In a time when having a date per day is not only possible, but as simple as a swipe of your finger, it’s easier than ever to overindulge daily. A cocktail here, a dinner there—it all adds up to trouble for your waistline. The good news? You don’t have to ditch dating to whittle your waistline. Stay on track to your weight loss goals with these 11 strategies.
Cut it Up.
Give overeating the axe by cutting your entrée up into pieces. Yeah, it’s polite—you don’t want to scare off your date, do you?—and science says it’ll keep you slim. College kids who were given a bagel cut into four pieces ate 25 percent less than those given a whole bagel, according to a study conducted at Arizona State University. If you’re worried that dicing your entire serving at once may send your date cuckoo vibes, try slicing off a piece of the portion you’re served and subtly pushing it to the side of your plate, suggests Bonnie Taub-Dix, nutrition expert and author of Read It Before You Eat It. Then only allow yourself to finish the piece closest to you. “You’re tricking the mind into thinking the other portion isn’t even meant for you,” she says.
Blame it on the Alcohol.
If your date consists of hitting the newest artisanal cocktail bar, you might want to pay attention to something a little unusual: the kind of glass you’re being served. The one to watch out for? Short and wide glasses; they may be a sneaky source of calories. Bartenders pour an additional 20 to 30 percent more into the shorties as opposed to their taller counterparts, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Plus, experts suggest you may actually drink less when drinking from a tall, skinny glass simply because you think you’re drinking more. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to lap up the delicious cocktail resting in a not-so-tall tumbler.
Turn One Meal into Two.
This takes the whole “leave stuff on your plate” concept to the next level. “When you’re consciously trying to stretch a meal, you’re more likely to listen to your hunger cues so you can ration enough to have those leftovers,” says Cassie Bjork, RD, LD from Healthy Simple Life. The plan of action: order your dinner, plan on having enough food left over to make a meal the following day and stick to leaving that amount on your plate. Don’t think you have that kind of willpower? Ask for a to-go box immediately and stow away half of your meal before you dive in.
Beware of the Buckets.
By now you know that movie theater popcorn isn’t the healthiest option—just one small, buttery bag contains over 300 calories, almost 30 grams of fat and over 200 milligrams of sodium. That said, sometimes it’s hard to resist the delicious little kernels. When you decide to indulge à deux, opt for the smallest bag available. Research presented at the American Psychological Association in 2011 suggests the larger the container, the more popcorn you’ll eat—and that’s true for both fresh and stale popcorn.
Watch Out for Action Movies.
The type of flick you’re seeing may play a part in how much you snack. Fast-paced movies may be to blame for overindulging in the goodies you pick up at the concession stand, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine suggests. In the study, people who watched the action movie ate a whopping 98 percent more than those watching a talk show, while those who watched the action movie without sound ate 36 percent more than the talk-show viewers. Something to consider in case Run All Night’s on your agenda.
You could save yourself hundreds of calories just by making a few requests as you order, says Taub-Dix. First of all, she suggests asking your server to go light on oil and salt—restaurants use these two ingredients liberally since they add tons of flavor at a low cost. As for the breaded and fried stuff on the menu (here’s looking at you, chicken parm), ask to have it grilled instead. And don’t fret, fromage lovers: you can totally still eat cheese—just tell your server you prefer a touch of it rather than giant, generous chunks. Just remember to say “please.”
Set the Mood.
Ambiance plays a major part in how a date plays out, but it may also affect your eating patterns. As it turns out, dimmer lighting and softer music both lead you to eat less and enjoy the food more, according to a study published in Psychological Reports. So feel free to choose the spot with the smooth jazz and mood lighting. That’s what we call a win-win.
Choose Your Seat Strategically.
While you may be tempted to request the best seat in the house, that may not be your best bet when it comes to watching your weight. As it turns out, people with tables deep in the restaurant are 73 percent more likely to order that triple-fudge chocolate cake—or any dessert for that matter. Apart from that, if the restaurant in question happens to have high-top tables, park yourself at one of those. Brian Wansink, director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, finds that people at these tall tables are inclined to eat a bit more healthily by ordering more salads and fewer sweets.
Back Away from the TV.
Sorry, sports fans. Saddling up next to the TV to watch your favorite teams battle it out during March Madness may stall your efforts to battle the bulge. Research suggests that the closer you sit to the tube, the more fried food you might buy. Though correlation doesn't mean causation, it can’t hurt for you and your date to take a few steps back.
Learn to Share.
If Lady & the Tramp is any indication, it’s pretty darn romantic to share a dish. While it may be in your best interest not to slurp up the same strand of spaghetti as your date, you’ve got the green light to go halfsies on your apps, entrées and desserts. If you’re ordering a heavy dish, like pasta, make sure the other dish is on the lighter side—fish or veggies are both good options, says Taub-Dix. This can help you cut calories and cut back on portion sizes, she says. You could also try making a meal out of veggie-heavy sides. The one caveat? Because veggies can lead to a sugar spike, you’re going to want to make sure you also incorporate protein and healthy fat—a little meat or fish cooked in butter—into your dinner, says Bjork.
Don’t Let Descriptions Dupe You.
If you’ve ever felt your mouth water just reading a menu, you may have the dish names to blame. Researchers at the University of Illinois discovered that descriptive names, like Satin Chocolate Pudding and Succulent Italian Seafood Filet, may make the meal seem more attractive. The bottom line: be wary of these added adjectives and pay more attention to what the dish actually is.