Real-Girl Tips For Going Out and Still Losing Weight

When you're trying to lose weight, temptations are everywhere, especially during a night on the town. But with a little thought and a lot of willpower, having a fun time out and still sticking to your weight-loss goals can happen. Take it from our Before & After stars — it can be done. Channel their success with their smart tips below!

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  1. Look for these words: Instead of noticing everything that's off limits, zoom in on healthy cooking techniques like "baked," "grilled," or "blackened," says Taryn, who lost 155 pounds. "I have really had to educate myself on certain words that are found on typical restaurant menus that mean unhealthy choices, and will pick my menu items accordingly," she says. Other good options: foods that are steamed or broiled.
  2. Preplanning is key: So says Staci, who lost 71 pounds. "So many restaurants have their full nutritional info online, so I will take about 10 minutes, look at the menu, and pick a few entrées I'd like to have," she says. "I figure out the points based off their nutritional info and then, when I get there, I have a 'cheat sheet' on what I can eat." Another smart tip from Staci: make sure you pick a few options in case the restaurant runs out of your first pick. "Giving myself different meal ideas helps avoid the unexpected," she explains.
  3. Modify your favorites: Go ahead, have that burger — just make it a little healthier. "I still love a good burger, but I ask for them to do it without the bun and then I get a sweet potato or veggies with it," says Crystal, who lost 113 pounds. Karla, who lost 81 pounds, recommends taking it to another level if you simply can't find anything that suits your diet. "You can't go wrong with a grilled chicken salad and balsamic vinaigrette on the side," she says, adding that she always chooses water as her drink.
  4. Actively control portions: Restaurant meals are notorious for being well over a single size, so pack up that extra food right away, recommends Gloria, who shared with us her story of losing 62 pounds. "I've learned to take my time while eating and that portion control is everything," she says. "I usually wind up taking at least half of anything I eat out home with me. I also allow myself about 15 to 20 minutes to feel full after eating to avoid overindulging."
  5. Use your 20: The 80/20 rule works, so if eating out is an occasional treat, go ahead and order what you want. "I try to live by the 80/20 rule. I eat clean 80 percent of the time and the other 20 percent I cut myself a little bit of slack," explains Ashley, who lost 115 pounds after years of yo-yo dieting. "That does not mean that I go out and consume 18 cheeseburgers, 10 fries, a milkshake, etc. I still attempt to be healthy when we eat out, but I do so by applying the 80/20 rule." She also recommends waiting a bit before ordering that pizza you're craving. "If I really want something, I don't get it right away. If it's a craving that keeps coming back over and over, I'll indulge, get it out of my system, and move on!"
  6. Bank calories: Don't go overboard, but if you know you're going to an indulgent dinner, eating lighter throughout the day can help you save calories for your special meal, says Geneva, who lost 103 pounds. "I also eat lighter for my other meals that day to make 'room' for the extra calories eating out brings," she says.
  7. Fast food is a no: They may be quick and easy, but often they are empty of any nutrients at all. Nelly lost 85 pounds with the help of new eating habits, including staying away from fast-food joints. "We often avoid chain restaurants [too]," she adds.
  8. Check your phone: Smartphone apps are your friend when researching restaurants on the fly. Carrie, who lost 175 pounds, uses apps like Happy Cow, Yelp, and Urbanspoon to help her pick the healthiest option. "I find that I can always find something healthy and plant based at non-American-style restaurants," Carrie adds. "My favorites are Vietnamese and Middle Eastern."
  9. Have your one glass: There's nothing like relaxing with a glass of good red wine with your meal, and there's no need to cut it out completely. Adopt Jenniffer's strategy, which helped her lose 68 pounds: "I allow myself a glass of wine, then switch to sparkling mineral water or soda water," she says.
  10. Be mindful: You're there to enjoy the food, so do it, says Mahina, who lost 40 pounds. "Eat slowly. Chew thoroughly," she says.
  11. Be picky: Don't be afraid to let your server know just what you want, says Lulu, who lost 98 pounds. "Never be afraid to be annoying — being healthy is more important than satisfying an impatient server," she says. "Typically, a lot of eating out is not conducive to successful weight loss, but everyone has to do it now and again, so I say have zero shame in being picky." Marian, who lost 40 pounds, agrees. "If there's a creamy sauce or something is cooked in butter, I ask for my meal without those things," she say. "And I regularly substitute items like fries and mashed potatoes for a side of grilled veggies or a salad. I go into the restaurant knowing what to look for, so I stay on track."
  12. Don't sweat it: Weight loss is about discipline, but it's also about enjoying life and not feeling deprived. So if you're prepping for an occasional night out, take this advice from Kate, who lost 49 pounds: "I don't get too bothered about what I choose [to eat] because, hey, it's just one night. It's not like one night is going to totally destroy my healthy lifestyle." Kate does add, however, that she tries to choose meals that come with a salad or vegetables "just so there is a bit of balance."