You have been invited to your best friend’s house for a barbeque. You are super excited because you have just the right outfit to accentuate your new body that you worked hard to achieve. BUT wait…you think how am I going to be able to go and enjoy myself without undoing all my hard work. Fear creeps in, you start thinking you can’t go because it is going to be too difficult to explain how you are eating to others and why you are choosing not drink until you pass out.
It is true that social gatherings and celebrations can cause some anxiety for someone who is dieting. But with the right mindset and tools you can navigate any situation comes your way and come out of it unscathed.
The best way to prepare for a social gathering where you do not know what food is going to be available is to have a plan you have control over.
Let’s talk strategies!!!
Strategy One: Bring Your Own Food
This strategy allows you the most control over your nutrition. Bringing your own food to the party can result in some conversations you might feel uncomfortable having where you have to explain your choices. It is very weird how you choose to eat is of concern to anyone else but yet people can be judgmental of your choices either because they wish they were in your position or they don’t understand and have their own misunderstandings about nutrition, While this is a great opportunity to educate others it might not be the best time and might cause unnecessary stress for a party you came to enjoy. Beyond bring your own food for you to eat, you could bring a dish to share with others that you know will fit in your diet like a veggie tray, a salad, something not high calories that you can load up on your plate to provide volume for you. You could also create some healthy option that can introduce your friends to a new recipe that show dieting does not have to be boring. Depending on your personality this might be a good choice for you.
Strategy Two: Creating Guidelines
This strategy allows you some flexibility without tracking. You decide before you go to the party where you will indulge and where you will set boundaries. One protocol is the one plate rule. You allow yourself one plate of food. You get to eat as much as you want but it must fit on one plate, no seconds. You only put on your plate the things you most want to eat and skip the less desirable foods. Next, you might allow yourself dessert. BUT you choose one dessert not multiple desserts. You can have as much of that one dessert as you want but it can only be one. And lastly, giving yourself a cap on how many alcoholic beverages you will drink. This strategy really focuses on moderation even though you might be allowing yourself to eat as much of something as you want it really creates moderation. Let me give you an example regarding eating one type of dessert, you are probably not going to eat the entire tray of cookies because that might be frowned upon. But people might not look twice at you if you had a cookie, a piece of cake, some ice cream, etc and this is far more calories than choosing one dessert.
Strategy Three: Pre-Plan/Post Clean Up
This strategy is banking or borrowing calories from other days in the 7-day period to allow you bank extra calories for the party or clean up the next few days after the party. This is a great protocol to implement when you have a special celebration coming up you want to indulge in but you want to keep on track with your progress. If you know in advance you will want to have a few extra calories for the event you can start banking within the 6 days leading up to the event. You do not want to pull from your protein macros. The extra calories are going to come from carbs and fats. You can reduce by 10-20 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fat per day. This will create a nice surplus for your event. You want to avoid banking too much that it results in you getting hungry and then you overconsume your calories and negate your efforts to bank calories for your event. If you go over your available budget of calories, you can borrow calories from the next 6 days and reduce calories based on how much you went over. This strategy really focus on keep your deficiency in tacked to allow you to keep making progress. One note about this strategy is that varying your intake from day to day will typically result in more scale fluctuations.
Strategy Four: Focused Tracking
There are times you just want a little more flexibility with your nutrition choices and hitting macros can be daunting when you just want to enjoy yourself. This strategy focuses on two different protocols, tracking calories only or tracking calories and protein. We know that protein is KING in the macro kingdom so leaning towards tracking calories and protein is ideal BUT one day of not being 100% on protein intake will not hurt your progress. When you have no idea what will be available to eat then thee options are great. You will most likely be estimating your nutrition for the day as well. Error on the side of the higher calorie choices in your food tracking application to give you cushion incase the food was higher in calories that you would generally estimate.
More Nutritional Tools For Success
Before I move on to my final points, with all the strategies above consider implementing some additional tools for the day to allow for more flexibility. You can use intermittent fasting in the morning and skip breakfast to allow more calories later in the day. But be careful not to allow yourself to get too hungry that results in being famished and eating too much. If your event is in the evening you could eat higher protein, high volume/low carbs for the day…examples grilled chicken salad or egg white omelet with lots of veggies. You could eat a small meal of high protein before going to your event. If you are not hungry at the event then that will limit your intake. There might be a case where you do not know what food is available and you find there is nothing you like to eat. Bringing a protein bar with you to eat in a pinch and this might save you from hitting the drive through on your way home.
The last note is about food environment. While you can not control the food environment what you can do is be mindful of your place in that environment. Do not hang out in the kitchen or sit by dishes of food. While you have good intentions to have a couple chips, history shows you can not just have a couple and can easily consume many calories just by mindful snacking. One way to manage your intake of alcohol besides setting guidelines is to drink a glass of water in between each drink you have.
The Scale Goes Up But Should Come Down
Even with all these strategies you may have some higher scale readings for a couple days. Understanding the WHY behind the scale readings help. First, you might have had more carbs than usual, sodium may be higher, water intake lower, new foods introduced, and less fiber. These can result in higher scale weights. What you do the days following will determine if your success with your weight loss.
The best next step will be to follow your prescribe macros/calories to allow you get right back on task. If you drank less what then increase your water intake to help flush out extra sodium. Get in a good workout. You probably ate a little more so those extra calories make for good workouts for the next few days.
While you might gain weight for a few days you could also maintain or lose weight. Losing weight after an off-plan day perplexes people. How can you eat more and still lose weight? There are a couple factors to consider. If you have been dieting, have a lot of stress, etc. this can result in higher cortisol levels. Height cortisol levels result in more water retention. The break from your stressful life, a training break and a break from the diet can be the perfect combination to reduce cortisol. The rest and relaxation from the party might also allow you to have a better night sleep and maybe an additional rest day that your body really needed.
These strategies will help you conquer the day and because you planned for how you would manage the day you feel proud and confident that you can be successful, enjoy social gathers and still make progress towards your goals. This creates that positive mindset of success.
You Didn’t Mess Up….Keep Going
A final thought, even if you choose not to plan for how to manage your nutrition for the party, even if you over consume or drink more than you expected to and you gain weight that now has to be relost that does not mean you messed anything up or that you failed. Deciding that you will refocus on your nutrition and exercise program will get you right back on track. Your weight loss journey is not determined by one or two days. It is about consistency over time. You should expect that there will be good days and days that have opportunities. Take those opportunity days and learn from them and create change in your life for long term success.
There are many ways to manage your nutrition as you work towards your weight loss goals. Check out my other article “A Tiered Approach to Nutrition” to read about creating a flexible nutrition plan that works for you and your lifestyle.