Thursday, February 5, 2009

Impress Your Fellow Diners

"I don't want people knowing I'm on a diet," Lauren told me. This was her reason to ignore my suggestion to order sauces on the side. "I'm too embarrassed to ask the waiter not to bring the basket of rolls," said Brenda, as we were going through a list of ways to reduce calories when dining out.

I don't understand. Why is it alright with you to walk around 35 pounds overweight, 24 hours a day? You have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but what stands out in your mind as a drawback is having attention called to the fact that you are trying to eat healthy?

Get your priorities in line: You want to be healthy. That should be number one. Normal blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels. Number two should be to get your BMI (Body Mass Index) into the ideal range: not obese, and not overweight. And third, if you can get to a healthy weight and an 'average' size, you will be impressing your clients and colleagues by being in good shape: When you look like you care about yourself and set forth a good image, you also feel good and project an even better image. The positives build upon each other.

People who are overweight are viewed with prejudice, unfair as it is. People who eat too much are seen as lacking in self-control and not caring about their image. What message does this send to the people you are trying to impress? Earn the respect of your clients by sharing with them and letting them know that your number one goal is your health. Take advantage of using the time at a restaurant meal to display this: Ask for salad dressing to be served on the side; ask for information from the waiter about what you are ordering (is there fat in the sauce?); ask for a take-out container with your meal so you can take part of it home without forgetting your intentions until your plate is cleaned. Demonstrate that you don't decide what you will do based on other people's judgement of you, but rather on what you know is the best decision!

Recently I met with a client who was trying to work exercise into her time away at a business conference. "We have meetings all day until 4:30 and then we go out for drinks at 6:00 and dinner at 7:00," Julia told me. "And how would you feel," I asked her, "If you told your colleagues at 4:30, 'I'll have to take a rain check on the drinks this afternoon: I'm going to run back to my room and get to the gym so I can get a quick workout in before dinner'". She thought for a moment and then answered, "I would feel good about that". It shows self-determination, dedication to priorities, and taking care of what's important before running off to socialize when you will have time for that at dinner as well. Visualize ahead of time how you will feel calling attention to the fact that you are concerned with what you put in your body. Will people think it's frivolous? Or will they take your cue and try to impress you with how cautious they can be about what they're consuming?

Several weeks ago I was at a networking dinner after a meeting and was impressed by a colleague I'll call Liz. We were all receiving our entrees and I saw the waiter bring Liz a styrofoam container that she started piling half her meal into before she began to eat. I looked around at the other diners. No one noticed Liz's actions because they were all excited, just having received their own meal and busy digging in to taste the first bite. "Aren't you embarrassed to be taking home half your meal in front of everyone," I asked her (with Lauren and Brenda fresh in my mind). "Of course not," she answered. "I don't care what they think--I've just lost 27 pounds and I have 12 more to lose and I'm not going to let anyone else get in my way!" Now that's impressive.

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