For the past few years your social life has been put on hold. This works in your favor when you are on a wellness journey that involves adjusting your eating habits. When your focus is on grocery shopping and preparing food from home it’s easier to highlight the foods that are supportive, and not associate much with foods that will easily derail your efforts.
However, now we are going full throttle ahead, and getting together with people for many reasons – birthdays, graduations, family get-togethers, holidays, heck even just celebrating Friday.
The next challenge is learning how to have a social life and stay focused on foods and habits that support your wellness journey. Thankfully you don’t have to choose between being a hermit and being social. With a few adjustments to your usual routine you can do both. Here’s how.
Know your why.
Get very clear with yourself why you are working on your wellness habits. Ask yourself lots of questions. Understand what the pros and cons are of making different food and beverage choices.
Do you want to have more energy? If so, what does that mean to you?
Do you need to improve digestion? If so, how do the foods you choose impact the way you feel physically?
Are you insulin resistance or need to address blood sugar? How can you prioritize protein when being social?
Do you have autoimmune issues and need to support your immune system? What role does alcohol have on your autoimmune process?
Or is it just for vanity sake? You want to look better when you look in the mirror?
All of these reasons are valid. All of them are individualized to you. However, if you don’t fully understand and believe that changing the foods you eat will support you then it’s easy to let even the best intentions fall apart.
Know what you’re getting into.
When getting social the way you plan for it will depend on what food and drinks will be available at the event. Are you going to a BBQ where there will be a full meal or an open house where there will be only appetizers and desserts? This allows you to plan your eating habits around the event. It may be helpful for you to eat a balanced meal or snack beforehand. If you will be drinking alcohol, having food before you start partying will help ensure you are able to make better food decisions. If you are going out to dinner with friends, review the menu ahead of time. If you have an option, choose a restaurant that has foods that will fit with your plan.
Offer to bring something that supports you (if appropriate).
In many cases it is a great idea to bring something that is a good selection for you. Whether you decide to bring a beautiful salad, or create a healthier version of a traditionally poor quality food. Either can make it easier for you to stick to your routine. More than likely, you’re not the only one who is working toward wellness and someone else will appreciate your effort.
Plan your day around the social event.
A social event doesn’t have to be a debacle for the entire day. When you are getting together with others, plan for it. If you know your meal will be larger than typical, make your other meals a tad smaller and well balanced. If you know you will be eating later than you usually eat, have a snack on hand or eat before you leave. Take a minute to give some thought to how socializing will effect your usual routine and adjust.
Be prepared for food pushers.
There will almost always be a “food pusher,” someone who wants to encourage you to eat foods you really don’t want. There are many reasons for this, but be prepared for it. Have a few “no thank you” lines already in your head, even if it means a little white lie.
“I ate just before I came so I’m really not hungry.”
“Thanks, but chocolate chip cookies feel like a brick in my stomach. I’ll pass.”
Really, you don’t have to eat to make someone else feel better. No matter their reason for pushing food. Another option is to take whatever they may be pushing and dump it when they’re not looking. Not every food that is available is worth you or anyone else eating (that may be a little extreme, but it also works).
Ask someone to partner for accountability.
If you will be attending with someone you trust, ask them to help you with accountability. They can encourage you to limit the number of alcoholic beverages you consume, or pull you to have a conversation away from the food table. Having someone on your side can be just what you need to nudge you in the right direction.
Being social is part of the human experience. It doesn’t have to keep you from being able to continue to move forward on your journey. Inevitably there will be times that things don’t get planned, or don’t go as planned. Learn from them. When it’s all said and done, reflecting back, if you were put in the same situation, how can you handle it differently? Be gentle with yourself. It is not expected to be perfect.