We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.
In my experience, people seem to have two different attitudes towards social events during a fat loss diet:
1. The “fuck it” attitude.
These people find it hard enough to stick to their diet on an average day. When a big meal out with alcohol and dessert enters the picture, they either feel overwhelmed or decide they don’t want to let the diet “ruin” the occasion.
Whichever the reaction, the outcome is the same: the diet goes out of the window, often for good.
2. The “oh God no” attitude.
This was my own way of thinking when I was struggling with diets and disordered eating.
I was so concerned with losing all the weight loss progress made that I would be terrified of anything outside of my routine.
The idea of not being able to track calories as accurately as possible, choose the ingredients going into my food, and control my portions would make me either avoid the meal or dread it like capital punishment.
For others, this gut-wrenching panic (no pun intended) may mean they lose control and binge like there’s no tomorrow.
Neither of these behaviours is sustainable, healthy, or conducive to long-term fat loss success.
So how do you approach a social event?
In this article, I aim to provide you with two potential strategies, based on whether or not you track your calories and macros.
A Guide to Social Events (If You Count Calories)
1. Collect information about the menu.
What you don’t know is a lot scarier than what you do know.
Going into a social event “blindly” might make you worry that you will consume 3000 calories, for example.
On the other hand, if you were familiar with the menu, you could choose your entrée – a mushroom and ham pizza, for example – and look that up on MyFitnessPal. You would find out that it averages 800 to 1000 calories – less than half as much.
You can then overestimate this result by 20%, so that a 800 to 1000-calorie meal would be logged as 960 to 1200 calories.
If you still have a lot of weight to lose, you may want to choose the higher end of this calorie range, and vice versa if you are already quite lean but still looking to get leaner.
Now that you have a decent estimation of the calories you will consume, you can plan accordingly for the rest of the day and week.
2. Work out your weekly calorie budget.
To do this, simply multiply your daily calorie target by 7. For example, if the target is 1800 calories, your weekly budget is 12600 calories.
Making this calculation can give you some peace of mind and make you feel less restricted. Using the example above, subtracting 960 to 1200 calories from 12600 looks a lot less “extreme” than subtracting the same amount from a single 1800-calorie day.
3. “Borrow calories” from other meals or days.
With your weekly calorie budget and an estimation of the calories from your night out on hand, you may find it helpful to “borrow” calories from the previous and following days so that you avoid overshooting the weekly target.
Let’s use a somewhat drastic example, assuming that your ham and mushroom pizza has 1200 calories, which divided by 6 would be 200 calories. This means you could eat 200 calories less than usual on the other six days of the week and have your pizza in addition to your planned 1800 calories on the day of the social event.
This is only one of many potential options and might not fit everybody.
Eating 1600 calories for six days and 2400 for one day might not be the greatest idea because of the long-term repercussions it could have on your psychological state.
Namely, the discrepancy between food intakes could make you feel hungrier than usual on the 1600-calorie days and potentially result in diminished adherence or a lack thereof in the days and weeks after the social event.
An alternative could be borrowing 100 calories from two to four days and thus give yourself 200 to 400 calories more on the day of the social event. This strategy would prevent you from dropping calories too low on the other days of the week whilst still giving you a few more for a pizza.
I would not recommend borrowing more than 20% of your daily calories from other days, or else you might feel extremely “hangry” on those days and, once again, risk losing adherence. In the case of a 1800-calorie diet, I wouldn’t take more than 360 calories from a single day.
Lastly, I want to emphasise that this method would be better employed in special situations, not every time you feel like having a bigger meal than usual.
When done on a regular basis, having fewer calories on certain days than others might make you look forward to the higher-calorie days, whereas on the lower-calorie days you would feel limited and unhappy about your diet.
Be honest with yourself. Does the previous paragraph describe you? Then keeping this strategy as a rare trick up your sleeve may be wiser than resorting to it as a frequent “free meal” ticket.
A Guide to Social Events (If You Do Not Count Calories)
1. Collect information about the menu.
Whether you track calorie intake or not, this is still step number one for you to be able to focus on your decisions.
When you are surrounded by friends and family, an in-depth analysis of a menu you are looking at for the first time is unlikely to happen. An informed food choice that respects your current fat loss goal is also unlikely.
For these reasons, knowing the menu in advance and identifying a few choices that you enjoy and that can help you towards your objectives, rather than away from them, could reduce the stress and mental fatigue you might experience otherwise.
2. Base your meal around protein.
Make at least protein, or protein and vegetables if possible, your main priorities.
Protein sources and vegetables will help you fill fuller and tend to have fewer calories than carbohydrate and fat sources. As a result, this step can make it easier not to go overboard with your food intake.
3. Or base your other meals around protein.
Sometimes we don’t want to avoid high-carbohydrate or high-fat foods, which is fair enough. If it’s your dad’s birthday and you want to eat some cake and a couple of pizza slices, that’s cool.
There are many other scenarios in which being strict about macronutrient intake will simply not happen. In this case, you can still control all your other meals.
So, if you know your protein will be low and your carbohydrates and fats will go through the roof, prioritise protein and vegetables the rest of the day. For example, you could have boiled or scrambled eggs and a banana for breakfast, and a salad with canned tuna for lunch.
Adhering to your diet when there is a social event on the horizon can be nerve-wracking. Fortunately, with a bit of planning, you may be able to enjoy your night out and still achieve diet success. How cool is that?
In Future Episodes:
In the next article, I will tackle some dieting tips that you might have never considered.
How do you approach social events during a diet?
A personal trainer who likes superheroes, bread, lifting weights, and studying “fitness stuff”.
Want to work with me? Check out my services!