“I should start eating better. But I can’t, because I have that big social event coming up. Oh, and I’ve got drinks with Carol the week after…”
This thought is so common among my clients that I gave it a name—I call it, “Moving the Starting Line.” The biggest problem with moving the starting line is the idea that the journey to improve your health and your life are two separate things. They aren’t! People with healthy habits do not maintain them by becoming hermits; they integrate their social life and their healthy decisions, using social obligations as a way to stay on track rather than getting derailed.
In 2013, I went through a significant life-changing event. The kind of event where all of your friends want to take you out and spend time with you to make sure you’re OK. It was the most social I have ever been, and that’s saying a lot. It was also during this time that I learned a lot of great techniques to maintain the healthy habits I’ve grown to rely on and hangout with people every single day for months.
The key point I learned in 2013 was every time someone suggested, “Hey, let’s go get drinks,” or “Let’s go out for dinner,” was to say, “Yes!” and suggest healthy restaurant or activity. To my surprise, all of my friends wanted to do the healthiest version of whatever they suggested—they just couldn’t think of an alternative, and needed me to come up with something. Here are a few healthy social options from my 2013 that I still rely on today.
Hiking parties Instead hitting up the hottest brunch spot, meet a friend or two at a park or nature preserve and go for a hike. It doesn’t have to be intense or serious, just a walk with people you love to spend time with. And it doesn’t have to be in nature. I went on “urban hikes” every day with friends in my very own neighborhood.
Dinner parties Instead of going out, stay in and cook a meal for your friends. You can control what you make and you’ll save money. Every time I suggested this, my friends responded with a hearty, “Please! And I’ll do the dishes!”
Cooking parties Or instead of doing all the cooking yourself, invite your friends over to cook together. Have everyone bring ingredients to make a healthy dish, then chop, stir, and heat. As a bonus, you’ll cook way more than the group can eat that night, and everyone will have healthy leftovers for the week!
“Throw” parties I learned another great trick when I lived with my mentor, Dan John, for 6 weeks. He would invite people over to play frisbee or throw a ball in the backyard. It’s easy, fun, and everyone gets to chat while staying active. And if you’re sick of the house, you can always meet in a park!
Wii parties. Some of the most fun I’ve had with friends has involved a Nintendo Wii. Invite your friends over for a full-on Wii tennis tournament, bracket and all. You might even break a sweat!
Mocktail parties If you need to cut back on alcohol, the tricks out number the stars. Order club soda with lime. Be the designated driver. Drink a glass of water for every glass of wine, etc. The push back I hear from clients isn’t usually about them—they’re worried about what other people will think about them when they’re not pounding cocktails all night. If you’re concerned about looking like a stick in the mud, and if you don’t want your friends to think you’re judging them, then have fun and don’t be judge-y. Problem solved! Oh, and if your friends give you a hard time for drinking less, it might be time to get some new friends.
How do you balance your social life and healthy habits? Share your tips in the comments below!