Some people’s biggest fear about moving over to a healthy lifestyle is that the changes are going to mean an end to their social life! They imagine being stuck at home, nibbling on carrot sticks while all their friends go out and enjoy themselves.
But being fit and healthy doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice socializing with friends and loving life — quite the contrary.
With a few small tweaks to you routine, your social circle won’t be able to tell the difference — but your body will! For example, I recently went out for dinner with some friends, and feasted on grilled fish and a salad along with a sparkling water with fresh lime. Doesn’t sound like deprivation, does it?
Here are my favorite tricks to eating healthy while still staying social.
1. Choose wisely
Choose a meal that has protein, salad or vegetables and either good fats or good carbs. For example, I look for entrées consisting of fish, chicken or lean meat, paired with salad with avocado, veggies or brown/black rice, quinoa, sweet potato or pumpkin.
Often, the entrée itself is healthy, but the sauce or the dressing on top of it is chock full of added sugar or unhealthy fats. A great rule of thumb to avoid that trap is to stick with balsamic vinegar to dress your salad (and make sure the vinegar isn’t sweetened). Also ask for no sauce on your meat as these usually include sugar or unhealthy fats.
If a meal comes with bread or white rice I ask the server if I can replace it with extra meat, veggies, salad or avocado. I find substituting carbs with healthy fat is one of the easiest ways to stay on the right track — and most restaurants are happy to accommodate.
2. Don’t go in hungry
Ever hear the rule don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry? Well, the same applies to restaurants. If you turn up to dinner absolutely starving then your willpower is going to have a hard time keeping you away from that breadbasket while your healthy entrée takes forever to arrive! If you’re hungry, you’ll also be prone to order more than you need, like appetizers and dessert. So if dinner is going to be a little later than your normal eating time or it’s after a gym session and you know you’ll be ravenous, take some time to have a protein shake, a hard-boiled egg or some veggie sticks with hummus beforehand. If you have some food in your stomach, you will have stronger willpower to stick to the healthy food and not overeat.
3. Plan ahead
I like to look up the restaurant I’m going to online and scan the menu ahead of time, and if I can’t find them online I take a few minutes to give them a call. It’s good to go in with a plan of attack on what you will order and stick to it. If you can’t see anything healthy on the menu, don’t be afraid to ask for changes to your meal, or ask how they cook the food. Remember, you’re paying for it after all and most places are pretty accommodating.
4. Remember your goals
If you are worried that you might waver and fall into temptation, before you head to your destination, try this: sit down and write out your goals, re-read them and then visualize yourself carrying them out. Remind yourself why you are making these healthy changes in your life and keep that set of goals fresh in your mind while you are out. If you can stay conscious about why you are making the choices, then it will be easier to stick to your healthy eating.
4. Rally support from your friends
My friends are super supportive of my healthy lifestyle and don’t give me a hard time for my choices. So many people worry about what others will think if they seem “fussy,” because they are making changes to the menu and asking questions on how the food is cooked. However, if you are socializing with the right people then you can ask for their support in your health and fitness journey. If your friends know what your goals are, they can help you with every step of the way — and maybe even join you in your healthier choices!
5. Avoid alcohol
It may seem to go hand in hand with socializing, but alcohol doesn’t serve any positive purpose in keeping you fit and healthy. Not only are you consuming a lot of extra calories, but alcohol also affects your liver, which is what helps you metabolize fat. If you drink, you are effectively slowing down your metabolism, and that’s not counting the reduced inhibitions that might make you eat things you hadn’t planned on eating! Not to mention the hangover you will likely feel in the morning that will make you crave greasy food. So, if possible, stay away from it or limit your number of drinks to a minimum. Try ordering a sparkling water with lime instead — you may even find that you don’t miss the alcohol when it’s gone!
Remember, leading a healthy lifestyle doesn’t need to be a complete sacrifice. Life is only to be lived once, so it’s important you still go out and enjoy yourself. But sometimes, making healthier choices along the way comes down to a few small changes, instead of giving up all of your favorite things for a life of water and carrot sticks!
What are your biggest hurdles to sticking to a healthy diet without curtailing your social life? I’d love to hear them.