better than a fairly typical lunch of a bag of chips and a Coke, that I always see people eating.

  3. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    So, regardless of where you eat, the lesson is that paying attention to what you shove in your piehole and keeping your calories down is the key to lose weight!

    I am so glad that these constant studies serve so much purpose!

    Wrap it in whatever fancy headline you want, it’s still basic science and math.

  4. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    In the movie Fat Head — http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1333994/ — Tom Naughton was able to lose weight by eating nothing but McDonalds. It’s a response to Super Size Me and if you ignore the very low budget, it’s actually an interesting movie.

    It’s available on Netflix Instant Watch and I probably wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

    • zerogspacecow says:

      I saw that too. What I’ve found out from all the various documentaries, studies, and articles on healthy eating and weight loss is:

      Everybody is wrong. Everything is bad for both you and the environment. Everything will make you fat. But also, for every food out there, there is someone who can lose weight and be healthy eating it.

      I guarantee there is someone out there on an all cake and fried chicken diet, and they’re losing weight.

      I’ve lost weight on all bacon diets, and gained weight on all vegetarian diets. So go figure.

  5. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    From the article quote in the fine summary:

    “After six weeks, the mindful eaters had significantly less weight gain at the end of the study than the control group”


    “And they even lost a little weight.”

    OK, so did they have a measurable weight gain in 6 weeks which would be brutal over a year or 2 or did they lose weight?

    Calling Captain Obvious, new job awaits at the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

  6. Cat says:

    For the love of God, man, please don’t tell Mrs. Cat that I can lose weight by eating out more often.

  7. teamplur says:

    So, it says they had “less weight gain”, then at the end it says they lost weight. so which is it?

  8. RandomHookup says:

    When I used to travel all the time, there were two factors that made eating out a touch healthier than eating at home:

    1) Cost — I’m less likely to have that slice of cake when it’s going to cost me money (even if I get reimbursed for it)

    2) Variety — When I eat out all the time, I’ll have salads and veggies and all the healthy stuff I don’t have in sufficient quantity at home (or that take extra work to prepare for one)

    As long as I was dining alone, I ate healthier than I did at home.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I was pretty much the opposite when I traveled a lot for work.

      When we got cash per diem, I scrimped and saved and ate very little, usually relying on trips to the grocery store, so I could save what was left. When per diem required receipts and was use it or lose it, I always got a beer with dinner, an appetizer, and dessert. Luckily, the field work balanced out the extra calories but we usually ate like kings while in the field.

    • pinkbunnyslippers says:

      This is so funny – I tend to eat like the Second Coming is upon us when I’m out traveling. My father was a salesman for so many years and by the time I got into the workplace, I’d had it drilled into my head that your T&E expenses were a way of compensating you for being out in the field and away from your home/family. I take advantage of new cities and the stuff they have to offer, and rarely do I really put much thought into how much it costs (unless I’m given a strict limit, in which case I abide by it). I think the most I’ve ever spent on one meal for myself was $75 when we went out to dinner and had lobster.

      It’s funny how everyone’s got their own strategy – I’ve got coworkers like Nigerian prince down there who save their per diem for themselves and then just eat off the dollar menu the whole time they’re out.

      • RandomHookup says:

        It does depend a lot on how it’s set up, but as a single guy who traveled a lot, I never ate a salad at home — the lettuce wouldn’t make it from week to week. This was a way for me to have some variety and not go nuts.

        Of course, when I was on per diem, I bought boxes of breakfast bars and ate at Mickey Dee’s.

  9. cryptique says:

    An Egg McMuffin and a hash brown from McDonald’s are only 450 calories. There are worse ways to begin the day.

  10. TVGenius says:

    Pretty much did the same… cut out all the crap I was eating, both out and at home, and ate Subway practically all the time. What mattered was it was a lot healthier than what I had been eating… was a big part in 80 lbs I lost.

  11. BorkBorkBork says:

    What is this…self-control you speak of?


  12. AllanG54 says:

    Why bother to eat out at all if you’re going to have to be conscious of every forkful you put in your mouth. Not something I’d want to do.

  13. MJDickPhoto says:

    I used to eat out about 2 meals everyday, and lost 80 LB in 6 months.

    Wendy’s side salad, baked potato and a small frosty. $3 per meal at that time.

    • Cacao says:

      Yes that’s like the Subway diet. I also have a theory that a Pho diet would result in weight loss. (I heart Pho)

  14. carlogesualdo says:

    For all the commotion about the government passing regulations on restaurants about trans-fats, salt, etc., I wonder if the government has ever considered trying to regulate portion sizes to like, you know, conform to the standard nutritional guidelines they publish? If someone really wants more, they can simply place another order, right? Studies have already shown that people will eat whatever is on their plate, even if the plate is really a platter, and not realize it.

  15. Branden says:

    “After six weeks, the mindful eaters had significantly less weight gain at the end of the study than the control group”

    in other words: everyone gained weight while eating out a restaurants, the untrained just gained more. no one lost weight.

    it’s misleading headlines like this that you love to pounce on, consumerist, and you’ve done it yourself! bad consumerist!

  16. Sad Sam says:

    I ordered the miso salmon at Cheesecake Factory, at a biz lunch, this week thinking that it would be a good choice. I ordered the lunch portion which is smaller, came with rice and snow peas. When I got back to my office I was dismayed that the calorie count was north of 1100. I didn’t have any bread and stuck with half a diet coke and water. Ugh, I still failed!

  17. dulin says:

    In California, it’s quite easy to watch your weight when eating out at chain restaurants. The menu has to show the number of calories in each item. I certainly chose different meals than I would have otherwise, if only because I underestimated the number of calories in an item.