Q: What do you do when your eating issues are not emotional, but social? I don’t eat out of depression or any void or unhappiness. I’m dating, meeting and socializing with friends, going out for drinks, traveling, and all of these things seem to be indicative of someone who is enjoying life and having fun, but they all include a component of eating out, which I believe is a big part of the reason that my weight is where it is. My girlfriends and I debrief over coffee and dessert. I reconnect with old co-workers over brunch. Dates always seem to include sushi, or thai, or drinks, and are almost always occuring at night. How do I make the adjustment without feeling like you have to give up all of my social outlets?
A: I’m of the mind that you don’t really have to sacrifice your social life to get a handle on your eating issues. That being said, I’m also of the mind that having a social life doesn’t mean bad food, excessive alcohol, and the guilt that usually follows about it all.
Ed’s in the restaurant business, and we’re constantly in the city scoping out the “competition” and, more importantly, having a good child-free time. What’s more, I’m not really a sit-at-home type anymore—except, apparently, after giving birth to a human being—so I’ve had to make both my healthy living mindset a part of my social life, and my social life a part of my healthy living mindset.
Here are a few of my quick tips to help you think about your dates, girlfriend gatherings, and how you treat your day:
1) Choosing restaurants is hard – I know it is. But try to choose restaurants in your city where they’ve been critically acclaimed for their work with food, instead of just big brand name chain restaurants. Chain restaurants are notorious for streamlining the processes – which is a good thing! – in a way where the food is always prepared the same and tastes the same – again, good thing! – but it achieves this through the use of processed food, and we want to avoid that. Smaller restaurants are more often recognized for their innovation and the chef’s dedication to flavor and texture. Scope out those places for your gatherings – your city’s local magazines should have a pretty good handle on that. This way, you’re not only choosing better restaurants for your health, you’re also supporting your local economy.
2) Choosing what’s on your plate is hard, too… but you have control, here – take advantage of it. Avoid the bread and breaded items – not because it’s always poor quality, but because it’s often not worth it. Bread is rarely innovative and worth the experience. And, often, it’s given to you for free – why fill up on “free” when you can save room for that which you ordered? The breaded stuff is often low in fiber and protein, two things you actually need in order to fill up. Aim for the veggie and protein-centered dishes instead of the breads and pastas – that is, unless the pasta is really good, high-quality, and worth the experience – and you’ll get the things you need to fill up. If you’re hungry and that bread starts looking more appealing to you, start ordering appetizers. You should be just fine.
3) Lay off the drinks. Many drinks are not only high calorie and loaded with sugar (what’dya think simple syrup is? Equal parts water and sugar!), but they also impact your ability to determine you’re full. Also? When you’re unsober – not necessarily drunk – you’re more likely to order stuff you know you probably shouldn’t. Your ability to say “no” to stuff you enjoy but otherwise shouldn’t have is greatly reduced.
Order drinks that aren’t painfully sweet. Something that requires you to sip and savor, not swallow whole (yes, that means no “Apple Jacks” shots, no “Scooby Snacks,” or anything of the sort (ahh, to be a bartender again)), and get a glass of water alongside it. Alternate sips between the two. This way, you can still enjoy your drink, lower the amount of calories you consume, and avoid getting tipsy so fast that you start ordering all crazy.
4) Eat before you go out. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but this cuts down on the amount of crap you wind up eating out of hunger – it’s easier to reject the bread basket when you’re not starrrrrrrving – and helps you to reduce the impact any drinks you have on your sobriety. You make wiser and more mindful choices when you’ve eaten. This is a win-win.
5) Consider non-food related dates. A current trend I’m watching happen out here in NYC is people who enjoy “fit dates” instead of “food dates,” where would-be couples or girlfriend groups go and do something instead of eat something. By all means, I’d hate to reduce the meaningfulness of breaking bread (or broccoli?) with the ones you love. That’s important. But, when it becomes run of the mill, maybe it’s time to switch it up. Besides, one of the best ways to meet like-minded potential partners is to meet them at activities you love, not just the club or wherever these crazy kids are meeting folks nowadays.
(Do I sound like an old married person yet?)
6) If your evenings are calorie-heavy, be strategic about your early-day meals. Large, veggie-heavy dishes tend to be low-calorie while also filling and good for you. Add a quality form of dietary fat like avocado, olive oil, or coconut oil, and it’s doubly filling and will help you keep the calories to a minimum when you know you’re going in at dinner time.
7) Don’t forget to take a little much-needed me time! Let your personal time beyour active time. Go for walks or runs, go take a class on your own, pop in a fitness DVD at home. Don’t be so active that you forget that you require a little time to yourself to tune up a few things that fray in the midst of the whorlwind that is your active social life.
Follow these few tips, and I’m almost certain they’ll make a big difference in not only how you enjoy your social life, but also how much less guilt you feel about it!
Do you have any tips for our fellow #bgg2wlarmy member on having an active social life that keeps in line with your fitness goals?
Another tip I wanted to share is to call the restaurant and asks for their menu ahead of time. Whenever we have a family gathering or a night out, I am usually in charge of finding a good restaurant to dine in so I take advantage of it and asks for their menu. I will try to negotiate with the administration that I am in some sort of diet program, or have some specific meal choices (like how my cousin is a vegan), then try to arrange the food choices for us. You’ll be surprised how these small restaurants are very good at accommodating and understanding! I got to enjoy healthy foods while strengthening my social life!
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