Sweatpants to society… you probably know what I’m referring to. You may have even started to see some memes pop up about getting “summer ready” OR people ready to party hard and socialize this summer. Regardless of what you do for work or to fill your days, you likely haven’t had the same type of social life you had pre-pandemic. There’s going to be an art of how we transition into more social settings and navigate new food environments, unlike our current and familiar set-ups.
New (and new-again) food environments:
Going over to a friend’s home, or a local restaurant/bar may not be a brand new food environment to you, but it certainly will be after the long hiatus you may have had. It feels a bit like spring break, or summer vacation, where we throw our books and papers into the air and sprint out of school. I know this is a super exciting time, and I have so much empathy for everyone really struggling with a lighter, perhaps more disconnected social life. So while it’s tempting to hit the bar and throw some celebratory drinks down, I want to frame how we look at this social integration with a nutrition lens.
Setting up your own food environment by bringing food and drinks that you feel good about to a party or by hosting/suggesting the activity that your friend group would enjoy is going to help you all feel so much better during and after that newfound happy hour. One thing I’ve really enjoyed suggesting is to do something active in place of, or before/after a food-centered event. Ideas like a walk, hike, bike ride are great for social connection and aerobic activity. With food, I try to prioritize more vegetables – so crunchy veggies vs. chips with my guac. It definitely takes some more planning or effort – but well worth it!
Minimal options to endless options
In one of my member’s check-ins, they said, “I went out with a friend which I haven’t done in forever and had 2 drinks. I think this is the part where I’m going to struggle as life opens up again. Covid in a way made weight loss so easy because there was no going out to dinner, no drinks with friends, no social events.”
This is exactly the point I want to work on with members to integrate our social lives with our nutrition values.
Is this really that different than typical eating out/socializing guidelines? Yes and no… It goes without saying that this timeframe in our lives is carved out as extremely unique. The similarity to any other time is that your health, goals, and values are still the most important things you can align. However, I think we view our time with loved ones and friends differently as well.
Holding space and quality time with those relationships in real-time means so much more than ever before.
I’m challenging myself, and our members to be the most present selves we can be while spending time around them. Even if food is a large part of our gatherings, focusing on the conversation and connection will give us back a lot. We gain the gift of presence and of maintaining and improving deep health for ourselves.
Our outlook on the weekends as a whole needs to be challenged. If we look at our days and needs as being drastically different on the weekends vs weekdays that’s where we run into trouble. We make sure we have groceries or prepared foods for Monday – Friday, but our mindset is often to “take-off” or “relax” on the weekends. Doing a mid-end week grocery refresh so you have prepared snacks or options to carry you through the weekends is important.
This might be the most common problem we face when socializing. Peer pressure doesn’t just go away after middle school and adolescence. It continues on at happy hours, dinners out, and simple hangouts and play dates with moms & friends. I’m giving you permission right now, to decline, and say no thank you. You can give ANY reason you want, but please don’t let that conversation drag on. It’s unnecessary, and if someone is making you feel uncomfortable or badly about your choice, that is about them – NOT YOU. You’ve worked HARD in and outside of Stronger U, and you now own more good habits and habits you’re actively working towards. Everyone is at a different point in their nutrition habits, so respect other’s, and demand that same respect back (nicely, of course).
Know when to say no (to the event, not just the food)
I’ve always been an advocate for declining an invitation you don’t feel like you have the energy to fulfill. But I’d say this spring and summer is even more important to protect your wellbeing on what events and people you spend time with. There is no rush to do it all. You don’t have to go to every weekend event. Having time and space to yourself is incredibly important. Prioritizing events and get-togethers is something I naturally do now after a decade of overcommitting and running myself into the ground. It also helps me plan ahead around my nutrition (see calendar below).
But since I’m speaking to a lot of diverse people, I’ll flip it on its head and ask, what if you’re the person who ALWAYS says no to plans and rarely socializes? You may need to prioritize a social get-together with friends and family to be restorative, and help fill your cup. I know it can sometimes feel like a big effort to do so, but it will likely energize you!
