Going out and being social when you’re trying to get healthier — whether to lose weight or train for a race — can be a challenge. Not only is peer pressure real, but there are so many temptations that even a willpower of steel can’t withstand.
There’s also the fact that getting together with friends and family has legit psychological benefits. “Social interaction and social support are so important for everything, but people find social support particularly useful when trying to accomplish certain goals, including health and fitness goals.” Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to RSVP “yes” to every event or get-together you’re invited to, but if you’re strategic about it, being social can actually add to your motivation to accomplish what you’re after.
To make choices that support your goals, you’ll have to evaluate each social opportunity that comes your way on a case-by-case basis, experts say. Here’s what they want you to consider before saying “yes” or “no.”
Is it a rare occasion?
You probably don’t want to miss a wedding, graduation or the chance to welcome a new baby into the family. “No matter what your health or fitness goals, there are ways to stay on track while also being a part of events that only come along once or twice in a lifetime.” “Don’t skip events that you’d regret not being a part of years down the road.”
Are the other attendees supportive of your goals?
“Staying in is the right choice when you know the group of friends or the event you are attending is not a supportive environment.” For example, it may not be worth going out if you are meeting with friends who binge drink and stay up all night if you know those are two things you don’t want to do.
How do you think you’ll feel afterwards?
The feeling that you have after a decision or behavior is key. “As our thoughts, emotions and behaviors are all linked, that feeling is going to lead to other (positive or negative) thoughts, which is then going to lead to your next behavior.” “So, if you are going to feel bad about not going, then go. Similarly, if you are going to feel bad about going ‘off your food plan’ or having an alcoholic beverage, then don’t, but find a way to still go and be social, even if you have to just stop by and leave early.”
Did you already go out this week?
If you have been going out a lot, maybe it would be good to reevaluate your goals and make a decision between what is most important to you. “We need to find balance in life, and having a healthy lifestyle is all about being OK with that balance.”
Is whatever you’re going to eat/drink/do worth it?
“If you feel like it’s not worth it to you, then don’t do it.” “You shouldn’t feel like you need to give into peer pressure. Make plans to see them another time and help suggest places where you feel comfortable eating and where there are options for everyone.”
How long have you been working toward this goal?
“In other words, are you settled into a groove of healthy eating, regular exercise, quality sleep and you know it would not be hard for you to get right back on track if you decided to indulge?”. “Depending on your answer and how much momentum you have built, you might decide it’s ‘worth it’ to attend.”
STRATEGIES FOR STAYING ON TRACK
Often, the answer is to go to a social event, but do your best to stay on your program. That’s easier said than done, but there are some smart ways to help yourself feel in control.
Practice flexible thinking.
Sometimes, you have to get a little creative to make social plans work. “If you typically go to the gym after work but you have a happy hour tomorrow evening, then maybe wake up earlier tomorrow do your workout in the morning,”I suggests. “This way, you can still be sticking to your plan, working on your goals and being social without feeling guilty.”
Look up the menu ahead of time.
If you’re going to a bar or restaurant, this is key. “I always give my clients this advice because it is the best way of setting yourself up for success.” “You can decide on exactly what you will order, and then spend more time socializing while you’re out rather than focusing on the menu.”
Offer to bring something.
“If you’re going to a party or dinner at someone’s home, offer to bring a dish,” I suggests. “ This way, you can bring something that you will enjoy and is part of your nutrition plan.”
Say upfront that you’ll need to leave early.
“Do you have an early run in the morning? Meet your friends but let them know you are going to head out early because you are going on a run.”
Have a snack beforehand.
“If the restaurant hasn’t been selected yet or you aren’t able to bring a dish with you to someone’s dinner party, eat a filling snack ahead of time.” “This will enable you to avoid making decisions based on extreme hunger. Rather, you can make smarter choices even if your options are not as ideal.”
Simply say you’re not drinking.
“Don’t feel like drinking? Let your friends know you are taking a break and sip on seltzer or club soda.” “Better yet, you can volunteer to be the designated driver.”
Don’t give in to peer pressure.
Remember, no one will ever force you to eat or drink or do something you don’t want to. “Sure, triggers and temptations exist.” “Pressure exists from people, places, events, social circles. Expectations also exist. But, if you remember that you always have a choice and you are entitled to do everything in your power to feel how you want to feel, you will make the best decision for yourself in any given situation.”