10 Ways to Survive Social Eating
Social eating messing with the diet? No problem
Getting in shape is all about being prepared. Being a personal trainer requires that I try to arm my clients with as many tools as possible to plan for the ups and downs of life (i.e. social eating). We want a six pack but life wants us to meet deadlines and keep the house clean. I argue that you can have both; in fact, you can even survive social eating. Social eating refers to eating out with friends, going on dates, or attending parties. You know – those gatherings where everyone eats and you look like the town weirdo if you just stick with water. People think that getting fit means cutting all communal ties with society. But no matter how hard you try to be an island, you’re eventually going to have to eat out. Better to learn how to deal with it then avoid it.
But this doesn’t mean your waistline has to explode because you have a social life. I’ll supply you with some basic tools that my clients use to make sure that they keep the weight off. Let’s talk about ten ways to survive social eating.
- Set Your Dial – Dr. John Berardi came up with this idea that’s too good not to share. It’s a way to mentally prepare for your workouts and meal planning. Your dial basically rests between 1 and 10, 10 means that your fitness is on your mind 24/7. Most other things take a backseat and are in maintenance mode. 1 implies that your world is turned upside and you’re doing what you feel is the bare minimum based on the resources you have. The dial works because you once you commit to a number there shouldn’t be any guilt. When my daughter was born my dial was a 4 – food wasn’t perfect and my workouts were much shorter. Once we got a routine established the number was cranked up to 10. If you gave a whole slew of social outings in the next week that you can’t get out of, then simply lower the dial. This allows you to have reasonable expectations when you step on the scale. Nothing going on this week? Crank it to a ten.
- Adherence Rate – One thing we do at UEFP is set adherence rates with food. So if a client eats 3 times a day, they have 21 meals per week. 5 times a day is 35 meals a week. For our 21 meal client, an adherence rate of 85% gives them 3 “free” meals per week to do what they want. The rest of the meals are based around cooked proteins, chopped veggies, yogurts, and other foods the client is responsible to plan for the week. Simply plan your social eating within your free meal schedule while staying 100% committed to your meal plan the rest of the week. Surprisingly, making it a habit to plan your meals for the week means you also make it a habit to eat them.
If you claim that you have to eat out more than 3 times a week, I’m going to assume you’re traveling with 007 as a world class spy and have to eat dinner with some megalomaniac hell-bent on world domination.
- Protein – When eating out, base all your meals around a protein. Protein stimulates your metabolism to a greater degree than carbohydrates (it cost’s energy to break food down). It’s also prevents any spikes in your blood sugar – unlike breads or candy- which can stop you from eating extra food. So ditch the pasta and order a steak with veggies.
- Preloads – If you plan on eating out, try a preload. We’ve talked about this before – consume something like a small salad, grapefruit, or bowl of soup before eating out. That kick starts your digestion, making it difficult to eat more with the main course.
- Chew Slow – It takes 20 minutes for your gut to tell your brain that you’re full. Chewing slow pumps the breaks on how many calories you could potentially consume. Spend less time eating and more time talking.
- Alcohol – Liquid calories can add up – and add up pretty fast too. That alcohol can have an affect on your body water levels, making the scale do weird things. You can learn more about how alcohol affects your body here.
- Watch the boredom level – Sometimes we simply eat out because we’re bored. It’s definitely an ice breaker for the first date. If you have a consistent pattern of eating out with the same social circle, it may be time to offer up a new activity. Bowling and putt putt are always good options, unless you’re a super competitive personal trainer that loves to win.
- Chop it in half – It’s a restaurants job to overwhelm you. Hence why the portion sizes are so big. It’s better to leave fulling feel than empty, especially if the bill was pricey. A simple solution is to just cut everything in half. Split an appetizer and if it’s a date, ask for two spoons and one dessert (very romantic too).
- Ask for extra protein – Mentioning protein twice in one article shows you how important it is. Restaurants also like to skimp on protein – it’s less costly to fill you up on bread than it is chicken breast. Entrees can end up being a bottomless bowl of pasta with one piece of shrimp on it. Don’t be afraid to pay for a little extra protein; it’s affects on your metabolism and appetite are worth it.
- Strength train for body composition – Using only the scale as an indicator for success is flawed. You’ll always have fluctuations with your weight – that’s normal. But body composition is a different story. This refers to your muscle mass/bodyfat ratio. Leaner individuals who have put some muscle mass on through regular strength training have better insulin sensitivity. They tend to have a higher metabolic rate too. This means your body is better at processing food and less likely to store extra water and fat from a bad meal or two.
On a long enough time alone, numbers 2 and 10 will set you up for long term success. Everything else works when life gets a little hectic and you’re constantly eating out. Following these ten principles though will let you have your cake – literally- and eat it too.