Whether your current social events are big parties, intimate outdoor gatherings with a handful of friends, or even date night at home, it can be tough to stick to your health goals when you’re enjoying being social. I’ll never be the one to tell you to forego the things that are truly important to you, but we all know how it feels to wake up the day after a social event feeling sluggish, bloated, and regretful … and I want to save you from that discomfort! So today, I’ll share tips for how to stay healthy at social events, starting with your mentality, and then 4 tactical steps you can follow to stay healthy at each social event.
Get Your Mind Right
Mentality is the most important part of any health goal, this one included. Before we get into any tactical steps, it’s important to get your mind right and develop a healthy mentality around health and social events.
So often, we alternate between the “treat yourself” mentality (which is often misguided … is it really a treat if it makes you feel physically awful later?) and the idea that we need to be rigid in our actions and feel deprived from what we want if we want to reach our health goals. Like almost everything, my opinion is somewhere in between … it doesn’t make any sense to do things that make you feel physically and / or emotionally icky, but there’s always room for those things that are special to you when consumed in moderation. Life’s too short to skip something you love, just because it’s not in a nutrition textbook!
So how do we strike that middle ground? We’ll go through the 4 tactical steps in a moment, but first I want us to establish the mentality around the plan. Planning has a negative connotation to many, who want to just live their lives and not be encumbered by a plan. Let’s shift that – when you make a plan to truly serve your goals, which include physical goals, but also mental and emotional goals, and YOU are the one who is designing the plan to best serve what is important to YOU, then following it is a gift! It means you get to act in a way that best serves your goals, and you get to choose how you want to feel!
The moment you dip into that “woe is me” mentality during a social event, I need you to do some perspective setting. Take a zoomed-out view of the event … a few months or years from now, as you’re rehashing the social event with your friends, will you really remember how great that 15th tortilla chip tasted? Likely not. Contrast this to if a friend spent 12 hours baking a 6-tiered cake decorated with all your favorite things in life? You will definitely remember that, so enjoy it as part of the experience!
A shorter way to remember the above is to ask yourself how you’ll feel “10 hours, 10 days, 10 years” after the decision. If you’ll feel physically icky 10 hours later, that’s something to consider. You’ll be frustrated with yourself for straying from your plan 10 days later, that’s something to consider. If you will or won’t remember the food 10 years later, that’s something to consider.
Overall, remember that this is your life, your body, your social occasions. Whatever you decide to plan for – and execute – is great! It’s completely your choice! The problem is when your actions are misaligned with your goals and desires, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid with our 4-step plan.
4 Steps to Stay Healthy at Social Events
Because I love acronyms, the 4 steps to stay healthy at social events follow the acronym “SPEC.” It’s a great way to trigger your brain as a social event is coming up, and teach yourself to make a plan, then follow through with that plan! Here are the 4 steps to stay healthy at social events:
- S: How Special is the Event? I was certain that “specialness” wasn’t a word, but Merriam Webster tells me otherwise. Still, even though it would be convenient for the acronym, I don’t love the word specialness, so we’re going to say, “how special is the event.” This is a subjective question, and it’s up to you to answer, but I like to think of a 5-star rating system. 1-star would be an average Tuesday night dinner; 5-stars would be a milestone birthday party with all of my best friends and family on a yacht in Tahiti with the world’s most famous private chef (hey, a girl can dream! 😉). There’s no right or wrong answer, or specific rating system, but going through the 10-second process of deciding how special the event is will help guide you in the next step.
- P: Plan for the event. This is the most important part, and the part most of us forget. We tend to get to the social event and try to white knuckle our way towards being “perfect,” then throw in the towel and regret our decisions later, and all that discomfort can be avoided with a 5-minute plan. Here are a few aspects of planning that I recommend:
- Focus on the rest of your day. What can you do during the rest of the day to feel great? Get in a workout or a walk? Get extra sleep the night before if you’ll be out late? Hydrate like it’s your job to be sure your body is energized and your digestive system is operating efficiently before you give it some extra work? Figure out what you can do and plan it into the day!
