I seem to be having a lot of barbecues, parties and events this summer.
Unfortunately, those are the times I slide away from my good intentions around healthy eating and i've decided it's time to change that.
I remember one of my coaching clients struggling with the same issue. Suzanne was really determined to stick with her weight-loss plan all the way to her goal. On Friday evenings, she would pull out her new diet book and carefully study the menus and recipes.
Then she would spend the weekend getting ready--buying groceries, cooking ahead and freezing properly-sized individual servings.
Like most dieters, she started her program on Monday. Each day, she would pull the allotted foods from her freezer, add fruit or vegetables and serve her meals with a tall glass of sparkling water.
She told me it had been a perfect week. In fact, when her friends hosted a Friday night dinner party, she brought her own food, making it easy to stay on her plan.
But Saturday was a little more challenging.
Her friends started with a late afternoon movie (with popcorn) then headed for a boisterous dinner at a local grill known for seafood and steak fries. Suzanne tried hard, but cheered on by a couple of drinks and the attention of a cute single guy, she reached into the plate of fried clams and joined the party.
The next Monday, she was back on track--until the promotion lunch on Tuesday, the birthday cake on Wednesday and girls' night out on Thursday. When she stepped on the scale on that Saturday morning, she knew exactly why the numbers hadn't moved.
In your own weight-loss efforts, you've probably struggled with this same issue. How can you stay on target and still have a social life? Your diet doesn't prevent the rest of the world from having parties or eating dessert. And unless you stay at home and never leave your bedroom, you'll still be invited to wine tastings, retirement parties and family dinners.
Weight-Loss Plan A
Instead of sacrificing your diet with every social event, come up with a strategy for combining these two areas of your life. Begin spelling out exactly what you do on your ideal program. For example, if you're on a low-carb plan, write a list of meals and snacks that match the numbers in your plan.
On Weight Watchers or a similar program, write a food plan based the number of points, calories or fat grams you're aiming for most of the time. You might even jot down your exercise goals such as a daily twenty-minute walk. All of this is your Plan A.
Weight-Loss Plan B
Now study what's on your calendar over the next few weeks and note the events that revolve around food. Do you have an important party or a business trip coming up? What about your child's recital or the monthly book club or poker night?
Instead of "hoping for the best" when you head out the door, create a strategy for each one of these activities. Figure out how to widen your boundaries a little, but stay close to your program goals such eating low-fat or limiting carbs. This contingency approach becomes your Plan B.
Set a goal that most of the time, you'll follow Plan A, sticking tightly to your program and moving toward your goals. When your diet feels too rigid for a particular social event or situation, move to Plan B.
For example, to use Plan A at a party, you might arrive late, go home early and swap your usual beverage for a diet drink or club soda. If necessary, you can switch to Plan B, where you allocate a few more points or calories or give yourself the option of half a piece of birthday cake.
You can also use this approach to handle your favorite restaurants or even specific meals. For example, Plan A might be having just the Caesar Salad while Plan B includes the grilled Ahi with a glass of white wine.
Where is Plan C?
Here's the secret to having a great social life at the same time you're managing your weight. There is no Plan C! That means you don't have the option of taking the weekend off or excusing yourself for an evening party. Regardless of the temptation to ignore your diet, always try to stick with either Plan A or your contingency approach, Plan B.
If you aren't clear about your diet boundaries, it's too easy to not have any. And that's a set up for saying, "I don't care anymore--I just want to have fun." Whether you're starting new diet or you've maintained your weight for a long time, keep the odds in your favor by reminding yourself, there is no Plan C!