empty plate with forkLosing weight may be one of the hardest health challenges some women will ever face. It doesn't help that there are a million theories and strategies, diets, "do"s and "don't"s associated with the process. But one of the theories that far too many seem to subscribe to is that to pare pounds successfully, you basically have to live in a bubble. In other words, it's impossible to get healthier and see results on the scale unless you're eating some kind of pre-packaged, pre-portioned "diet food" from a frozen package, in your house, with the door locked and cell phone on silent (lest someone call and tempt you with an invite out into The Real World). Forget dining out at restaurants -- where there's booze, dessert, BREAD BASKETS, AHHH! -- while trying to slim down! That's crazy talk!

Or is it? Thankfully, researchers are confirming a tasty little secret: Yes, we can totally lose weight while eating out.

As much as I love to cook, I also adore eating out, trying new restaurants, perusing Yelp! for the latest and greatest place to grab anything from a quick nosh to a fancy dinner in our neck of the woods ... or anywhere my fiance and I happen to be visiting. Mexican is my fave. Greek a close second. And oh, yeah, you can't get away with living in North Jersey and not eating out at an Italian joint at least once every 2-3 weeks. Yet ... I've somehow managed to lose weight several times while still doin' the restaurant hopping thing. Go figure!

My theory -- based on some of the smartest lessons learned from Weight Watchers -- is that you can and should indulge from time to time. You can also enjoy foods you love -- in moderation -- and then hop back on the health bandwagon the next day. One meal on a Saturday night is never what makes or breaks the scale in the long-haul. Consistently poor choices are what'll cost you.

And that seems to be what the researchers -- who looked at women in their 50s and 60s -- seemed to find. In the study, women who were trying to lose weight definitely ate out less than average Americans, but not that much less (two to three times a week versus four to five). The difference was that women who were successful at weight loss brought their healthier eating habits to the restaurant table. I would guess like having bread but skipping butter. Polishing off maybe just half a huge entree and taking the rest home. Sticking to one glass of booze or skipping it altogether. But the biggest tip researchers had? Bulking up on fruits and veggies. Hello, no-brainer!

In the end, self-deprivation is never the way to go. Smart indulgence on the other hand? Totally doable.

Do you believe it's possible to dine out while losing weight?



Image via Jules Morgan/Flickr