Discipline is knowing what you’re supposed to do and doing it as best you can.
If you’re struggling to balance your diet with your social life, you need to read this.
I’m going to cover the five steps I coach my clients through in order to navigate fat loss and social events effectively.
The reason why a lot of people fail and give up on their diet is that they try to be unrealistically strict, avoiding all social events and eating out of Tupperware forever. This isn’t my approach.
Whilst you need discipline, you also need a certain degree of flexibility.
This article is going to teach you the appropriate balance between the two.
Let’s get stuck in.
1. Embrace the behaviours of the person you want to become.
Whilst it’s possible to have a social life when dieting, you can’t pursue a fat loss goal efficiently if you want to eat out and drink multiple times every week.
Think about it this way: if your physique and your relationship with food and exercise aren’t where you want them yet, it’s because you have yet to adopt the behaviours of the kind of person who has the physique and relationship with fitness that you want.
The choices you make at social events are part of the behaviours you need to change.
This doesn’t mean never eating out again.
However, the person you want to become is more selective about their social events.
Embracing this mindset is important so that you feel empowered, not deprived, when you make more balanced choices about your social life.
You’re doing the hard thing, stepping out of your comfort zone. You’re doing this to become the person you envision. You’re improving yourself.
It’s something to be proud of and celebrate!
It isn’t something to get upset about, especially when no one is forcing you. You’re making the choice to grow into a different person.
2. Commit to prioritising fat loss for a specific length of time.
To accomplish your fat loss goal, you’ll need to make it a priority.
The problem is, most people make two major mistakes when prioritising fat loss.
The first one is that they think that their diet is going to last forever and that they’re never going to enjoy a meal out or a drink with their friends ever again.
Don’t worry. We don’t do that here.
The fat loss phases I run with my clients are short-term; they last between eight and 12 weeks. I don’t encourage my clients to have a “weight loss forever” mindset and, if anything, I help them step away from it.
You’re not meant to be dieting for the rest of your life.
You’re meant to diet for a period of time, then maintain your new, lower weight.
Some people will need to lose more weight than others and so will need more time dieting, but I still plan at least one to four weeks at maintenance calories every 12 weeks of dieting. You can read more about the importance of maintenance phases here.
If fat loss phases are short-term, then you’re only going to prioritise your diet over your social life for a short amount of time, which is much more practical and sustainable.
Therefore, set a clear start and end date for your fat loss phase and commit to making fat loss a priority for this length of time.
The second major mistake people make is believing that you must be 100% “on” your diet in order to achieve results.
For most people, 70 to 80% consistency is enough.
So, instead of adopting an “on the diet” or “off the diet” mindset, strive for a “dimmer switch” mindset: during your 12-week dieting phases, you want to be more “switched on” with your fat loss-promoting behaviours; during your maintenance phases, you can reduce the intensity of this focus to allow for more flexibility in other areas of your life.
For example, my client C. achieved an incredible 12-week transformation whilst still enjoying some social occasions and even a couple of holidays away from home:
He did it by applying the steps outlined in this article, so don’t stop reading now.
3. Communicate your priorities and set boundaries.
“Whenever I go out with my best friends, we end up drinking a lot.”
“If I’m going to dinner with my parents, they want to feed me.”
“I can’t resist Grandma’s pie…”
The common denominator to comments like these is your belief that you can’t avoid certain behaviours around certain people.
Change this belief.
You are in charge of your own choices and responsible for your own actions.
Most importantly, you benefit from the outcome or have to deal with the consequences of these choices and actions.
If your priority is fat loss, then you can always choose to say “no” to a social event or a meal that doesn’t serve you.
Most people worry that this will alienate their loved ones, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you communicate your intentions and set your boundaries with honesty and respect, like this:
4. Set up the right expectations at the right time.
Share your intentions for a specific social event before it takes place.
For instance, if you and your friends are planning to go out for a meal on a Friday night, don’t wait until Friday to show up and order a chicken salad around people who are used to you ordering pizza and cake.
Instead, tell them in the group chat beforehand, when you’re still debating dates and times. Something like this works great: “Hey, just so you know, I’m working on my health right now, so I’m probably going to order something like a chicken salad.”
