Tracking calories at restaurants

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  • fb47
    fb47 Posts: 1,058 Member
    edited March 2018
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    JerSchmare wrote: »
    tess5036 wrote: »
    You don't have to eat healthy to lose weight, you just need to have a calorie deficit. Decide what foods you do like and you would look forward, and then work out a way of incorporating them into your diet which will still leave a calorie deficit.

    Lol, I regularly have chocolate, and other supposedly bad things but I'm still losing weight because I'm at a calorie deficit

    See, that’s what I don’t understand, because from what I’ve done research on, a calorie is not a calorie. Your body doesn’t look at calories- it looks at the nutrient makeup of those calories. So, if all I ate was cookies and then I ran it all off as well as putting myself at a deficit, I highly doubt I’m going to lose weight. The one thing everyone says is “you can’t outrun a bad diet.” So if I can’t outrun a bad diet, but then you say that I just have to be a caloric deficit, then those two concepts cancel each other out.

    Misleading dogma.

    I’ll give you an example. Let’s say, every time you knock on my door, and I say, “come in”, and you see my laying on the couch watching. Over a period of time, you’d think I’m lazy as hell. What you don’t know, is that each time you’ve come over, it’s later in the day. I may have run 15 miles each morning, and I’m just chillin.

    If you see me eat a cookie, as I’m laying on the couch, you’ll think, ‘he just lays on the couch and eats cookies all day.

    No. Remember, I ran 15 miles that morning. And, I’m only having 1 cookie because I enjoy them. But, my overall profile for food is amazing. You just never see that.

    What I am saying is that you cannot say that a cookie, or a hamburger from a fast food place is bad until you look at the overal food profile of that person. Food, by itself, is not good or bad. It doesn’t carry those properties. It’s the overall context of a diet over time. So, look at a week or month. Then, you’ll probably notice how insignificant that cookie was to the overall diet.

    Totally correct! Definitely not under the delusion that eating a single cookie will ruin everything. But I notice that every day, I tend to have some sort of sweet, which can range between a candy bar, a donut, to two pieces of cake (like the chocolate torte - that I split and shared with a friend, and a slice of Irish cream cake). My sugar cravings are the absolute worst and I have no idea how to quell them.

    Discipline....if you really struggle with discipline, then the other way is to not buy it at all. When I was a teenager, I craved chips and Coca Cola, I stopped buying them altogether or else I would be just eating that and drinking that. Nowadays, I know about the concept of calories, so if I feel like grabbing some chips I will and I know I am disciplined enough to say no if I am at a point where I'll be screwing up my diet. Once again, it all comes down to choices. If you always give in to your cravings, then you were never serious enough to lose weight, you only wished it. You need to remind yourself that your goals comes first, if it doesn't, then your goal was never that important to you.
  • lethalxminx
    lethalxminx Posts: 9 Member
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    ceiswyn wrote: »
    See, that’s what I don’t understand, because from what I’ve done research on, a calorie is not a calorie. Your body doesn’t look at calories- it looks at the nutrient makeup of those calories. So, if all I ate was cookies and then I ran it all off as well as putting myself at a deficit, I highly doubt I’m going to lose weight. The one thing everyone says is “you can’t outrun a bad diet.” So if I can’t outrun a bad diet, but then you say that I just have to be a caloric deficit, then those two concepts cancel each other out.

    You need to do better research; you seem to have got yourself quite confused!

    You’re conflating two different things here: weight loss and nutrition. In terms of weight loss, a calorie really is a calorie, and if all you ate was one cookie a day, you would lose weight (how could you not?!). You’ll lose weight eating cookies, if the calories are under your TDEE; you’ll gain weight eating salad, if the calories you get from it are over your TDEE. The nutrient makeup of those calories is entirely irrelevant from a weight perspective.

    Where nutrition comes in is in whether your body is healthy while it’s losing/gaining weight. Entirely aside from the calories, are you getting the macronutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs? If you are, then you’re not going to do any harm eating the odd cookie.

    The reason you can’t outrun a bad diet is that a) if you’re not getting the nutrients you need, then exercise won’t fix that and b) exercise burns way fewer calories than people tend to assume. What it absolutely does not mean is that exercise somehow doesn’t burn off the calories from cookies.

