Want to be Healthy and Still Have a Social Life?

I had a client email me recently about how she was “trying to figure out how my social life and my health goals can live in harmony.” Wow. How much do I LOVE that phrasing!? That’s pretty much THE ideal goal, right? We’ve been told for so long that social occasions are huge obstacles to our weight loss or health goals. They can be, sure. But they don’t have to be. Being healthy and still having a rocking social life can coexist! What we all want is to find that wonderful “happy place.” The place where we’re able to balance both of these things that are important to us.

We certainly don’t want to go full-force in either direction…. like so health conscious that we can’t possibly allow a glass of wine while out with friends, or so uninhibited that we drink like a fish and gorge on cake 7 days a week! The balance is someplace in the middle, and finding it is just a bit of trial and error. It will be a bit different for each person too.

The biggest way you can help yourself in these situations is to think ahead.

If we “wing it” we’re more likely to let our lizard-brain impulses run the show. That means that instant gratification tends to win out, and when we look back on things afterwards, we tend to feel guilty that our health goals (those other things that are important to us too) didn’t get much say in the matter. The best way to approach things with clarity is to make a plan when the instant-gratification impulse brain isn’t all ramped up yet… so before the event!

If you’re coming up on a known social event (you know, like New Year’s Eve in a couple days), you can use what you know in terms of who will be there and what kinds of drinks and foods will be there, and come up with a balance you’ll be happy with.

Want to know one of my favorite tricks for coming up with that happy balance plan?

I like to try to fast-forward myself to after the party and figure out:

WHAT WOULD HAVE TO HAPPEN AT THE PARTY FOR ME TO FEEL PROUD OF MYSELF AFTERWARDS?[bctt tweet=”What would have to happen at the event for me to feel proud of myself afterwards?” username=”raisingnutritn”]

So, if you think about New Year’s Day, and you envision yourself feeling really proud of how the previous night went… what does the night look like?

For many of us, we’re all too familiar with feeling not-so-proud after an event like New Year’s Eve. We feel bloated, or hungover, or both. We remember diving into a tray of leftover holiday cookies without coming up for air. Or maybe we’re so hungover we don’t actually remember what we ate! In all those instances, we start to feel like we betrayed our other values – the values of health and treating ourselves well. That’s how guilt forms.

Let’s flip that script so that on New Year’s Day, we can feel happy about the night before. This does NOT mean that your plan should be to avoid all the alcohol and desserts and not have any social fun. How unrealistic is that?! (Remember, we’re not going so health conscious that we can’t have any indulgences ever!) Find a balance, or compromise. One you’ll be pleased with the next day.

Want an example? Here’s my NYE plan:

We’re going to a rocking NYE party in Philly hosted by my parents’ friends. The theme of the party changes each year, but the underlying event is the same – they call it a “Martini Bar Soiree” (fancy, huh?). Rather obviously, there will be lots of alcohol involved. There is also usually a ton of food. And then desserts come out later. In past years, I’ve done what most people do – wing it. I graze on food pretty much from the time I get there to the time the fireworks go off at midnight. I have a few martinis. And I do more than just sample the dessert table.

There is NOTHING wrong with that by the way! I just also know from past experience, that doing this tends to leave me feeling pretty darn stuffed afterwards. And if I’ve had a lot of sweets and alcohol, it tends to make me feel a bit guilty too. So, what’s my plan? What will I do this time so I feel awesome both during and after the party?

I’m making sure to include the best stuff in my plan.

I’m also planning to avoid grazing as much as possible. That’s what makes me feel stuffed and uncomfortable.

I will wait until I’m hungry before diving into the awesome food.

Feeling stuffed is no fun, so the goal is to stop before I get to that point.  

That’s it. See? Nothing too outlandish or difficult.

Need a bit more detail?

Martini(s) – Yes. I will definitely have one, and possibly a second. I’m a lightweight though, so I’ll have to space them out a bit. No worries on that part, we’ll be there for several hours, and it’s not like alcohol goes bad. I’ll stick to water before, between, and after!

Meal food – Once all the food is out, and once I actually feel hungry, I’ll take what I want on one plate and eat it like a meal. I will make a concerted effort not to graze. Food tastes better when I’m actually hungry for it anyway. I’m not sure what foods will be there, but I will try to be sure that protein and veggies make it on my plate in addition to the typical carb-based fare. I’ll be sure to leave some room for dessert (and my martini). The tough part will be waiting for actual hunger since seeing yummy food can make you think you’re hungry even if you’re not quite there yet. Water to the rescue! Keeps my hands and mouth busy while I wait.

Desserts – Yes! Similar plan to the above meal food. The desserts tend to come out later, after the other food is put away. Once they’re out, I’ll do the same thing I did with the meal food… Make a plate of the things I want, and eat it in one sitting without grazing repeatedly. Goal is to fully enjoy them and stop before I feel stuffed. If something isn’t super awesome, there is no need to finish it.

That’s my balance. I’m planning for the indulgences I want, and including the healthy stuff if it’s there and looks good. I’m also making adjustments to what I’ve done in the past so that I can feel proud that I kept my values of eating well in mind(and feel good physically too!).

The Next Day…

…is just another regular day! Remember, what we do MOST of the time is always going to be more important than the rare special occasions. No matter what foods you ate or drinks you drank on NYE, they are in the past (and hopefully you feel pretty happy about how it all went). The “special occasion” or “social event” is over, and the best thing you can do for your health-oriented goals is to get back to practicing your regular healthy eating skills right away!

[bctt tweet=”What we do MOST of the time is always more important than the rare special occasions.” username=”raisingnutritn”]

You CAN be healthy and still have a social life. You just need to find your balance! So, how can YOU balance those two things for yourself?


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