Do you ever find it difficult to eat healthy in social situations?
Maybe you have good eating habits when you’re on your own, but you have a habit of over-indulging when you are with others. Or, maybe your eating habits aren’t typically that good, and they often get even worse in social situations.
Between personal meals out with friends and family and work meals with colleagues and clients, many people find themselves in a social situation that includes food at least once every day. You probably also attend special events that include food (birthday parties, holiday gatherings, weddings, etc.) multiple times each month.
Social gatherings that include food can be among life’s greatest pleasures. However, they can also compromise your health, your energy, and your overall performance if you aren’t mindful about how you approach them. Many people significantly underestimate how many unhealthy eating decisions they make each week while socializing. In this article, you’ll learn 3 practical tips for stronger eating habits in social situations- without depriving yourself or forcing yourself to eat foods that you dislike.
1. Exercise beforehand for at least 30 minutes.
Moderate-intensity or high-intensity exercise (the kind that elevates your heart rate and makes you sweat) can rev up your metabolism for at least 2-3 hours. In fact, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts can even increase your metabolism for up to 36 hours after your workout. 1
If you are going to eat a large meal, sugary treats, or other heavily processed foods, the best time to do so is right after a tough workout- when your body will process them most efficiently. This is especially important if you want to lose weight or tighten up.
Try exercising for at least 30 minutes as close to your social event as possible. This will lessen the impact of what you eat. You might also find it easier to make healthier choices right after exercise. Why erase the effort that you just put into your workout, right?
2. Eat lean protein and vegetables 1 hour before your event.
If you find it difficult to control food cravings in social situations, you might simply not be managing your hunger well. Showing up starving to a venue where you will be surrounded by tempting foods is a recipe for making poor eating decisions. It has nothing to do with willpower.
Some people avoid eating before a social event, in an attempt to “save” their calories for the party. However, this strategy can easily backfire and lead to over-indulging.
Try eating a light, nutrient-dense meal with lean protein and vegetables 1 hour before your event. That way, your hunger will be in check when you arrive, so you’ll be less likely to binge.
3. Reserve your weekly treats for social situations.
If you want to eat natural, nutrient-dense foods 100 percent of the time, more power to you. However, you can have your cake, and be fit, too. You can also have pizza, ice cream, chocolate, or any other fattening product that you enjoy, as long as you are mindful about it.
Most people can achieve their health and fitness goals by making sure that 80-90% of their total calories are healthy. On average, that will generally leave you at least 150-300 calories each day (at least 1,000-2,000 calories each week) for treats.
Aiming for 100% perfection with your eating habits is one of the many reasons why diets don’t work. Such an approach is too restrictive and not sustainable for most people. Intentionally treating yourself every now and then can actually make it easier to stay on track the rest of the time. Even pro athletes and competitive bodybuilders are known for having an occasional treat or “cheat meal.”
Try being stricter with your nutrition program during the workday (when you want your energy level and your brain to be at their peak) and when you eat by yourself. Save unhealthy indulgences (up to 10-20% of your total calories) for social situations- where temptations are usually greater anyway.
Social gatherings that include food can be among life’s greatest pleasures. However, they can also be dangerous for your health, your energy, and your performance- if you allow them to be. This article highlighted 3 practical tips for stronger eating habits in social situations:
- Exercise beforehand for at least 30 minutes.
- Eat lean protein and vegetables 1 hour before your event.
- Reserve your weekly treats for social situations.
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About the author: Pete Leibman is a consultant, speaker, and author who helps leaders and companies thrive. He is the creator of StrongerHabits.com and he’s the bestselling author of Work Stronger; Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work. Before writing Work Stronger, Pete worked as an executive recruiter at Heidrick & Struggles, a leadership advisory firm who serves the majority of the Fortune 500. In his free time, he teaches one of the largest group exercise classes in the Washington, D.C. area. He has also competed in the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) World Championships.
References for this article:
- “Frequently Asked Questions,” Orangetheory Fitness, accessed on August 29, 2017, https://www.orangetheoryfitness.com/faq.