    I’ve lost over 14 stone without giving up chocolate, cheese or anything else I really love. That is how to do weight loss. Giving up cookies and making yourself eat ‘diet food’ you don’t like is just setting yourself up to fail hard.

    But see, I’m still lost! Because on one hand you say that a calorie is a calorie, but then you say that I can’t outrun a bad diet because of the nutrients it’s made of.
  • lucerorojo
    lucerorojo Posts: 790 Member
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    OP, are you currently tracking on MFP? Once you start logging those numbers, it may quell your sugar cravings, if you are motivated to lose the weight. I also like sweets, but if I want to lose weight I CANNOT regularly eat donuts (at least 300 calories each), two pieces of cake (especially if I didn't make it myself, since it probably has upwards of 500 calories a slice), muffins (500 calories a piece), gourmet big cookies (500 calorie each). These baked goods have the equivalent calories of a MEAL for me, since my calorie allotment is 1580 net. This is doable for me and I don't starve and I eat back exercise calories. However, it will not work if I eat one of those items an have not burned off the equivalent in exercise calories. None of those baked goods satisfies like a meal, and I will be hungry later, causing me to eat over the deficit.

    However, I have found some alternatives. Hot chocolate (90 calories), smaller cookies, baking my own cake and freezing slices--cutting smaller slices so that I can eat them without guilt, lara bars (90-200 calories), fruit--less than 100 calories, brownie brittles (120 calories a bag). Even a candy bar at 200 calories (now they have snickers at 100 calories) are less calories than eating one of those baked goods!
  • lethalxminx
    lethalxminx Posts: 9 Member
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    sijomial wrote: »
    So, if all I ate was cookies and then I ran it all off as well as putting myself at a deficit, I highly doubt I’m going to lose weight.

    Let's take this one phrase and "run with it" - see what I did there? :)

    You have no doubt seen newsreel of the poor souls that emerge from concentration camps as walking bags of bones - they didn't have a healthy diet. They had a huge caloric deficit from being underfed and overworked.
    So why would you at a moderate caloric deficit NOT lose weight? Where is that missing energy actually coming come if not your own body's reserves?

    Less extreme example:
    I cycle long distance events. I could fuel them solely on carb gels (glucose/fructose mix).
    Eating at a rate of 90g an hour (roughly the maximum rate someone exercising hard can absorb) would give me 360 cals an hour calories in.
    But my calories out are more like 600 cals/hour. That energy deficit has to come from my own energy reserves (mixture of glycogen and fat).
    Virtually no nutrition in those gels apart from the energy yielded but they can't cancel out anything (everything!) else in my diet.

    I have, yes, and it makes sense. However, those people walk out as bags of bones because their body needs energy to live, so once it goes through it’s nutrient stores from food, and everything they can from muscle and fat, then there’s nothing left.
  • NextRightThing714
    NextRightThing714 Posts: 355 Member
    edited March 2018
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    ceiswyn wrote: »
    See, that’s what I don’t understand, because from what I’ve done research on, a calorie is not a calorie. Your body doesn’t look at calories- it looks at the nutrient makeup of those calories. So, if all I ate was cookies and then I ran it all off as well as putting myself at a deficit, I highly doubt I’m going to lose weight. The one thing everyone says is “you can’t outrun a bad diet.” So if I can’t outrun a bad diet, but then you say that I just have to be a caloric deficit, then those two concepts cancel each other out.

    You need to do better research; you seem to have got yourself quite confused!

    You’re conflating two different things here: weight loss and nutrition. In terms of weight loss, a calorie really is a calorie, and if all you ate was one cookie a day, you would lose weight (how could you not?!). You’ll lose weight eating cookies, if the calories are under your TDEE; you’ll gain weight eating salad, if the calories you get from it are over your TDEE. The nutrient makeup of those calories is entirely irrelevant from a weight perspective.

    Where nutrition comes in is in whether your body is healthy while it’s losing/gaining weight. Entirely aside from the calories, are you getting the macronutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs? If you are, then you’re not going to do any harm eating the odd cookie.

