Being extreme, on either spectrum, towards your diet or training program is actually quite easy. Bringing your Tupperware to a dinner or skipping a party because you need to lift… easy. Saying F it and eating everything in sight at a family dinner or missing a workout because you’re hungover… easy. Actually being balanced with your goals is much, much harder. But harder does not mean impossible – we actually work through this with clients all the time!
Like anything, this takes a nuanced approach for each client situation.
The spectrum of rigidity to flexibility is 100% dependent on the clients goals and the timeline of said goals.
Is the client a month out from a physique competition?
Is the client cutting weight for a performance event in a few weeks?
Is the client making the last push on their fat loss phase?
These extreme situations call for more rigid measures, particularly the first two. If you’re in these situations, sticking with your plan and enjoying a social event without eating is totally possible. Remember, you’re socializing to be (hopefully) social, and not just to eat.
But outside of these extreme situations, allowing for more flexibility when parties or dinners come up is a key aspect of our coaching. Being flexible, enjoying a meal and a few drinks within moderation is what Team LoCoFit is all about!
Below are a few tips to help you through the rest of the summer, whether you’re traveling or enjoying social events.
Dining at a restaurant
One of the worst things to do before eating out is to essentially fast all (or most of) the day. You know that feeling when you go to the grocery store hungry and start buying random snacks?? That principle applies here too, except with appetizers and maybe one too many drinks. Eating your normal meals before (or after, if you’re grabbing breakfast or brunch!) is crucial for you to make good decisions when you’re eating out.
Also, perpetually fasting before you eat out at a restaurant reinforces the idea that restriction is necessary if you’re going to enjoy a meal out. It’s not and that shouldn’t be part of your thought pattern if you want a healthy relationship with food.
When it’s time to order, center your meal around a high protein option and be moderate with your portions on sides. If you’d rather have a few drinks, be lighter with the options you order. If you’d rather have dessert, skip the drinks. If you decide to have both, own the decision and enjoy the meal without any added guilt.
Attending an event
The same rules apply for an event like a BBQ or celebration: Eat beforehand! This is actually even more important at an event because there will likely be tons of food there and out for many hours. I.e. grazing central. Eating beforehand will make sure you don’t show up to the party and bulldoze the chips and dip.
One simple but easy thing to do also is to bring something! Ask the host what they’ll be having and what you can contribute. This way you at least know one side that will be there in case all other options are choices you’d rather not eat or don’t necessarily align with your goals.
When it comes time to eat, scope out all your options first. Again, center the meal around protein and pick a few favorites that you see set out. Plate a meal and sit down to eat it versus grazing all day on snacks.
When traveling, you may or may not have kitchen access. If you do, it’s incredibly easy to make good choices even while on vacation. Stock up on your essentials at the store and continue to eat mostly high protein, nutrient dense foods.
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you need to mainline pastries and vodka.
Pack your daily supplements and protein powder, drink lots of water and eat quality meals. When you do that 80% of the time, enjoying a calorie dense dinner or a few drinks on the water fit in perfectly.
If you don’t have kitchen access, don’t worry! Yes, it’s harder to make quality choices when you eat out the options are there; you just have to order them. Structure most of your meals around high protein, moderate carb-fat choices and choose one of the meals to be a bit more indulgent than the others. Typically when I travel, this is what I’ll do: Eat mostly ‘normal’ meals earlier in the day and then be a bit looser with my choices at dinner.
Discussing your goals with family and friends
To round out the discussion about balancing your goals with your social life, we can’t ignore the pressure or misunderstanding that family or friends often have towards your goals. This can be especially hard if you’ve had any eating issues or disorders in the past.
Number one, you need to explain why you have certain goals and what you’re actively working towards. People often judge what they don’t understand, so if they don’t understand what you’re doing or why you’re doing it, they may innocuously cast judgment on said goals.
Next, try and see the critiques from a detached perspective.
Are you being overly rigid when you don’t need to be?
Are you judging your family and friends for their goals without realizing it?
Are they harshly criticizing you without understanding your intentions?
Are they simply just not going to support your goals no matter what?
These are hard conversations to have, with yourself and with others, but they are necessary. Sometimes we don’t realize how we’re projecting ourselves onto others; and vice versa. Ultimately, some of your closest friends or family won’t understand your goals and that’s okay. As long as you’re not patronizing or harming them, continue to hit your goals and just smile and nod.
Having a rich social life doesn’t mean you have to trash your diet or training goals, but it does mean finding a particular balance that works for you in this exact moment with your exact goals. Like everything else, this takes time and focused work but it’s possible to do both.