When you have an upcoming social obligation, like a birthday party, drinks with friends or you simply know that you cannot eat at home it can feel overwhelming if you feel you are suddenly “off plan.” There are multiple ways to deal with this, but the first and most important is to drop the notion of being “off” or “on” your plan in the first place. Fad diets with a rigid plan are great at quickly taking off scale weight, and often even better at putting it back on when you are off or done with the plan. You cannot live long term on a fad diet. Life happens. The habits we are developing now are ones that we should be able to live with for life so there is no “off” plan. Learning to be flexible is your new plan. This eliminates the feeling of “messing up.” You didn’t mess up. It is just food and you should be able to enjoy yourself without negative emotions.
The first strategy is called “the buffer.” The buffer, as a strategy, is where you would consume mostly lean protein and green veggies prior to the event so that when eating at the social event, you are already pretty full from the high protein intake. Since you’ve really only eaten protein, you still have a large amount of calories left over to enjoy yourself. Additionally, you can also fast until right before the event, and eat the protein and veggies right before as well, to give yourself an even bigger buffer.
I plan on implementing this strategy today for my Aunt’s birthday. We are going out for Italian and then having her birthday cake. Using this plan, I’ll actually hit my protein goal, and be under or right at my calorie goal, and I’ll still enjoy myself. Heck, I might even have room for some wine with dinner. I normally eat breakfast, but I’m skipping today, and I’ll eat lunch at my normal time. My lunch will just be chicken breast and some green peppers and carrots, then a protein shake before working out. I put some frozen chicken in the crock-pot overnight with a can of diced tomatoes and peppers and it was ready to portion out when I woke up.
When choosing what to eat at the Italian place, I will engage my second strategy, which is trying to to make the “best bad choice.” That means making a smart choice that I’ll still enjoy, eating it slowly, and having a good time. The old me would have ordered fettuccine alfredo, eaten an entire loaf of bread slathered in butter before the food came, and poured ranch all over my salad, still been hungry due to the low protein intake of the meal and then likely binged on cake afterwards. Tonight, I’ll have a slice of bread with my salad (Italian dressing on the side), and then I’ll have chicken parmesan as it is a higher protein choice (and also delicious). Because I’ve both created a calorie buffer and hit my protein goal before the cake, I won’t really need to exercise much willpower to stop at a single slice of cake. Even though I write this at 8am, I’ve already added these items to the tracker and I can confidently go out to dinner at an Italian place and have zero stress over it. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything or deprived myself. That, in itself, feels great.
You can see an example of my day on MFP
If the event is not planned, the most important thing is to not stress. Life happens, and the strength of the habits you are forming is based on how well they hold up when things do NOT go as planned. If everything always worked out the way you intended, this fat loss journey would be easy. Consider that things not going the way you thought is normal, not the exception! Secondly, try to make the “best bad choice”. This means going for a higher protein choice if possible, and eating slowly and trying to listen to your body when you are full. By eating slowly, you are more likely to get a true feeling of when you had enough. Given that restaurant portions are generally huge (and served on huge plates), there is nothing wrong with sharing an entree. When I catch myself eating too fast, I’ll switch my utensil to the opposite hand as this forces me to slow down. That, and chewing your food thoroughly. Lastly, if all else fails, a single meal in the context of the rest of your life is pretty meaningless, especially if you enjoyed the meal AND the company! In this case, it would be best to immediately return to your new normal habits and move on.
The primary thing that you should not do is feel guilty after the fact. This can generally lead to feelings that you need to “make up” or punish yourself for “eating bad”. Again, please forgive yourself because you didn’t do anything wrong. There is no need to add extra exercise to “undo” things. Exercise should be something you enjoy, something that helps with stress, and an investment on your overall fitness and health, not a calorie checkbook balancer. Thinking of it that way can lead to a terrible cycle of yo-yo dieting and far away from the goal of lifelong habits leading to permanent fat loss.