What’s for Lunch?


For what may be the first time in my life, I passed up free lunch today. Actually, I’ve been passing it up for the past four days. I know, scary stuff. Usually, I’m the first person with their hand raised to consume the leftovers/freebies of others. You brought in cupcakes for someone’s birthday? Couldn’t finish your sushi? Ordered too much of something? I’m in!

The company I work for is amazing in many ways, including how they buy everyone in the office lunch every day. Every day! As an assistant in operations, it’s also my job to pick the restaurant that we’ll be ordering from each day. It’s a dream come true.

Lately, though, I’ve been experiencing some tough gastro issues. I’m no stranger to upset stomachs, but it seems like no matter what I ate or how much I exercised or drank water or went to the bathroom, something remained off kilter. After eating lunch, I would get so painfully bloated that I’d sometimes have to unbutton my pants and conceal it under a long shirt for any sense of relief.

At first I chided myself for eating too much. I come from a family that places value on finishing what’s on your plate, and so I’m really terrible at portion control when it comes to buffet-style catering. Eating less, though, didn’t seem to help too much, and just left me hungry. As a result, I’d plow through the snack cabinet and end up gorging myself on Wheat Thins and trail mix.

Then I realized that I never had these awful stomach pains on the weekends. What was I doing differently? Well, I was cooking for myself in more controlled portions. And I wasn’t eating restaurant food. At least, not as much.

My Tex-Mex Bowl - rice, beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, a veggie patty, taco seasoning, and homemade cornbread

My Tex-Mex Bowl – rice, beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, a veggie patty, taco seasoning, and homemade cornbread

Curious, I started to Google a search about whether or not too much restaurant food could, potentially, be bad for you over time. Obviously, a lot of hamburgers and fries will clog your arteries, but I was eating kale salads and quinoa, how could that be causing so many digestive problems?

The truth is, unless you’re ordering plain (and I mean plain) chicken breast, or just straight up untouched greens, your food is going to come out slightly modified. A little seasoning here, some cheese crumbles there, etc. Restaurants want their food to be good and tasty, and truth is that a lot of the time it comes out with high calorie or saturated fat counts.

I decided to do a test. Starting Monday of this week, I packed my lunches. My coworkers thought I was nuts, and often asked if I was dieting. “Not dieting,” I’d say, “just changing my diet a little.”

Monday was pumpkin ravioli, and Tuesday and Wednesday were this delicious Tex-Mex bowl I found the recipe for online. Thursday was cold noodle salad. I also packed healthy snacks so that if I got hungry during the day, I wouldn’t turn to goods lurking in the kitchen.

So far, I haven’t had to unbutton my pants whatsoever. My appetite has come back, and my intestines seem to be functioning again. And – I don’t know if this was a coincidence or not – I ran my best time on the treadmill this week. Maybe it’s a placebo, maybe my body is actually benefiting from taking a restaurant break. Whatever the case, I think my co-workers are going to see me brown bagging it a whole lot more this winter.






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