    The reason you can’t outrun a bad diet is that a) if you’re not getting the nutrients you need, then exercise won’t fix that and b) exercise burns way fewer calories than people tend to assume. What it absolutely does not mean is that exercise somehow doesn’t burn off the calories from cookies.

    I’ve lost over 14 stone without giving up chocolate, cheese or anything else I really love. That is how to do weight loss. Giving up cookies and making yourself eat ‘diet food’ you don’t like is just setting yourself up to fail hard.

    But see, I’m still lost! Because on one hand you say that a calorie is a calorie, but then you say that I can’t outrun a bad diet because of the nutrients it’s made of.

    For nutrition. Not for weight loss. You need to clearly define your goal (s). Is your goal to lose weight? Is your goal better nutrition? Both? These are two completely distinct things.

    ETA: typo.
  • solieco1
    solieco1 Posts: 1,559 Member
    edited March 2018
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    So here's the deal. You have choices. Eat mostly whole foods and less of them. Log the calories. It's truly not that complicated. Even Wendy's has baked potatoes, salads, chili. Eat what you want but there's really no getting around that you have to decide to sacrifice something. My mantra is "Being fat is hard; losing weight is hard; choose your hard." You can do this; take a breath and regroup :)
  • jrochest
    jrochest Posts: 119 Member
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    Also — Track your calories for a week or so, honestly. It helps to know the price of the stuff you regularly eat now, when you aren’t trying to lose anything yet. And then see what items are out there that you like or might like that are under your calorie goals per meal — I pro-rate my meals, so I try to hit about 250 cal for breakfast, 300 or so for lunch and 500 for dinner. That’s hard to do while eating out!! But you can buy quick grab foods — pots of yogurt (I buy plain and sweeten it with Splenda) with chopped up fruit, which is one of my go-to breakfasts that I eat with coffee at my desk (replaces the muffin). And my fridge is stuffed with small, no-cook low calorie things that I can grab when starving: turkey pepperoni; hummus and crisp bread; veggies and dip (yogurt or cottage cheese based, usually). And salad. And tinned soup. And packets of tuna. And shoving a hunk of meat into a frying pan and throwing a bag of beans into the microwave isn’t *that* hard, really.
  • 1houndgal
    1houndgal Posts: 558 Member
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    JerSchmare wrote: »
    tess5036 wrote: »
    You don't have to eat healthy to lose weight, you just need to have a calorie deficit. Decide what foods you do like and you would look forward, and then work out a way of incorporating them into your diet which will still leave a calorie deficit.

    Lol, I regularly have chocolate, and other supposedly bad things but I'm still losing weight because I'm at a calorie deficit

    See, that’s what I don’t understand, because from what I’ve done research on, a calorie is not a calorie. Your body doesn’t look at calories- it looks at the nutrient makeup of those calories. So, if all I ate was cookies and then I ran it all off as well as putting myself at a deficit, I highly doubt I’m going to lose weight. The one thing everyone says is “you can’t outrun a bad diet.” So if I can’t outrun a bad diet, but then you say that I just have to be a caloric deficit, then those two concepts cancel each other out.

    Misleading dogma.

    I’ll give you an example. Let’s say, every time you knock on my door, and I say, “come in”, and you see my laying on the couch watching. Over a period of time, you’d think I’m lazy as hell. What you don’t know, is that each time you’ve come over, it’s later in the day. I may have run 15 miles each morning, and I’m just chillin.

    If you see me eat a cookie, as I’m laying on the couch, you’ll think, ‘he just lays on the couch and eats cookies all day.

    No. Remember, I ran 15 miles that morning. And, I’m only having 1 cookie because I enjoy them. But, my overall profile for food is amazing. You just never see that.

    What I am saying is that you cannot say that a cookie, or a hamburger from a fast food place is bad until you look at the overal food profile of that person. Food, by itself, is not good or bad. It doesn’t carry those properties. It’s the overall context of a diet over time. So, look at a week or month. Then, you’ll probably notice how insignificant that cookie was to the overall diet.

