Weight loss is simple but not easy.
Life constantly gets in the way presenting you with all these fantastic events you simply can’t bear to think of missing out on.
Weddings, summer BBQ’s and Christmas parties, no matter what time of the year it is there’s always something presenting itself.
Do you choose to stay in Saturday night and make sure you religiously stick to your meal plan, or do hang out with your friends for a once in a lifetime event (or at least that’s what they told you to bring you out), knowing the drinks will be flowing and the selection of snacks will be too good to turn down?
Well actually, it doesn’t have to be.
Sure, if you plan on competing on stage at the next Mr Olympia event, you’re definitely going to have to sacrifice the night out every time, but I can imagine 99.9% of the people reading this don’t have that burning desire to be the next Arnie or on the front cover of the next Heat Magazine.
Well, if you’re like me, that means you can enjoy life whilst simultaneously losing weight.
I’m going to give you my personal top 6 methods I use to allow myself to retain having a good social life and losing weight at the same time!
Before we get started, I want to address the issue behind why people find it difficult to lose weight and have a social life at the same time. It isn’t because when you go out the Weight Loss Gods unexpectedly start adding unjustifiable kilos to your frame. It’s because when you’re out it’s more likely you’ll consume excess calories from the foods and drinks available to you, therefore making harder to remain in a calorie deficit.
Weight loss is about calories in vs calories out, and making sure you stay in a calorie deficit for a sustained period of time, either weeks, months or longer.
So, without further ado in no particular order, here’s my top 6 methods:
1. Choose Wisely WHEN and WHERE You Wish to Hang Out with Your Friends
Not long ago from writing this I embarked on my own personal Keto diet weight loss program which was very successful. My aim was to get lean and be around 10% body fat, so I created my meal plan and workout schedule and made sure I stayed in ketosis throughout the entire time.
Did I lock myself in the house for the following 10 weeks, timing my watch waiting for my next meal and prepping in between?
Did I turn down every invite I got from my friends to go and socialise in fear of screwing up my diet?
I still made sure I had time for friends to remain social, whilst managing to lose 9kg over the process.
How did I manage to do the unimaginable, the impossible? Weight loss isn’t meant to be fun or easy, what’s going on?
Well, it wasn’t too difficult to be honest. I just had to be a bit more selective about the places I chose to hang out with my friends and what we chose to do.
In fear of turning into some sort of broken record by making the only place I hung out with my pals a pub, I started to think of other ways we could socialise together without the main focus being on the drinking or eating.
I began to invite my friends to come over to my place more, perhaps to play some FIFA or watch a film, making sure I was a good host and they had everything they needed. That way the focus was more on them than it was for me, and since I was in the comfort of my own home I could eat and drink all the things that were suitable for my diet.
Occasionally I would organise an event or gathering that wasn’t centred around drinking itself, such as a poker night. These nights actually turned out to be so much fun and we made a little poker-club as a spin off from it. Even now we still have the occasional poker night, and if you’re good, you can even win some money!
I also have a select group of friends who are all interested in football, who similar to myself, enjoy watching all the games and keeping up to date with all the news. Along with watching the games together, we also decided to create a football group chat on Facebook so we could organise a mid-week kickabout every week. That way we were still socialising, doing cardio and having fun.
If it was a big occasion like someone’s birthday party, I would dip just before it got to the stage of no return (12am and later club). Sure, I still consumed some alcohol and had a good time but I didn’t push it too far.
Hey, I’m not saying you have to start hosting and organising all these crazy events like poker, football, FIFA nights or whatnot. Just find something you and your friends all have in common and make the occasion about the interest rather than the drinking.
Try changing the venue to either your house, your friend’s house or somewhere else where the focus isn’t on the drinking. I love a good casual dinner party myself, and its likely the favour will be returned.
Another great example would be to go for a coffee at lunchtime with your friends instead of a glass of pinot in the evening. You can even head to the local shops after to have a browse around and see what’s on offer. You’ll be surprised at how many extra steps you can get in from walking around the shops. I’m always exhausted at the end of the day if I go on an intense shopping trip with my girlfriend.
