One of the hardest things for most people in terms of following a strict diet or plan is keeping balance. Whether we like to admit it or not, dieting most certainly plays a role in our social lives.
Now, before I go any further, I want to clarify how I'm using the words "diet" and "dieting"-- I do not mean JUST in the sense of weight loss, but more-so in the sense of making any type of new lifestyle adjustment (be that a new, mass building workout plan, a new, weight loss workout plan, or just a clean eating plan!).
Regardless the plan, it typically involves some sort of strategy for eating, some regimen for lifting/cardio, and almost always cuts out alcohol. All of that being said, is there any question how this could affect the way you handle social events? When it comes to these, you basically have 1 of 2 options:
1.) Yell "CHEAT DAY!" and use that as an excuse to eat/drink whatever you want while putting a temporary "halt" on your new diet.
2.) Plan a way to get the most out of your social outing without sacrificing your goals.
I think the correct option is obvious... Yes, you should do the latter of the two. But, how?? After all, so many social events are centered around food. The answer is simple, and seems to be a common theme among these blog posts, you need to keep balance through planning, adapting, and moderating.
I've given a few suggestions in previous blog posts on eating out and have discussed the importance of planning for it/adapting based on your environment in this brief Instagram post:
Almost always you can find something on a restaurant menu that can suite your dietary needs. Be on the lookout for some form of lean protein (i.e. grilled chicken breast, turkey burger, lean steak, salmon or white fish...) and opt for a side salad or a side of steamed veggies instead of fries or chips. As well, if you're ordering rice, noodles, or veggies, feel free to tell the waiter you would like those prepared without any additional butter/oil or sauce. Other restaurant tip? Look for low-calories, low-fat dressings and dips such as red wine or balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, fresh pico de gallo, etc., and avoid cream-based ones like ranch, Cesar, or creamy Italian (and note that the word "vinaigrette" does NOT always mean it is healthy). And to that, don't be fooled by the word "salad"-- some salads are just as bad, if not worse, then some of the full entrees! If you are ordering a salad, stay clear of any "candied" toppings, salads with multiple types of cheeses/fat sources (you know, the salads with things like avocado plus bacon plus goat cheese plus blue cheese plus egg...), or salads topped with fries (duh) (that one is for all you Pittsburgh-ers). Customize your order by making substitutions and omitting unhealthy options.
In terms of alcohol, it is obvious that you do not need it to have fun/to socialize and it shouldn't be your crutch in social situations, so spending an evening without it should not be all that difficult (aside from the craving for the taste)! All you truly need is great company to make for a great time, anything added is just a bonus. So, get yourself some good people and good discussion, and sip on that water or unsweetened iced tea-- or, hey, splurge, go for a diet soda! No, it doesn't sound all that fun/exciting, but I promise you it is not that bad.
And lastly, be open about your goals! Give your friends/family a heads up so they understand why the girl that used to chug down margs or the guy who would pound IPAs is suddenly opting for water. Being open also calms down the food pushers as they likely won't deliberately derail you by consistently pushing those cheese-fries. If they truly are your friends, they won't judge you, they'll support you (<- click for more on that...).
Now, for my competition prep-ers, all of the above still apply, but unfortunately we have to get a little more meticulous and plan a bit more for such events. However, it is still possible to have a social life on prep!
This past weekend, I partook in a multiple hour bar crawl...while being on prep. I am currently 8 weeks out from a competition, but that was most certainly NOT going to be my excuse for staying holed up in my house with my food scale on a weekend where 6 of my best friends would (finally) be all back in the same state. We'd been planning this weekend for a while now, and my friends were all made aware (and were supportive) of my limitations. As the weekend finally approached, I began preparing. I pre-made meals, packed up my protein powders and other quick snacks, and headed out with a bag full of clothes and a bag full of food. I planned out my meals for each full day and allotted some wiggle room in my macros for a dinner out during the crawl. The day of that, I was able to get all my pre-made meals in before going out for the bar crawl, and then I loaded up my purse with the snacks I planned to get me through to the end. See video below at how ridiculous this looked...
With the first bar came appetizers of loaded nachos and Bavarian pretzels with beer-cheese sauce. Of course it was hard not to want just one bite, but I tamed this craving by eating some of the sliced jalapenos on top of the nachos dipped in fresh pico de gallo (luckily for me, I love raw veggies in salsa!) and one of my white-cheddar rice cakes.
At the next bar, there was bruchetta for the table. I spooned out some onto a plate and ate it plain as opposed to using the toasted bread because who doesn't love just tomatos and basil?? It was here that we also ordered dinner. Going into this, we didn't have a restaurant pre-selected for dinner, so I couldn't preview the menu and plan my order beforehand. Instead, I looked for my best options. I went with a salmon burger with grilled onions and fresh arugula. I asked for no sauce on the burger and removed the bun when I got it because I didn't care for the extra carbs and it was a pretty greasy bun. My meal came with fries, but I substituted a salad instead and made my own dressing with a side of balsamic vinegar and some light spritzes of lemon juice. And, let me tell you, it was delicious (and surprisingly filling)! While others got dessert, I had some of my chocolatey protein bar from my purse full of goodies. One thing for certain, I kept everyone entertained all night with my purse-eats! Yes, it is weird to BYO snacks to a bar/restaurant, but you gotta do what you gotta do, and when you have friends that "get it" and laugh along with you, it's no big deal at all.
Dinner was the end of the eating for everyone (except me, I still had purse-food I had to get in and would snack on in the various ubers/walks to new bars), and so it was just drinks throughout the rest of the night. For me, this meant more iced teas and more waters (I definitely hit my water intake). It even meant a shot!----- of pickle juice. The bartender was kind enough to give me just the pickle juice as everyone else took their whiskey and pickle juice shots...I kind of feel like I won-out on that one, I hate whiskey.
By the end of the night, everyone was hungry again, myself included even though I'd been grazing all night. We went back to the house where I had a protein donut and chocolate-chip zucchini & protein bread waiting for me-- a perfect dessert-nightcap.
The entire night was a ton of fun and it was so great to be all back together again. Not drinking and having to pack my own food really took away absolutely nothing from a perfect night full of laughs, dancing, and good conversation. And, in the morning when we all got up, I was ready to start another competition-prep-day with my pre-packed protein pancakes and meals (not to mention I wasn't hungover...).
So, the take-aways from this story?
- Plan. Have your meals planned, have your macros planned, but also plan to have to adapt/make changes (ex: not knowing exactly what I'd be eating the entire evening of the bar crawl).
- Be open. Let people know about your situation beforehand so you don't look like a psycho whipping out rice cakes at dinner.
- Measure. If you are further into prep and no longer can take a "free meal" with guesstimate macros (what my dinner was), bring that food scale out. Yes, this looks even crazier than eating food out of your purse, and I don't recommend getting into the habit of this, but sometimes it is what needs to be done to ensure you're hitting everything the absolute best you can.
...And to go off of that last point, here is a quick measuring/eating out hack:
- Don't stress. Don't ruin a perfectly good time with friends/family because you're too obsessed over your meals/macros/food. Obsess over how awesome it is to be out enjoying your time with such great people. Make memories, not stress.
So, regardless of the type of diet you're integrating into your life, your options aren't to either give it up every time with you're socializing or give up socializing all together. It is possible to have the best of both worlds. Hopefully some of these tips help you find and keep balance!
Control your environment, don't let it control you.