Set a monthly social nutrition calendar
This is how I personally think about my month, and how I recommend my members to plan!
There are 2 types of social events that come up:
- You have a known event or meal you want to eat out at.
- Your friend calls you last minute to meet up for “drinks” or food.
So here’s an example:
- Tuesday work outing
- Saturday Wedding
- Tuesday work outing
- Friday retirement party
- Thursday – date night
- Saturday – niece’s birthday party
- No known plans – plan for a reactive/last-minute addition
So I’ve laid out 7 “events” this month. Of course, I won’t recommend drinking or eating fries and cake at all 7 (especially if your goal is weight loss). So here’s where figuring out your non-negotiables or preferences comes into play. Let’s focus on Week 3. I would consider, do you want wine/cocktail when you’re on a date OVER having a piece of birthday cake at your niece’s party? We all have a different answer to that. So if you choose you’re going to plan for wine on the date night, and skip some birthday cake, that’s the plan you’ve made.
I recommend picking 3-4 max meals or times where you have your “YES” moments. I recommend to members to “still have the good stuff” with their YES! So that may look like prioritizing protein, having grilled chicken/tofu, salad, WITH their truffle fries. Lean protein, vegetables, and a glass of wine. We’re winning here because you’re still consuming the important antioxidants, protein, and having that yes. You pick and choose what you want to go for without guilt or hesitation. Planning out your calendar may take a few minutes, but has so much benefit to not leave you GUESSING what you’re going to do or not do.
I typically recommend 1 per week with 4 weeks in the calendar. But let’s say you don’t have anything one week, then you might take that as a week to really focus in and not worry about having anything special or social to plan for. I hope all of us at SU have learned this, but I’ll remind us all we CAN socialize and have a good time without food being the focus.
The day of
So you’ve written out your calendar, and now it’s the day of your event.
Prior to heading out, remind yourself of the final 4:
- Who do I want to be/WHO AM I ALREADY?!
- Ex. “I am someone who is healthy and enjoys eating according to my plan. I want to be someone who follows through for others and myself.”
- What is MY plan of attack for this social outing?
- Ex. “I’m having a lean protein salad with 1 glass of wine. When the waiter asks if I want another, I’m drinking soda water with lime.”
- What is my response to food or drink pushers?
- Me: “I want to focus on drinking water, I’ll drink another night.” or “I feel amazing when I don’t drink.”
- Who am I looking forward to connecting with tonight?
- Ex. I can’t wait to hear about my friend’s new job or finally get to hear how her new date was.
Reminder: *Your NEXT time is not the LAST time. The next time dessert is offered is not the last time it will be available. Promise! You can decline it and get it another time if you really want it. (The only exception is special holiday dishes that come around 1x a year like my mom’s wontons).
Reflect, don’t obsess
If you made a mistake and didn’t stick to your plan, reflect, don’t obsess. That’s worth repeating. REFLECT, DON’T OBSESS. Reflect on why you may not have stuck to your plan, and how could you re-do that scenario in a future setting? Was it the peer pressure for you? Was it the lack of other options? Assess, then, MOVE ON. We’re the sum of what we repeatedly do on all the days, not just one day. If you need more ideas or help, this is where you can ask your coaches and SU community for helpful solutions on what to do next time something similar arises.
Bonus tip* Confidence & Clothing
This one hits very close to home for me this week. I’ve been doing well with nutrition and training but I didn’t come out of this past year without a changed body composition. With that said, my jean shorts are QUITE tight. OK, they can hardly button. So while I want to work on that, I also need to enjoy my life RIGHT NOW! So buying a new pair of shorts that fit me TODAY was crucial to my happiness (and my fiance’s happiness) as we now can move on with our lives that I have a pair of shorts to wear. 🙂 So if you don’t like something in your closet, don’t force yourself to fit into it or hate yourself into it. Go buy something, or borrow something from a friend to feel like a million bucks when you go out into the world, and go on with your bad self.