    Totally correct! Definitely not under the delusion that eating a single cookie will ruin everything. But I notice that every day, I tend to have some sort of sweet, which can range between a candy bar, a donut, to two pieces of cake (like the chocolate torte - that I split and shared with a friend, and a slice of Irish cream cake). My sugar cravings are the absolute worst and I have no idea how to quell them.

    You have identified your problematic sweet treats (ie calorie bombs).

    I have had problems with the same type of foods all of my life, until MFP.

    GOOGLE "food addiction" for info and tips for dealing with your addiction for "sugary foods."

    Consider overeaters anonymous and certainly participate on the mfp groups and forums. Find groups that deal with food addictions.

    Log all you eat even if they were "calorie bombs", "cheats" and "treats". This is for accountability and for insights (such as figuring out how much % of the calorie's you eat in a given day or week are all those "calorie bombs" .)

    Find foods to replace those "sweet treats". For myself I substitute a fruit (if I crave something sweet), protein foods and complex carbs.

    Examples of my own go to substitutions for "sweet calorie bombs" are

    1.fruits (apple, orange, banana, berries and such). Raw veggies also good for snacks.
    2. Complex carbs, fiber foods: My go to snack is a fiber 1 bar, or Kirkland Protein Bar (has fiber and protein in it).
    3. Protein snacks like jerky, string cheese stick, protein bar.
    4. Limited amounts of sweets. Sometimes I got to have something sweet. I measure it and track it. My go-to treats in limited amounts include dark chocolate doves (2 pieces), a small pouch of welches gummies (80 kcals).
    5. Try if you are able to, do get in a sensible amount of excercise each day. That can help to decrease your cravings as well as boost your mood.
    6. Get enough sleep. Some folks eat more when tired.

    I encourage you to stick with your efforts to lose weight in a sensible manner. You may have bad days and go overboard on treats. Don't beat yourself up when such bad days happen. Log every food anyways, then proceed forward. You can do this!

  • spiriteagle99
    spiriteagle99 Posts: 3,680 Member
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    It really is about choice. You can choose to eat the same as you always have, and you will continue to have the same results: weight gain. Or you can choose to change the way you eat so that the result changes. Eating out all the time does lead to weight gain, unless you are very careful (i.e. 6 oz filet vs. 15 oz NY strip, broccoli without butter or cheese rather than loaded baked potato). Eating a lot of desserts will lead to weight gain, unless you eat less of other foods that are more healthy. If you continue to make excuses for why you can't change, then you'll continue to gain weight. If you decide to cook more meals at home, eat fewer desserts, exercise more so you can include more calories in your day - then the outcome will be different.
  • orangegato
    orangegato Posts: 6,570 Member
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    Look at this thread about CICO. This person ate mostly pizza and because of a calorie deficit he lost weight. http://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/10348650/cico-still-skeptical-come-inside-for-a-meticulous-log-that-proves-it/p1

    And read the sticky threads in sections like Getting Started, Success Stories etc.

    You can do this! Good luck
  • ceiswyn
    ceiswyn Posts: 2,256 Member
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    But see, I’m still lost! Because on one hand you say that a calorie is a calorie, but then you say that I can’t outrun a bad diet because of the nutrients it’s made of.

    Yes. For weight loss, a calorie is a calorie. You will lose weight on the appropriate number of calories no matter what nutrients those calories are made of.

    For health, the nutrients are important. No matter how much exercise you do, you won’t get vitamin C from eating butter; and you won’t get essential fats from eating apples.

    To lose weight and be healthy, all you need to do is eat a balanced diet that comes in under your calories. I suppose that balanced diet could be made of diet food if you want, but it sounds rather as if you don’t want, so then don’t do it!

