One of the most common concerns my Boston personal training team and I hear when first meeting someone new to our center is, “how do I reach my weight loss and fitness goals while still having a social life?”
It’s a legitimate question as many of our society’s rituals for bonding and connecting with family and friends often revolve around food and drink.
By recognizing that there will never be an ideal time to start eating healthier or to begin exercising more, you can eliminate the exhausting “all or nothing” mindset, which never leads to long-term, sustainable lifestyle changes.
Health and fitness isn’t about perfection.
You don't need to eat chicken and broccoli for every meal while working out 6-7 days per week. Feeling good and reaching your goals doesn’t mean turning down dinner plans or never allowing yourself to enjoy a cocktail.
Instead, the secret is creating healthy daily habits that make you feel great while allowing yourself a weekly indulgence (or two) without guilt.
It’s adopting a mindset that empowers you instead of bringing you down.
With this in mind, here are our top strategies for building a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying your social life:
Eliminate the words 'can't' and ‘diet’
My Boston personal training team and I never use the words ‘can’t’ or ‘diet’ with our AUMies. The reason: they imply restriction. We believe the reason many people struggle to lose weight and build healthier lifestyle habits is that the focus is usually on what you ‘can’t’ do. Feeling restricted doesn’t feel good nor does it lead to long-term change. To create sustainable habits, you need to find things that you enjoy. Our members achieve a high rate of success in reaching their weight loss and fitness goals by focusing on addition instead of subtraction. By adding foods and habits that make your body feel strong and energetic, you’ll create a healthy lifestyle on your terms without restriction.
Treat instead of cheat
We all have an inner critic that likes to judge us for overeating or for making unhealthy food choices. But the truth is that we’re human and it’s entirely natural to enjoy an occasional indulgence. That’s why I despise the concept of ‘cheat’ meals. The term implies that we did something wrong and can make us feel guilty for enjoying something decadent. Instead, I encourage my personal training clients to use the word treat. By having a weekly treat that you plan in advance, it gives you something to look forward to without feeling deprived. This approach is important for building a healthy, balanced mindset without experiencing shame.
Don’t slash all four tires.
When someone shares with me that one unhealthy meal turned into a week of overindulging, I like to ask them, “if you got a flat tire while driving, would you decide to slash the other three tires out of frustration?” It sounds like a ridiculous question, but the truth is many people view eating from this extreme perspective. They feel like they fell off the “wagon” and subsequently sabotage themselves instead of realizing that 1) there is no wagon and 2) having one unhealthy meal doesn’t mean you failed or that you’re a bad person. One meal doesn’t need to have any bearing on the next meal. It means enjoy your indulgence and then move on. Don’t slash all four tires.
Train in the A.M (and with an AUMie if possible)
As the day progresses, too many things arise that increase the likelihood that you’ll either be too busy or too tired to hit the gym. Training in the morning boosts your energy the rest of the day and provides a sense of accomplishment. If you’ve struggled to stay motivated and lose weight on your own, joining a group training class or finding a workout buddy can be incredibly helpful. We believe that community is the key to falling in love with fitness and creating healthy, sustainable habits for life.
Research has proven that this approach often provides greater results, thanks to the fun you have when training with friends.
Snack before going out to dinner.
Going out with a ravenous appetite can be a recipe for making unhealthy decisions. Having a handful of nuts or a protein shake before heading to a restaurant staves off hunger and increases the odds that you won’t be dipping into the bread basket before the entree arrives.
Choose your healthy meal in advance.
Go online, review the restaurant’s healthiest meal options, and decide what you’ll eat in advance. This reduces the likelihood of you changing your mind and being influenced by the choices of your family or friends. Look for baked or broiled items and avoid deep-fried dishes. Because sugars are often added to salad dressings and sauces, it’s best to steer clear of them and instead ask for a side of olive oil or vinegar.
Decide ahead of time how much you’ll drink.
Even if you are a moderate drinker, the calories you consume from alcohol can adversely impact your attempts at weight loss. Studies have shown that we tend to eat more when we consume even moderate amounts of alcohol. Before going out with friends, decide how much you’ll drink and set a limit. I encourage my Boston personal training clients to keep the number of drinks consumed per week lower than their weekly number of workouts. Drinking one cup of water after each glass of alcohol is also helpful to prevent drinking more than you intend. When you do enjoy a cocktail, drink from a tall, slender glass instead of a short, wider one. The reason: taller drinks appear bigger to our eyes than round, horizontal mugs do. Because height makes things look bigger than width, you’ll tend to drink less from taller glasses.
Aim to make 1-2 of these changes at a time as you make them part of your balanced lifestyle.
You’ll find that they’ll have a highly beneficial effect on the rest of your life, as well as aiding your health, fitness, and weight loss goals.
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