Whether you are brand new to clean eating or have been following the lifestyle for a while now social gatherings can be a challenge. When you are away from your own kitchen, routines, and food it can be pretty tempting to just eat what everyone else is eating. Social eating challenges can vary from trying to resist the buffet at a party to ordering clean food in a restaurant to actually having people force food on you and question (not always nicely!) why you won’t eat it! Living this lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to live like a recluse in order to stick to your goals! But it is wise to be prepared for the common clean eating challenges you could face.
Challenge 1 – You are at a party and there is food everywhere! You aren’t even enjoying yourself because you are so distracted by all the food you can’t have and start to feel like you are missing out on the fun.
Strategy – Decide on your plan before you go. If you don’t want to indulge then eat before you go and pack some snacks to take with you. Nuts and veggies in baggies can easily be stashed in a pocket of a jacket or a purse. Drink water to keep your hands busy and focus on your friends! Remember that you are not at the party for the food! If you are going to use the party as a planned treat it’s still a good idea to eat a healthy meal before you go so that you are not hungry at the party and can control yourself when choosing the treats to indulge in. Pick what you really want and don’t eat it just because it’s there. Remember that even if one of something is really delicious that doesn’t mean that three will be three times more delicious! Practice moderation so you don’t feel guilty later.
Challenge 2 – Ordering clean at a restaurant. If you are new to this you may feel self-conscious making special requests to the waiter and be tempted to just order off the menu and not be a bother. Or you may feel you want to treat yourself.
Strategy – Again, decide what you are going to do before you go. Many restaurants have their menu online so you can prepare in advance what you want to order. Then you just need to stick to that when you get to the restaurant. Although most waiters are very accommodating, it doesn’t hurt to be extra nice. When it is your turn to order just smile and say “I need to make some changes to my order, I hope you can help me. I would like the chicken please, just grilled without any oils or butter or sauces. May I get my veggies plain as well? Just steamed with no butter or oil. And may I get some extra veggies instead of the rice? Thank you very much!” And if your order is wrong when it arrives don’t feel bad about sending it back. A simple “I’m sorry but I ordered this without any butter or oil” will usually result in a profuse apology and a replacement of your food. Don’t worry about being a bother, you aren’t. There is nothing wrong or selfish about taking care of your body and health and a large part of that is controlling what you eat.
Challenge 3 – Someone is challenging your choices. You will likely hear (or have already heard) some of the following: “One little bite won’t hurt”, “Why are you trying to lose weight, you look fine!”, “Oh you aren’t any fun anymore!” or even just “Why can’t you have any?”
Strategy – This is probably the toughest challenge because it requires us to stand up for ourselves to those who are used to us being a certain way. Hopefully most of the people who challenge you are coming from a well-meaning place and are simply not educated about your healthy lifestyle choice. I find this is the case for most people and once I explain my choices they are actually quite interested. Unfortunately not everyone means well. Some people will see your desire for positive change as a threat. Perhaps they are worried that you are looking down on them and their choices now that you are trying to get healthier. Or they may be worried about losing time with you as you spend more time exercising and less time out at the bar. Worst case scenario is that they simply are stuck in a rut themselves and don’t want to see you succeed because it makes them feel bad about themselves. As they say, misery loves company. I recommend a three-step approach to this challenge.
• Before you start to make changes have a talk with your closest family and friends. Explain that you want to get healthier and are going to be making some changes and you would appreciate their support. If any of them are interested in making changes with you then bring them on board! A support system will make these changes easier and more fun!
• If at this point you get resistance from anyone, try to find out why. If they are worried about losing you then make a point to them that their friendship is important and you want to stay close, but your health has to be a priority. Invite them to join you at the gym and have them over for a healthy home cooked dinner! Hopefully as they start to see your positive changes they will want to join in!
• Sometimes there will be people who just won’t like your changes. No matter what you do or say they are negative and always wanting you to go back to your old ways. At this point you need to put yourself first. Spend less time with negative people and let them know why. If they still won’t change, or at least let you make your changes, then you may have to cut ties so you can rid yourself of the negative energy.
Change is a difficult thing, both for the person making the changes and for those around them. Patience and persistence, both with yourself and with others, will go a long way in paving the way to your success.
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