- Budget your “extras.” As I said, I absolutely want you to enjoy whatever is important to you. To me, that might be the flourless chocolate cake, and to you, it might be the glass of champagne. And either way is completely fine. But when there is uncertainty in terms of menu or what will be available, I suggest having an “extras budget.” Extras include alcohol, sweets, fried foods, and anything else that you feel is extra … not necessarily the definition of physical health, but something you enjoy. When you set a budget before hand, it will be easier to stick to it. So, depending on how special the event is, do you want 1 extra? 2? 5? Make the call, and plan to stick to it!
- Plan active social events. If you have the option to decide what you’ll be doing at the social event, consider an active social event, like bowling or Top Golf or a walk or a dance class. Your friend may be just as happy as you are to get in some movement!
- Bring something healthy. If it’s a more traditional social event and food will be served, offer to bring something healthy. I’ll always be the one to volunteer to bring a veggie tray or salad or fruit platter … it doubles as a nice gesture to the host and some insurance that I’ll have some healthy items to fill my plate!
- E: Execute the plan. Sounds simple, but can be complicated in practice. However, step 2 (making a plan!) makes this part so much easier. Our brains are much more comfortable executing something we were already planning on, as opposed to white knuckling and resisting in the face of temptation. Remember, this is a gift, and it’s all about making YOU feel your best! Here are a few tips to execute well and stay healthy at social events:
- Don’t go to the event starving. We all know what happens if we go to the grocery store hungry, and the same thing happens if you walk into a social event with a buffet of less healthy foods. Eat a healthy snack before if you’re hungry or be sure to have nourishing meals earlier in the day.
- Take a loop first thing. Research shows that when we scan available options at a party or buffet, we’re better able to moderate our intake, choosing only what’s truly important to us. Rather than walk around the gathering and eat everything tasty looking that pops into your view, try to scan the offerings first, so you can mentally decide what fits into your extras budget and what you’d be fine skipping.
- Drink wisely. If I’m going to drink alcohol at a social event, I do two things. First, I’ll “double fist,” meaning that I’ll hold water in one hand and alcohol in the other, which both helps me stay hydrated and keeps me from mindlessly munching. Second, I’ll be sure to never refill my alcoholic drink before I finish my water, ensuring I pace myself and stay hydrated. Third, I might go to a social event and decide the alcohol isn’t worth it to me in the moment. This can be very freeing – give yourself the gift of enjoying the moment without instinctively turning to alcohol!
- Stand away from food. We’ve heard this trick, but it works, so it’s worth repeating. Don’t stand right by the chips! Put a mini hurdle of distance in between yourself and the food, so you only reach for it if you really want it.
- All apps on a plate. Similar to the NOOB Rule, this one just makes it easier to avoid mindlessly munching. Rather than grab a pig in a blanket here and a chip there, decide to make a plate of what you’ll eat, and only eat things that have touched a plate first. That way, you bring intention and choice into the equation, rather than just chowing down!
- Remember the mentality tips, and focus on enjoying the experience, not just the food!
- C: Contemplate. The last step is to simply think through what happened once the event is over. Were you able to stick to your plan? If so, AWESOME! Celebrate yourself, and reflect on how great you feel, as this will give you motivation to follow through in the future. If you weren’t able to stick to the plan, no use in beating yourself up – what’s done is done. But there is use in reflecting on what threw you off track. Think about that, and consider what you can tweak in your SPEC process to feel better next time!
💥 Want to learn more? 💥
Social events are a part of a bigger category, “Special Events,” which comprise social events, eating at restaurants, traveling, and more. “Special Events” is Pillar 7 of the 12 Pillars to Health in The Revitalize Health Accelerator … my latest all-encompassing health program, and the BEST program I’ll ever run.
Want to join us? I’d love to have you! More info right here!
Now it’s your turn … How do you stay healthy at social events? Any tips to add to the list?