For me it was about being more selective about when are where I chose to hang out with my friends. Of course, there were times where if I knew it was going to be a crazy one, I had no option to avoid knowing the temptations might be too much, but that’s down to each individual and how they feel.
This leads me nicely onto the next point.
2. Provide Yourself with a Sustainable Balance
What does that mean exactly?
First off, weight loss is all about balance. You need something that you can continue to do, week-in week-out so it doesn’t become boring and you can remain consistent. Consistency is key. This is why your meal plan, if done correctly should include foods you enjoy. How long are you going to stick to your meal plan if you don’t like the foods included in it?
Likewise, the same applies to your social life. How likely is it you’ll continue to stick to your plan if you’ve completely sacked off spending time with your friends and start to become bored and lonely?
Not very likely.
Before you know it, you’ll be straight back down your local, probably going harder than you normally do because you’re trying to catch up with all the times you forced yourself to miss out.
That’s why you need to strike a good balance between your social life and weight loss goals, otherwise you might find neither one is sustainable. Go out too much and you’ll find it too difficult to stick to your meal plan. Got out too little and you’ll end up resorting back to your old habits because you’ll feel like you’re missing out on too much.
Speaking from my personal experiences, I tried to limit my socialising to the ‘big events’. Birthday’s, work occasions and celebrations etc. You’ll still be surprised at how many of these ‘big event’s pop-up, but at least you’re narrowing down your possibilities to maybe once a fortnight at most.
Ah, but finding the balance doesn’t stop there… you still need to get the balance when you’re actually at the event, and this is the part that requires you to become a master of controlling your impulses. Become a Shaolin Monk in other words.
Can you still have a drink with your friends? Sure.
Can you still eat the delicious foods being offered on the buffet table? Why not.
But, how many drinks should you drink and how much of that delicious food should you consume? Well that all depends on how often you’re doing it. What’s your balance like? Is this the first time you’ve been out this month or the second time out this weekend?
If the answer is the latter then you should ask yourself ‘am I finding the correct balance in my life right now to still be able to accomplish my weight loss goals?’
As I mentioned earlier, it's not that going out 2 or 3 times over the weekend will gaurentee you put on weight, it's all the tempations and pressures your surrounded by that could eventually take its toll. If you're one of those people with iron-strength willpower who knows they won't be phased by all those tempations, then all credit to you, go out as much as you like. But then again, if that was the case you probably wouldn't even bother reading this article.
Nonetheless, you can still be out and enjoy being with your friends without having to consume a silly amount of alcohol and food in the process. But instead of going out twice a weekend, why not go out twice a month. Why not choose to be responsible with how many drinks and foods you consume when being out?
If it’s the first time out this month, then sure, you can let your hair down a bit and not be too conscious with what you consume. You’ve found a good balance.
You really need to ask yourself what’s the most important thing; making sure you’re the life of the party, or actually enjoying being there and hanging out with your friends?
You’ve got to strike the right balance. Go out and have fun with your friends. Have a drink but not too much. Eat some food but be selective about what you eat. Just don’t go over-board.
If you can find the right balance, it’s going to make your weight loss experience 10x more enjoyable. And the best bit about it is it gets easier every time. Once you’ve done it once, been out and didn’t go over-board you can do it again. You’ve already proven it to yourself!
3. Consume Drinks Low in Calories and Carbohydrates
So, you’ve managed to find some balance in your life and down to going out 1-2 times per month.
How can you guarantee you also find the right balance of consumption whilst you’re actually out and about?
Before we go any further, I’m going to tell you a little secret here which not many people think is true. Alcohol itself does not directly affect weight loss progression.
The number of low-quality calories you consume from drinking an abundance of beer, wine and similar drinks high in sugars and carbs is what can affect it. Remember, drinks also contain calories which contribute to weight loss so it’s really important we also consider them too when trying to hit our goals.
