Imagine that all of your meals were prepared in your home by yourself and everything was perfect. Now, stomp on that idea. Seriously, it’s not going to be like that. The food you put into your mouth is not always going to come from your own kitchen. Unless you are a social-phobic, you’re going to have interactions with people over meals. There will always be an invitation to a summer BBQ, a holiday celebration, birthday parties, wedding receptions, potlucks, break room goodies at work, and so on. How do you make it through these events in a healthy way?
I have personally dealt with this problem many, many times. And I won’t deny that there have been a couple of occasions that I turned down invitations because I didn’t want to be around any unhealthy food or alcohol and I didn’t know what else to do. I personally did not feel deprived for making those decisions, but everyone is different and you can’t live a healthy life without being around other people. Don’t get too stressed about your new way of eating, and don’t let your food get in the way of enjoying your life. Being overly strict with your food is a recipe for unhappiness, isolation, and stress-related illness. Life is too short not to enjoy your food and the company of others!
So, how can you still be social, enjoy food, and still stay healthy? I’ve come up with 8 strategies that I’ve personally used to get the job done.
- If at all possible, always try to bring your own food. Yup, it’ll raise eyebrows and roll a few eyes if you are eating chopped vegetables around the break room table at work while everyone else is gossiping over their donuts. This is your time to get over the judgment of others. Anyone that is making comments about your food obviously has issues of their own to deal with. Are these people really your friends and supporters or just people you have to work with?
- If you happen to be going to a potluck, this is your chance to bring a dish that you know is healthy and that you can eat. Let’s face it; many foods people cook to bring to potlucks are just terrible for your health. People like to show off their cooking abilities by slathering everything in heavy cream sauces, cheese, and meats. Stir clear and eat what you brought… unless someone else actually brought a veggie tray or other clean foods.
- Always make sure that you have a glass of water in your hand to keep you busy when you feel uncomfortable in a social situation. Make sure you always have a glass of water and keep refilling. Many people overeat at parties out of anxiety…. Or boredom. “I could have a conversation with that person over there, but I’ll just play it cool and eat this cheeseball instead.” Whether you are the life of the party or a wallflower, having a glass of water in your hand at all times will limit the unnecessary snacking.
- Volunteer yourself to be of service while at a dinner party. Offer to help out with food prep in the kitchen, offer to clean dishes, and offer to watch after any kids that might be running around the house. When you are helping others, the focus is less on the food and more on what you are doing for someone else.
- This one is pretty obvious, but I need to include it just in case… EAT BEFORE YOU GO OUT. I don’t find this to be fool-proof however. I almost always eat a meal before I meet for a social event, but there are times that I start to get hungry while at the social event. But at least by eating before you go out, you will minimize any bad foods that might be consumed.
- When you’re at a restaurant, you don’t always have to be the picky person that asks the waiter a million questions about the food and what substitution they can make. Find out in advance which restaurant you will be dining at. It is really helpful to check out the menu online and call beforehand if you have questions. That way, you can order like a normal person at the restaurant and not feel like as much of a nuisance to everyone else.
- On the subject of ordering like a “normal” person, keep in mind that it’s okay to be “weird” too. It’s totally fine to decline cheese on your salad, or to end Saturday karaoke night early so you can get a full night of sleep and be refreshed and active in the morning. Don’t let anyone make you feel like prioritizing your health and goals is wrong! We can all have fun and still be healthy. And a real friend will respect that!
- Please, whatever you do….. if it’s your own wedding reception, eat your friggan wedding cake! Don’t be THAT person. You’ll never get that moment back again. If you have gluten sensitivity, either get a gluten-free cake or suck it up. On the same note, if you see your grandma once a year and she’s super proud to share brownies with you, EAT A BROWNIE! It is far better for your healthy to make your grandma happy this one time than to turn down her famous brownies because you are trying to stay as healthy as possible. It’s not every day that grandma will make you dessert, cherish it. With that being said, if grandma lives with you and she’s making brownies every day, maybe you need to have a talk with her and set boundaries. 🙂
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