I spent most of my twenties severely overweight.
The problem was my relationship to food. The sugary sodas, frozen pizzas, constant snacking, and large purchases at fast-food establishments were no longer mitigated by a youthful metabolism and high-school exercise regimen. At my heaviest, I weighed over two-hundred and forty pounds—eighty more than right now.
And my story is hardly unique.
But when you’re in that position and decide it’s time to change, you quickly notice something: there’s a perception that “healthy eating” involves elaborate, time-consuming, and overly-complicated recipes—the sort of ones that are often shared on social media. You see this in diet books, cookbooks, television shows, and it’s all over the internet, of course.
I didn’t have time for that. I still don’t, and I love to cook. At that point in my life, however, “cooking” meant putting a frozen pizza in the oven or boiling a box of noodles and mixing in a bag of powder. The idea that I was going to suddenly become a culinary maestro overnight was absurd—a recipe for failure, in other words.
And I noticed something else. There’s a perception that “healthy eating” doesn’t take place when you eat out. Restaurants, gas stations, fast-food establishments—they’re all spoken of as if they’re part of the problem. How many times have you heard complaints about large portion sizes at American restaurants, for example? How many times has someone said “I was doing fine with losing weight…until I started eating out”.
Folks, this is why I’m eating at gas stations for 30 days. I want to do something extreme and change the conversation.
I currently eat out four to five days a week since I travel for work. I fly around the United States and work in all sorts of environments. This means I eat at restaurants, gas stations—whatever’s available. And while I worried at first that it would negatively affect my health, I’ve found it to be quite easy. Most restaurants have healthy options on the menu, and even places like Panda Express make it possible to get a heaping pile of steamed vegetables and brown rice. As for gas stations, have you even been to Sheetz, Wawa, or QuikTrip? They’re fantastic establishments. As an active endurance athlete, I feel confident, healthy, and fully capable to engage in my training.
Look, we live fast-paced, busy lives. People work long hours, are involved with hobbies and interests outside of work, and some have children who need shuttled to their extracurriculars. Sometimes a restaurant or gas station is a perfectly reasonable place to eat. And some folks don’t want to cook. That’s fine too.
That’s why we need to stop pretending that “eating out” is the problem. There are certainly issues and concerns with the food industry that deserve attention, but it’s like anything else in life: we may not play with a perfect hand, but we can still win the game. And when we fail to manage our weight, the most culpable person is the one staring back in the mirror.
It’s my hope that this experiment will provide encouragement to those who are struggling on journeys of their own. I get it; it’s not easy, and it can be a struggle at first.
But if I can eat out and remain healthy, then so can you.