A regular can of coke contains 140 calories and a staggering 39g of sugar! That’s a total of 140 calories just from sugar, that’s a lot!
A pint of larger holds roughly 200 calories with 16g of carbs and 2g of protein whilst a glass of pinot grigio is about 160 calories. It’s probably safe to say that if you’re on a night out then it’s more than likely you’ll have more than one glass or pint to drink.
That’s when the calories start to add up and can play a vital role in your calorie intake for the day. Let’s say you have 4 or 5 pints, that could be an extra 1000 calories!
So… what can you do to avoid the dreaded extra 1000 calories?
Look for drinks which are low in calories, sugars and carbs.
This may be in the form of a spirit + a zero-calorie mixer (slimline tonic or soda water). My favourite is a gin and slimline tonic with a slice of fresh lime juice. One glass contains only 50 calories, 4x less than a pint of beer.
That piece of fresh lime also makes it taste great.
What’s more is that you won’t need to drink as many either because gin is stronger than beer, and after a few you’ll be feeling very merry, chatting along with friends and dancing the night away. If you’re a keen dancer you might even burn some calories in the process! Now we’re talking.
Just remember to go easy and pace yourself so you don’t feel too rough the next day and sack off your meal plan or planned workout.
A personal textbook of mine it to always have a drink in your hand, but drink it very slowly, or put it to one side, and when your friend asks if you want a drink you can just say you already have one and pick it back up. Works every time and you’re saving money for your pals.
It's a win/win.
Have fun but be responsible. Remember the reasons you started and why you want to lose weight, it’ll be 100% worth it in the end once you’ve got the body you’ve always desired.
4. The Secret Diet Hack
This one’s a banger.
It’s a trick which is almost a diet hack, but it should be used sparingly.
Have you heard of IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)?
Basically, as long as you’ve hit your macros, you’re good to go. If this means doing it by eating pizza and drinking beer then fair play, but it definitely won’t be healthy for you.
I’ve written a separate post on this about the foods you should and shouldn’t eat for weight loss so you can click here to read more…
Anyway, this is where the beauty lies.
Now, this method will require a bit more precision in how you track your calories, but if you master it, it could be very worth it. I recommend using an app like MyFitnessPal to help you track the calories.
Once you’ve calculated and know your daily macros all you need to make sure you do is hit them. Doesn’t have to be perfect every time but you should come close.
This works due to the fact that in terms of losing weight, a calorie is a calorie.
Let’s pretend it’s Friday (the best day of the week), you’ve just finished work and everyone wants to go for drinks to celebrate the start of the weekend. So far, you’ve tracked everything you’ve consumed throughout the day and you know exactly how many calories you’ve got left to hit your macros.
You get to the pub and drink 3 pints of Tribute, one my favourite Cornish pale ales. (I’m Cornish by the way).
Those 3 pints are equal to 744 calories; 52.8g carbs, 3.6g of fat and 6.3g of protein. Make sure you include that when tracking your food consumption for the day. A lot of people like to pretend they didn’t go for those 3 beers and don’t track it because it makes them feel better, but it’s so important you include them.
You can lie to me but you cannot lie to yourself.
Of course, before you go for those drinks you must make sure you have at least 52.8g carbs, 3.6g fat and 6.3g protein remaining for your daily macros.
Remember, a calorie in terms of weight loss is a calorie. Sure, the quality of those calories isn’t great, but weight loss isn’t centred around the quality of the calories.
You finish your drinks, say goodbye to everyone and jump in a taxi home, starting off the weekend feeling great.
You get home, check your calories and know exactly how many calories you’ve got left over in the tank for dinner. If you’re smart, you can even think back to point #3 about choosing to drink low-calorie drinks, allowing you to free up even more of your calories.
Obviously the IIFYM method will vary from person to person depending on their macro goals and TDEE, but, as long as you hit them it doesn’t matter how.
It takes more precision and planning, but when you become good at it doesn’t matter when you choose to socialise or what you choose to do as long as it fits your macros.
