Interested in the audio version of this post? Listen here!If you have ever set out on a wellness journey, or are simply trying to make healthier choices, you have probably felt some tension between making these healthy choices while maintaining a social life. Often times, especially in our 20’s social activities revolve around going out to dinner, meeting up for happy hour drinks and going to bars and parties. These are activities that aren’t necessarily associated with optimal physical health, but they are experiences that can be important for our emotional and mental health. Here’s the deal. The point of this post isn’t to tell you how to stick to only “healthy” foods when you’re at a social gathering. You’re a big girl and you don’t need me to tell you what you should and should not be putting in your body when you’re in social settings. I’m here to talk about having a healthy mindset when it comes to balancing our wellness goals and social lives. There can even be a degree of anxiety that comes with wanting to maintain a social life without derailing your wellness goals. Have you ever been tempted to (or have actually) skip going to a gathering with friends because you were worried you would ruin your diet? Have you ever felt like maintaining your social life is the reason why you aren’t able to reach your health and fitness goals? Well friends, while you have the best of intentions, those fears aren’t healthy either. Part of having a balanced, fulfilling life is being able to spend time with people you love. I’m here to tell you it IS possible to stay healthy and have a social life. It is all about having the right mindset. Here are three tips for keeping it all in perspective.
Don’t Make a Big Deal Out of What Is or Isn’t Being EatenWe all have the right to make food choices that help us feel our best. We also have the right to not eat foods that make us feel not-so-great. The issue is when we make a big fuss over what we are or aren’t eating (or what others are or aren’t eating), food becomes so much more than food. It becomes subject to judgment for you and for the people around you if they make a different choice. If you’re out with friends, and you decide to make a food choice that is in line with your health and wellness goals, and your friends make different choices, that doesn’t make you any better or them any worse off. If you’re trying to avoid having sugar, and want to resist the tempting donuts at brunch, talking about how much you want to avoid having a donut will only keep you fixated on that donut. It will also invite comments from others such as “One donut won’t kill you!” or “You always eat so healthy, you have to have some balance.” While these statements are true, they can create a lot of unnecessary guilt around food if you know having that donut will truly derail your goals or make you feel crappy. Try to keep a totally neutral stance toward food whether it’s healthy or not. If you feel pressured to eat something that you truly do not want, politely decline it and do not feel like you need to be defensive about your choices. An easy way to politely decline is to say you aren’t in the mood for what is being offered and to move on from the subject.
Make Healthy Choices Feel InvitingAlright, so in tip number one we talked about not coming from a defensive place if others in your life question your food choices. Now we are going to approach things from the flip side – do not pass judgment on others if they are making a choice you do not consider “healthy.” For starters, that’s just plain rude and nobody wants Regina George judging what’s on their plate or in their glass. Even if your friend is indulging in something really decadent, telling her how her arteries will be clogged will not only make her feel bad, but it can create a negative relationship with certain foods for everyone involved (including you). While some foods are certainly less healthy than others, no one benefits from labeling food as “good” or “bad.” If you truly want those around you to join you in making healthier choices, make those choices feel inviting. While you cannot force anyone else to do what you would like them to do, you can invite your friends to try a new workout class with you in place of one of your weekly happy hours. Or you can bring a nutrient-rich dish to your next girl’s night so everyone has a healthier option to snack on. When you make healthy choices feel open, positive, and inviting, it is much easier to get your friends on board – minus the guilt and anxiety.
Focus on Connection Over ConfectionsI’m going to get a little vulnerable with you guys. At parties, I had a habit of seriously over-eating. My personality is far from that of a social butterfly. While I enjoy meeting new people, sometimes in large social gatherings I feel a little uncomfortable, and would often find myself turning to food if I felt intimidated by the idea of striking up a conversation with people I didn’t know. If I felt awkward about not talking to anyone, or felt unsure how to strike up a conversation, I would make a straight b-line for the food, because eating made me feel better about not socializing. This is something I’m definitely working on, and I want to offer you some words of wisdom if you struggle with this too. First of all, take a deep breath. Understand that even if it feels comforting in the moment, food is not a replacement for human connection. Even the most introverted of introverts (insert hand raise emoji) crave connecting with other people, albeit in a way that feels non-threatening. Remember your own greatness, and don’t feel like you need to put people you don’t even know on a pedestal simply because they seem intimidating. You have amazing qualities that other people want to see and experience, and if you are too busy relying on food as a crutch, then those people miss out on seeing how awesome you are. Next try this: give yourself a set amount of time to meet and connect with one person before heading to the food. Now I’m not saying starve yourself until you work the entire room. By all means, if you’re hungry, please eat. But if that’s not the case, give yourself 30 minutes to connect with just one person (or reconnect with someone you already know) before running over to the food. Even establishing just one connection will help put you at ease, and can help you stay in tune with making healthy choices according to your values.
- How do you balance your wellness goals and having a social life?
Lestraundra is the founder of Balanced Black Girl and the host of the Balanced Black Girl Podcast. She’s a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, and natural beauty junkie who loves 90’s R&B, trying new skincare products, and creating recipes in the Instant Pot. She created Balanced Black Girl to provide content and experiences empowering women of color to live well.