    Yes, you’ll have to get used to much smaller portions. So don’t waste them on things you don’t even like. Eat the food slowly and really appreciate it.
  • slossia
    slossia Posts: 138 Member
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    What’s a “diet food” ?
  • jammerx37
    jammerx37 Posts: 30 Member
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    When I eat out in a local restaurant, I go home and find a comparable meal on line from a national chain and estimate it. This seems to work. I also try not to eat the whole damn plate. LOL! Not the plate literally too! The best way is to have an idea of what your going to order and how many calories it is. Too many times I have eaten then gone home and said well *kitten*! I just screwed my whole week! Its a daily effort, and it is so easy to fall off the wagon. Good luck!
  • SabAteNine
    SabAteNine Posts: 1,866 Member
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    tehchix0r wrote: »
    When in doubt, go simple at restaurants. I'm not going to choose a very specific, 5 ingredients and over dish when eating out because I have no idea how to identify and estimate the correct amounts of base ingredients. Found out that any kind of meat + a veggie side works best. Further than that, you can always ask what's in the food, and you can also usually opt for small modifications of what you're asking. Most restaurants here have the amount in grams listed for every dish so my way of going is to estimate based on that, eg. 250g chicken gorgonzola = 200g chicken breast grilled + 40g gorgonzola + 40g cream (sauce loses water during cooking... But going over the grams is just me making sure that I don't log lower)

    Which I’ve done! But even that 14oz steak with a side of mash potatoes is so high in calories. How on god’s green earth do people survive on the 1200 calories that MFP assigns to them (based on goals)?? Even the healthiest of filling and nutrient food (with meat) is 300 calories at least.

    Had to convert 14 oz to get an idea - WOW! Usually our standard restaurant portions are 200g, at a MAXIMUM 250g. 200g is about 7 oz (or 200 cals worth of turkey breast, or 270 cals worth of pork roast). Add a generous two-cup side of steamed broccoli and you have yourself another 100 cals. I believe it's in the ballpark, and it shouldn't be a problem finding it or something similar in restaurant menus.

    Figuring the calorie headache out in the beginning is hard work, but eventually you'll know your best options. At first I used to do MFP simulations based on the online menus of the restaurants I knew I was going to, or right at the table (which was not nice of me).

    I don't freeze or meal prep, sometimes I take some leftover dinner (if I cook) to work, most of the times though I buy whatever I feel like having and whatever fits for lunch. Bag of spinach, an avocado, some feta cheese, etc, and I prep it fast at work.

    Also, what others said - you don't have to eat it all. Enjoy the lunch/night out and the company, eat slow, drink lots of water: all these are helping your stomach send the fullness signal to your brain before you eat the plate too. :smile:

  • lynn_glenmont
    lynn_glenmont Posts: 9,988 Member
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    Estimate. The meaty part of your palm is about as big as a deck of cards. A piece of meat that size is 4 oz.
    A dessert is going to be about 50% fat and 50% carb. If it appears to be 4 oz in the bowl, that's 56 grams of fat and 56 grams of carb. The math is about 224 calories from carb and about 504 calories from fat. So that torte is about 778 calories if it is about 4 oz. The burger: 250 calories for the bun, then if it has avocado add another 100. The meat and other vegetables in there are maybe another 150 calories. Cheese is another 100.
    A pound of steamed broccoli is less than 100. A serving of steamed veggies, which you can usually find on a menu, is under 50.

    Pancakes are a big hunk of bread, so about 150 each. It's the syrup that jacks up the calories there.

    Just do a little bit of research before your road trip and have your battle plan ready.

    First of all, that torte is going to be about 25% water by weight, so a 4 oz. torte is only going to have about 3 oz. of macros contributing calories. So even if your macro split is right (although in my experience, carbs are a significantly larger share of baked desserts by weight than are fat, even if we're talking buttercream frosting), we would be looking at about 43 g fat and 43 g of carbs, or about 560 kcal for a 4 oz. slice of chocolate
  • PAV8888
    PAV8888 Posts: 13,732 Member
    edited March 2018
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    Wendy's: small chilli = ~200 Cal (160 to 200 depending on fill level) zesta crackers x4 = 50. Plain Baked potato no margarine or sour creme or chives ~250 to 300 depending on size. Chilli on potato plus water = sub 500 Cal and sub $4 in Canada

    Chili on half Mediterranean power salad with no dressing since you use the chili as dressing = under 450 Cal and slughtly more money.

