Swap and Drop
How to socialize and still lose weight
Getting together with family and friends is fun, but don’t let socializing sabotage your diet efforts
Making relaxation time healthy
Family and friends help determine your long-term dieting success, either through their support or lack thereof. Since they’re the ones you spend time with on your days off, they can greatly affect how you eat when you’re outside your normal routine. Weekends and holidays are full of new temptations, and the people closest to you may persuade you to eat more than you want.
Dive into your relaxation time with gusto – but try to focus less on food and more on active fun. The more confident you feel about adapting your diet to new social situations, the better your chances of success.
Control weekend temptations
If you distinguish between days when you follow a diet and days when you’re on “vacation” from it, losing weight will feel like an unnatural chore. So when you’re celebrating something special – say, your birthday or an anniversary – live it up. But strike a deal with yourself: In return for indulging a little, agree to skip snacks during the day or set aside 45 minutes for a calorie-burning activity. Keep track of what you eat in your food diary.
And remember, one indulgence doesn’t mean you’ve failed. To gain one pound, you have to consume about 3,500 more calories than you burn – even the biggest holiday feast isn’t likely to pack that many. The real danger is eating a little too much every day, or every weekend.
When food equals love
How do we celebrate Valentine’s Day? With chocolate. How do we mark a wedding? With a feast. The simple act of offering someone food is a way to show affection. There’s nothing wrong with that. We just need to keep a clear view of why we’re eating.
This week, if your loved ones pressure you to eat more than you should, look for alternatives. If your mother says, “Eat, eat,” say, “No, thanks, Mom. I’m full right now – but let me help you clear the dishes so we can have a chance to talk.” Remember that food is only part of what makes gatherings a pleasure. If you’re engaged in conversation over the dinner table, no one will notice if you put your fork down.
Have a plan in place
If you’re schedule is chaotic, take these steps to make sure your diet isn’t.
Make it yourself: Pack a meal to eat on the road, and you’ll save money and frustration. Or contribute a healthy dish to the family potluck.
Pace yourself: Drink a sip of water between each bite. Put your fork down frequently. Sit back in your chair and enjoy the conversation for a few minutes without eating.
Watch the alcohol: Wine, punch and other calorific alcoholic beverages have a way of flowing freely at holiday meals. Limit yourself to one glass per meal, then opt for sparkling water.
Get out and about: Rally friends and relatives for hikes, bike rides, cross-country skiing, days at the pool or just frolicking with the dog. Burn 500 extra calories this weekend, and you can treat yourself to a piece of Mom’s pie without worrying about upsetting your calorie balance.
Take time for bedtime: Catch up on sleep you may have missed during the week. Lack of sleep can erode your willpower, and obesity experts believe it can even cause you to gain weight.
Fine-tune your expectations: If your schedule is crowded with holiday parties, be realistic: Make it your goal to simply maintain your current weight. You can start shedding pounds again when the holidays are over.
Should you enlist your friends and family?
Behavioural scientists once assumed that the more social support dieters had, the better their odds of losing and keeping off weight. But studies on the subject have had mixed results: Some people do better when they have a strong social network, while others succeed on their own.
What is consistent among successful dieters is a sense of accountability for their weight loss.