Word of warning though, be careful and very meticulous in the approach because if you get it wrong or miscalculate, the outcome can be very different.
5. Plan Your Cheat Meal Carefully
This one ties in nicely with the IIFYM method.
If you know you’re going to a social event for the upcoming weekend, you can plan your cheat meal to coincide with that event.
After all, we all need a cheat meal every so often! Just go to The Rock’s Instagram to see what I mean.
For example, if you’re going out on the Saturday night to your local Chinese with your friends and plan on consuming a few alcoholic beverages, just make sure that from Monday morning right up until Saturday afternoon you smashed your macros and stayed in calorie deficit.
Then, leave enough calories available for you to enjoy the meal. That way you don’t have to worry about what you drink or eat in fear of screwing up your calorie deficit.
For example, Saturday morning you might want to eat a low-calorie meal with plenty of fibre so you feel full, whilst ensuring you’ve drank plenty of water throughout the day – aim for 2L minimum. Just before you go out have another low-calorie meal with plenty of vegetables.
That way, by the time you get to the Chinese, you’re not starving and you’ve left plenty of extra calories remaining in the tank to consume.
Again, be careful with this approach and use it wisely, as doing it too often could lead you to develop bad eating habits making it difficult to stay in a calorie deficit.
6. Being Honest with Your Friends About Your Reasons for Choosing the Salad
This one’s a classic - peer pressure.
We’re all human, we’re all susceptible to peer pressure. I’ve seen the stubbornest of stubborn eventually crack when 100 people are egging them on to down their pint or do that shot.
It’s okay, relax it happens. It doesn’t make you any more or less of man or woman if you cave. We’ve all been there before.
But, if you can be honest with your friends about why you’re not drinking tonight or why you opted for the low-calorie salad, if they truly value what’s important to you, they’ll understand.
I found this to always be the best option rather than making up some lame excuse as to why I wasn’t partying like Ozzy Osbourne.
It might be a little awkward or embarrassing to begin with, but once they see how dedicated and motivated you are to making sure you hit your goals. They’ll be over the moon for you. And in return, that’ll make you happier.
Remember, you don’t always have to be the life of the party or do something funny that everyone remembers you for. Enjoying a social life doesn’t mean partying until you can’t see straight, it means enjoying being able to spend quality time with your friends or family.
I mean you can always have the standard lines prepared like ‘oh I’m taking it easy tonight because my doctor told me’ but it’s always better to just be honest. Your friends will appreciate you more for it.
Besides, it’s not like you’re going to be continue losing weight forever. At some point you’ve got to stop. Your goals might change again at that point, but remind them that it’s just temporary. When it does come to the point when you’ve hit your goals then you can have a big celebration with your friends which will be even better!
So we’ve covered a range of methods you now have at your disposal to enable you to maintain a healthy social life and still manage to lose weight at the same time.
At the end of the day, your life still needs to continue and you need to make sure you’re living a life you enjoy. Weight loss isn’t about sacrificing short-term happiness for long-term gain. It’s about adapting a new lifestyle which you can enjoy around the clock.
You don’t have to use all these methods at the same time. Pick one and see how you go. Become a master at using one rather than average at using all of them. Don’t be a Jack of all trades, master of none kind of person.
Find one that works for you and your lifestyle. You may even choose to adapt these methods and modify them to suit you better, I don't know.
I do know however that weight loss is a journey, and it needs to be a sustainable one. It needs to be something that you can continue to do and remain consistent to see results.
Not everyone feels the need to have a social life and that’s okay. In fact, sometimes you might not even have the time to be social with all of life’s responsibilities hurdling their way toward all at once at 100mph.
However, if having an active social life is something that is very important to you, just make sure it doesn’t get in the way of your goals.
Ask yourself what’s most important to you in your life this very moment. How badly do you want to lose weight and what sacrifices will you make to ensure you do it.
It is very possible to still have a great social life and lose weight, but you will need to find balance and make adjustments. Always believe in yourself, remember why you started and never ever give up.