The Myth of Free Food

When is free food not free? When the free food adds inches to your waistline and pounds to your scale. When the free food has enough calories in it to qualify as a separate meal, and when instead of being free, it binds you further into your own downward spiral of unhappiness with your weight.

Posted on | Diane Carbonell | Comments ()

When is free food not free? When the free food adds inches to your waistline and pounds to your scale. When the free food has enough calories in it to qualify as a separate meal, and when instead of being free, it binds you further into your own downward spiral of unhappiness with your weight.

What free food am I talking about? The free food that many sit-down restaurants offer while you wait for your meal to be served. For example:  

  • Italian Restaurant Breadsticks: 150 calories per breadstick (and who eats just one?).
  • Mexican Restaurant Chips & Salsa: 572 calories for 5.5 ounces. That's about 60 chips, so if you ate half of that, it'd be about 280 calories.
  • Yeast Rolls from a Restaurant: 227 calories per roll.

In my obese days, we went out to eat ALL the time. At least 4 out of 7 nights you would find me settling into a chair at a restaurant table, or trying to squeeze myself into a booth. Sometimes I didn't quite fit into the booth, so we had to move to a table! That should have been a little clue to myself that a) I shouldn't be eating so much, and b) I should have tried to cut down where I could when eating out.

Unfortunately, that didn't stop me. When the server came over and asked if we'd like some "free food" while we were waiting, I always piped up and said, "Yes, please." Sometimes, I'd even ask her right off the bat, "Please bring extra rolls" because I loved them so much! And if we were at a Mexican restaurant, I'd ask for 2 bowls of tortilla chips because there were 4 of us. Remember, if you will, that 2 of "us" were only 2 and 5 years old, so they really didn't eat much. To the servers’ credit, they never rolled their eyes in front of me, but I'm sure they did when they turned around. I would have!

The free food came and went. I ate 2, 3 or even 4 rolls before my high-fat meal showed up. I could easily eat 2 bowls of tortilla chips by myself. It was like an eating-fest, and that was before the actual restaurant meal even came. Looking back, I’m surprised that I wasn't embarrassed to eat so much in front of John, but at that point I was so far into satisfying my own desires that I honestly didn't care what he thought.

As I started down my weight loss road for the last time, I knew that I needed to make a drastic change in how I approached restaurant meals. Realistically, I understood that I wasn't ready to stop eating out, so I needed to start managing the restaurant food rather than letting it manage me. The first thing I changed was instead of accepting the "free" food, I rejected it.

This wasn't always easy. Time after time as I was losing weight, I had the opportunity to practice asking the server not to bring the "free" food when I was with my own family, and with friends.

Restaurant dining can be a lovely experience. Try to focus on the company you are with, pick the healthiest entree and eat within your plan. And remember, free food rarely is really free. 

Blog written by Diane Carbonell
Diane Carbonell lost 158 pounds and has maintained the loss for over 12 years. During those years of maintenance, she gave birth...