When it comes to dining out, I’m fascinated with how our eating or enjoyment of eating can differ depending on where we are at or who we are with.
Do you ever notice how it feels more easeful dining with certain friends but not others? Maybe you have one foodie friend who loves chatting about the latest superfood, but not everybody is on board, or even cares, for that matter. Or maybe your family just doesn’t seem to understand your sudden love of plant foods and why you’re not ordering steak like everyone else.
Oh, the politics of dining out! “What do I order? What is everyone else getting? Ew, (look of disgust) why are they ordering THAT? Do they think I’m too picky, not picky enough…etc…”
Dining out gives you plenty of practice around social grace, taking care of yourself, not judging others, and just having a grand ol’ time. Here are a handful of popular dining concerns that comes up in my work and what to do about them:
1.) “I never know what to order and feel overwhelmed by the menu”
Here’s one of my favorite tricks: BEFORE you even open the menu ask yourself, “What do I have a taste for? Does vegetarian sound good? Am I craving something light and cooling? Or would I like a hearty homemade soup?” Get out of your head. Stop trying to figure out what the “best” thing to order would be, and get in touch with what you really want – that is the key to a truly satisfying lunch or dinner date.
2.) “I don’t want to make others around me feel self-conscious about THEIR food choices.”
Oh, this is a big one. It can feel pretty uncomfortable to “fit out” rather than fit in, especially if your food preferences are way different than your friends’. But in the end, if someone feels threatened by your choices with food, it probably has little to do with you and more to do with where they’re at. Try not to take comments personally. Your job is to be kind to yourself, and it doesn’t hurt to take note of #3 below…
3.) “I’m so grossed out by the food that my friends/family order sometimes.” (Healthful or not…)
Dinner Etiquette 101: It is not cool to critique someone’s food choices or try and impress or sway them with unsolicited nutritional advice or knowledge at the dinner table. My guess is you are dining out to connect, have good conversation, and eat a meal you enjoy. Allow everyone to tend to their particular tastes and preferences. No one likes an impromptu educational lecture about their food choices. On the other hand, if you are TRULY concerned for their health and well-being, it IS okay to find some time outside of your meal and, with love and compassion, express your concerns for them. Know that they may not take action. But the truth said with love is always heard.
4.) “I feel too picky and high-maintenance with my nutritional requests.”
First things first, your responsibility is to take care of yourself. Trust me, if you are happy with your meal, your friends are happy too. No one looks forward to dealing with a crabby and bloated post-dinner friend. Do everyone a favor, and ask the server for what you need. Feeling well is important. Plus, it’s great practice in asking to have your needs met.
Extra tip: Have a back-up if your requests cannot be met. If everyone else around you is hungry and ready to order, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a couple options you’d enjoy.
What feels most relevant for you? Take action and challenge yourself. Call or email a friend or two and head out for a great meal. Put theory into action and observe what the experience is like. Post your intentions below and please share this article with those you feel that may benefit!