One of the most common challenges people come across when they are following a structured nutrition plan is attending social gatherings. Fried appetizers, pizza and wings, pints of beer, and with fall approaching, all the hype around pumpkin-flavored you-name-it is back. How do we approach these social gatherings without retreating back from them like a hermit crab, or without seeming too much like the black sheep?
“…by anticipating the hurdles ahead!” -Nutrition challenge participant, Erica M.
Here is a simple road map that can help you navigate around your fun-filled weekends, or other social gatherings.
- Plan ahead of time. Try to find out what is being served, or if going out, what is on the menu. Remember the basics: lean protein, a healthy carb such as sweet potatoes, quinoa or rice, and LOTS of delicious, colorful vegetables. Knowing what you are going to order ahead of time limits stress about the menu when arriving at the event.
- Make your voice be heard! If vegetables are being cooked in butter, you can ask to have them steamed. If you really don’t want “just one drink”, you have the ability to say “no, thank you.” If you want easy on the salt on your meal, your server or host are usually more understanding and accommodating than you think.
- Get creative. Nobody said you have to eat both taco tortillas if you are trying to limit your carb intake; in fact, sometimes you can make two tacos if you portion the meat into two tortillas! Erica also came up with the creative idea when out on the town for drinks with friends: “There are many different taps of beer at this place, so I could try 1 oz of 12 different beers and it would still be a reasonable amount.”
- Don’t dwell on your decisions. You are out with people you want to spend time with, so there’s no reason to feel guilty or regretful about the decision you made to go out and maybe change up your nutrition routine. The fact of the matter is, socializing, eating and drinking are all a part of our lives, but you have the knowledge and willpower to make positive decisions that shouldn’t have a negative impact on you and all the work you’ve put into your fitness up to this point.
- Bounce back. Even if we had some setbacks from having a social gathering, it was probably worth it, especially if it’s not a weekly habit or re-occurrence. Even if it was, there is always an opportunity to bounce back. Don’t feel the need to “cut back” on carbs, proteins or fats for the next day; just go back to the regular routine. Your body will thank you for the nutrients it needs, instead of depriving it. Though you might feel full or bloated from an atypical dinner or meal, your next meal can be something light, but still addresses your nutritional needs. Often, I’ll make a smoothie: 1 cup leafy green like spinach, 1 cup of mango, 1/2 scoop vanilla whey protein, water, ice and I’ll have a mixed greens salad with some protein on the side. Then, the next few meals are back to the regularly scheduled program.
All in all, there are plenty of ways that you will be able to attend social gatherings and still achieve your body composition or fitness goals*. The more you open your mind up to new ideas, and accept your decisions, the less negativity there will be when thinking about how to “survive” the next social gathering. Instead, you will “thrive” by knowing how to overcome the challenges.
*If you are looking for optimal performance in sport or body composition, changes to your nutrition should be very limited, if changed at all.