Let’s Kill the Business Dinner Before it Kills Us

Man travels for work. Goes out for a “business dinner” most nights. Over time, gains 20+ pounds. Exercises less, so that’s 25+ pounds of fat, obscured weight-wise by 5+ pounds of muscle loss). After dinner, still email and other work to-do’s…so sleep is reduced.

This “business dinner” culture and behavior is literally killing people. Or at least, gravely threatening the “OlderBeast” vision for 40+ guys: fearlessly embrace your age and double down on fitness and nutrition, to feel great, look your best, keep getting happier, and live long.

So, with a belief that this is urgent, here’s a plea and proposal for escaping the Business Dinner Syndrome, brothers.

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It’s such a common situation, the impact of the business dinner is almost a cliché.

Man travels for work. Goes out for a “business dinner” most nights. Over time, gains 20+ pounds. Exercises less, so that’s 25+ pounds of fat, obscured weight-wise by 5+ pounds of muscle loss. After dinner, still email and other work to-do’s…so sleep is reduced.

I was an often-traveling consultant for years, then leader of a small globally-focused organization…so I say this not with cool detachment, but with firsthand experience.

This “business dinner” culture and behavior is literally killing people. Or at least, gravely threatening the “OlderBeast” vision for 40+ guys: fearlessly embrace your age and double down on fitness and nutrition, to feel great, look your best, keep getting happier, and live long.

Imagine hearing: “My colleagues and customers expect to smoke cigarettes together as part of business…so I smoke a pack a day.” Given all we know about the dangers of being overweight, not exercising and missing sleep—this analogy is not as extreme as it may first sound.

So, with a belief that this is urgent, here’s a plea and proposal for escaping the Business Dinner Syndrome, brothers.

First: An Acknowledgement & Disclaimer

I know there are important reasons for eating with colleagues, clients and customers. Team-building, making a “sales” or “business partner” relationship more personal, etc.

I’m not suggesting you stop entirely. Just that you take initiative to change the overall pattern.

I bet many dinner participants will welcome the change, too. And besides, the alternatives I tee up below will often be as good or better at achieving your business/social goals.

The Business Dinner: What’s Wrong with It

Nutritionally, the typical business dinner is:

Too much food. Appetizer and desserts are often “part of the occasion.” And, many “upscale” restaurant serving sizes are huge (unless they’re ridiculously small, but that’s a subject for a different rant).

Unhealthy food. “Bad carbs” (sugars, white flour, starchy foods)…high salt…often, unhealthy fats.

Taken together, these two factors make the average restaurant meal more than 1,200 calories (48-60% of your daily total), according to several recent university studies.

Accompanied by more alcohol than advisable. Even “a couple of drinks” is a lot day-in and day-out, calorie-wise. Example: two 5 oz. glasses of red equals 250 calories. Nicer restaurants often have a slightly bigger pour, so let’s say 300 calories.

Add the food and alcohol calories together. It’s not at all unusual for a business dinner to be 1,500 calories or more. That’s 60-75+% of your daily recommended “weight neutral” calorie total!

In addition to this dire nutrition picture, here’s another big issue: time.

After a day’s work, you’re squandering a precious commodity with 2-3 hours at a sit-down dinner in a “real” (with tablecloths) restaurant. With non-discretionary work tasks in the evening or before the next start-of-business…the time squeeze from a long dinner hits your exercise or sleep, the “sacrifice-able” parts of your routine.

By contrast, a 45-minute dinner gives you, at least, an hour-plus back into your schedule.

Solutions

As appropriate for the people involved and what your “goal” is for business/social time that day, try these:

⇒ When “wining and dining to impress” is not needed (it’s needed less often than people think), opt for a casual, healthy-food-oriented place. No tablecloth. Maybe even where you order at the counter!

⇒ Do some non-eating “together” activity (then eat at a healthy/casual place if desirable to spend further time together). These alternatives include:

A. Experiential things, like a brief gallery or museum visit

B. Walks (great way to explore a city and have fun together)

C. A workout. Maybe a run, an exercise class, a trip to the hotel gym. People do this…you could be one of them!

⇒ Among colleagues, a healthy team culture also makes it OK to have “a night off” where people just do their own thing. A self-perpetuating expectation of “go to a restaurant every night” becomes burdensome, and is part of the overall syndrome we’re trying to break out of.

Are you thinking: “maybe with colleagues, but no way would this stuff work with clients or customers?”

For certain customers, I bet this would be a refreshing change-of-pace and a real personal connection, and differentiate you from other wine-and-diners seeking their attention and their money.

The Company View

If you’re a general management, HR or finance leader whose employees travel or otherwise have “business dinners” a lot…this should be a welcome proposal to you.

Your team members will (a) be more long-term healthy and productive, and (b) will spend less on “meals and entertainment.”

To really embrace this, you may need one policy adjustment: allowing employees to expense exercise costs when traveling, or when with clients/customers. This is part of any solid corporate Wellness program, anyway.

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One final perspective and reminder. Just as with day-to-day nutrition, I’m not arguing you should seek continuous perfection. That’s not realistic. Rather, think of a “high batting average.” Maybe resolve, for example, that no more than one day per week will be a fancy “business dinner.” Then eventually, just once or twice a month.

Dude, do whatever’s needed to NOT live the cliché of the overweight, weakening, exhausted business traveler. That’s a horrible fate for you…and it’s not even good for your career or your company, over the mid- and long-term.

“Time for a cool change. I know that it’s time for a cool change.” (Little River Band, Cool Change-click to listen)

If you think this would be useful to others, please help spread the word about OlderBeast by sharing this post with the social media buttons below. THANKS, MAN.

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4 Comments
  1. […] means some nice-to / should-do work things are lower priority (such as repeated, protracted business dinners). And time with media/social […]

  2. […] Workouts often have to displace “business dinners” (they’re killing us, […]

  3. […] outside are also great ways to be active with friends, colleagues or family. Not to mention this short-term motivation: If you do a loop route when running/walking […]

  4. […] and make a clear goal: “DRINK LESS.” Given how social occasions can revolve around drinks, and business dinners too, this is a bit easier said than done. But the stakes are kinda high, don’t you think? […]

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