Today I’m going to give you my 5 favourite ‘failsafe’ strategies for keeping your health on track when you want to go out and enjoy the frills and fun of life. The thing about upgrading your health is that it often requires a change – and often this change is dietary. When food plays such a critical role in our health, though, how on earth do we navigate socialising?
As I recommend with all of our patients, planning and preparation are the two things you can do that will have the greatest influence on your success.
You probably think it’s all too hard and want to give up, waving the white flag and eating where it’s easiest – at home. It’s so very important to continue to socialise. Staying connected promotes wellbeing, strengthens support networks and adds a little excitement to life. I’ve often found myself wanting to retract socially because it can feel so difficult, until I put into practice the following strategies:
- Plan ahead. It’s always my top tip and most effective strategy because if you plan ahead, you’re greatly limiting the chances of falling off any wagon, so to speak. Look at the week ahead – what food prep can you do ahead of time? Where is your calendar too full and what events or commitments can you shuffle so that you’re not over-stretched? If you’re going out to a restaurant or event and you have special dietary requirements, phone ahead and be sure they can cater. For some privately hosted events you might even ask if you can bring your own food. Plan, plot and predict.
- Eat and drink before you go out. What??? If you’re going out for dinner why would you eat first? I call it success insurance. If I have a salad or something to take the edge off before heading out, and for some reason the venue can’t cater for me, I won’t be so ravenous and distracted by hunger. I can navigate around the menu and see what I’m able to have but not be so stressed because it’s my only meal option…which brings me to point #3.
- Take snacks. Whatever you’re able to smuggle in your purse or pocket, it’s a great idea to have a little extra on the side again, in case the main food options fall short. Think of things like healthy snack bars, nuts, seeds, even a small bag with carrots, celery, apples.
- Sleep. It has been scientifically proven that we are predisposed to making suboptimal food choices if we haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Many of the hormone signals we receive (specifically around food choices like high carb foods, hunger and satiety) can be easily thrown out of whack even by one night of suboptimal snoozing. Hormones like ghrelin and leptin control hunger signalling and the sense of satiety, respectively, so if they’re impaired not only is the signalling for hunger going haywire (meaning we lean closer to the sugary foods) but we don’t seem to recognise satisfaction and so tend to overeat. So, sleep, sleep, sleep (or nap, nap, nap).
- Enjoy yourself. Food is only one of our pleasure signals. Contribution, friendship, social interaction, love and music are some of the many ways we receive joy signals. Whilst it comes so naturally for us to attach to food as a strong giver of joy, we can gently shift the focus and be sure to enjoy the company, the event, the occasion.