This way, you can get the awkward jokes out of the way long before Friday (“Trying to look good for the girls, are you?”).
Moreover, you drastically lower your chances of being peer-pressured into making a choice that doesn’t serve you.
Last but not least, you give your friends the opportunity to get used to the idea that you’re trying to make a change.
If you don’t set up the right expectations about the person you’re trying to become, your food choices will seem jarring to them, because they’re used to the person you’ve always been. As a result, they’ll be more likely to question you and potentially make things awkward.
Doing this for the first time may feel daunting, but the reaction may surprise you.
When you’re working towards a goal that truly matters to you and that helps you improve yourself, most people who love you, will admire you for this. Some won’t, but often it’s because they’re jealous of your commitment.
If anything, going through this step will give you an insight into the people that you want to keep around… and those that maybe you don’t.
5. Plan your social life with the “dimmer switch” mindset.
If you’re consistent for 70 to 80% of the week, you have 20 to 30% left over for socialising.
To make the most of it, plan your schedule before the start of the week.
In practical terms, five to six days represent 70 to 80% of your week.
These are your “priority days”, when you’re going to plan to meet your fat loss calorie and macro targets. If you need help with planning this effectively, I have an article on how to hit your nutrition targets in different ways depending on how busy you are.
Once you have your priority days sorted out, this leaves you with one or two days where you can be more flexible.
To be clear, “more flexible” means you’re going to target maintenance calories, which is the number of calories you need to maintain weight instead of losing it.
It doesn’t mean that you’re going to eat everything in sight. If you’re too flexible, even one or two days of excesses can stall or even reverse your progress.
Plan these one or two days of increased flexibility ahead of time, then pick one of the following nutritional strategies:
1. Be flexible with your macro targets on the higher-flexibility days whilst sticking to your fat loss calories.
In other words, don’t worry about your protein, carbs, and fats on your higher-flexibility days. Just make sure that your calories are on point.
2. Go over your fat loss calories on the higher-flexibility days whilst planning the rest of the week to stay within your weekly calorie target.
For example, if you’re eating 1500 calories per day to lose weight, your weekly budget is 10,500 calories (1500 * 7).
If you choose to eat 1800 calories on one day, you’re overshooting 1500 calories by 300. So you need to “borrow” that 300 calories elsewhere. For example, you can eat 1400 calories for three days or 1350 for two days.
By “borrowing” the extra 300 calories from other days, you’ll be able to stay within the total 10,500-calorie budget.
However, don’t “borrow” more than 10 to 20% of your total calories from other days. In other words, don’t starve yourself for a week to be able to eat 5000 calories on a single day.
For one, you’ll feel like the walking dead on the lower-calorie days, then nauseous after the 5000-calorie day.
Most importantly, this doesn’t set you up to build a positive relationship with the new lifestyle you’re trying to create. Instead, it increases your risk of developing a binge-restrict mindset.
3. Aim for maintenance calories on the higher-flexibility days without compensating for this on other days. This is likely the safest strategy if you think the first two could endanger your relationship with food.
As a practical example, let’s assume you’ve planned to eat out on Saturday and Sunday.
If your fat loss calories are 1500 per day and your maintenance calories are 1900 per day, you’re going to eat 1500 calories Monday to Friday, then 1900 over the weekend.
At the end of the week, your weekly calorie average is going to be 11,300 calories instead of 10,500. The total size of the caloric deficit will be smaller, but it will still be a deficit, so you will still be making progress towards your fat loss goal.
The only way to stop progressing altogether is to hit your weekly maintenance calories, in this case 13,300 (1900 * 7), for example by eating 2000 calories on both Saturday and Sunday. If you were to overshoot your weekly maintenance calories, for instance by eating 2500 calories on both days, then you’d be regaining weight.
In summary, with this third method, you’re going to slow down fat loss slightly, but not stop or reverse it.
Most importantly, you’ll be able to maintain a positive relationship with food, so that in turn you can continue making progress in the long run. If your mental health is suffering, you won’t be able to.
In conclusion, regardless of the strategy you pick, forward-planning is the most crucial component of this step.
So, whichever your choice, plan for it ahead of time.
Thanks for reading. May you make the best gains.
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An online fitness coach who likes bodybuilding, superheroes, and bread.
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