    14oz steak with mashed potato... well, there are very few contexts where that makes sense. 6 oz steak with fries would be better. And 6 oz steak with steamed no butter mixed vegetables even more so. Grill Chicken and fish are options too.
  • lynn_glenmont
    lynn_glenmont Posts: 9,988 Member
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    Hi all! First time poster. I’ve finally come to the end of myself and I’m desperate for help. I’m so lost on nutrition that I don’t even know where to begin. But most important thing first.... restaurants. How do you track your calories/macros at restaurants?? Sure, I know that some of the bigger chains will have their calorie counts (some of them will have nutrition facts), but I mean the smaller, local places. I have no idea how many calories are in that chocolate torte, or in a burger, or the pancakes. Some of them have hundreds of calories in difference if I try to go into MFP and select a food that’s similar.

    Additionally, I know that a trained eye can see what a cup of rice, or a cup of veggies on a plate looks like. But to an untrained eye, how do you measure your side dishes?


    Tracking at restaurants that don't provide nutritional information: There are two basic approaches I use:

    (1) Log the dish using another entry. Does it seem similar to an entry for a food at another restaurant that I'm familiar with (I don't usually just use a random entry with a dish of the same name)? Is it a fairly standard type of food offered at lots of restaurants, and if so, does the USDA nutrient database have an entry for an average restaurant serving of this food? How big was the serving? Do I need to adjust the USDA entry (which will list mass and/or volume serving sizes)? Is it similar to something I make myself for which I have a recipe created in MFP?

    (2) Deconstruct the recipe. How much of the various ingredients does there seem to be? The ingredients you can see are easier to estimate -- over time, with weighing your food at home, you'll get better at eyeballing how many ounces of chicken, steak, or fish you've been served, as well as how much of the starch and veggies there are. Things like fat and sweeteners are a little tougher. If you cook yourself, measuring and weighing as you go along, you'll get better at it. To start with, I'd assume a tablespoon of oil for any meal that has ingredients that fried/sauteed/stir-fried or that have any kind of sauce. (They may be using butter instead of oil, but if you're mainly focused on calories, it's just easier to assume oil and log it that way.)

    Cooking and weighing/measuring at home are the way I got confident estimating dishes at restaurants.

    And a third question, how did you guys find out what diet food works for you? Friends say that if I don’t look forward to my diet, I’m not going to eat it, but that’s the thing... I haven’t found anything! Everything is just “healthy” and none of it is what I look forward to. I’m always on the go, and the thought of 5-7 day old chicken from meal prep Sunday’s absolutely kill me.

    Please help :(


    I really didn't choose "diet food." In tracking, it was easy to notice which foods had a higher satiety level for me for the calories they "cost," and to try to make those a larger part of my diet, and which foods had a lower satiety level for me, and to try to limit those to times when I afford the calorie cost and still be able to eat enough of the higher satiety foods. Other than that, I focused on hitting my protein and fiber goals -- that is, getting at least my goals for protein and fiber -- with foods I like. I also kept an eye on hitting my fat goals, but that's never really bee a problem for me.
  • GOT_Obsessed
    GOT_Obsessed Posts: 817 Member
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    It really is about choice. You can choose to eat the same as you always have, and you will continue to have the same results: weight gain. Or you can choose to change the way you eat so that the result changes. Eating out all the time does lead to weight gain, unless you are very careful (i.e. 6 oz filet vs. 15 oz NY strip, broccoli without butter or cheese rather than loaded baked potato). Eating a lot of desserts will lead to weight gain, unless you eat less of other foods that are more healthy. If you continue to make excuses for why you can't change, then you'll continue to gain weight. If you decide to cook more meals at home, eat fewer desserts, exercise more so you can include more calories in your day - then the outcome will be different.

    I agree with this completely. How bad do you want to lose weight? You can't have your cake and eat it too. Pun intended.

    "If it does not challenge it won't change you."
  • Live_life_well
    Live_life_well Posts: 86 Member
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    You won’t like hearing this but I went from eating out an average of twice a day to an average of ~3 times a month. I just couldn’t take weight loss seriously while going to restaurants that made it impossible for me to know how many calories I was ingesting. And whenever I did go out I ONlY went to chains that display calorie information.

    I have lost 17 pounds to date and not sure I could have done so eating out all of the time.