You’ve made a decision to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle.  As enthusiastic as you are to stick to your healthy choices, you’ll undoubtedly be faced with tricky social situations that will test your willpower.

We are social creatures and food is very much a part of that social fabric. So how do we gracefully handle common social situations that may sabotage our healthy lifestyle choices?

Situations like family gatherings, dinner parties, out at a restaurant with friends, office lunches and after-work happy hour. When you’re trying your best to stick to eating healthy, these situations can bring out a cast of characters that may inadvertently sabotage your goals. Characters such as the “well-meaning family, friend or colleague”, “the food pusher”, “the insecure individual”, and “the misinformed”.

If you believe that you are making balanced choices, then no one should derail you from your intentions. Here’s how to handle 5 common sticky social situations:

1.Family gatherings are lovely… and a haven for well-meaning food pushers. Generally, this may be an older family member who grew up in another generation when (over)feeding people meant showing love. They mean well. To avoid disrespecting them, be polite, and accept the food on your plate. You don’t need to eat it all. If you’re asked why you’re not finishing your food, just say you’re full or you’re trying to pace yourself. Ask for a doggie bag if necessary. Eat it later…or not.

2. Dinner parties can be really tricky. You’re invited to someone’s house for dinner and you want to be a good guest. All is fine if the food aligns with your health-related goals, but what if it’s not? You certainly don’t want to disrespect the host/hostess. If it’s a buffet style dinner, then simply serve yourself what you want to eat. If the dinner is served for you, then be polite, eat what you want on your plate and leave the rest. Do not feel guilty if you don’t clean your plate. You don’t need to justify yourself. Simply say that you’re comfortably full and thank your host/hostess for preparing the yummy food.

3. Out with friends at a restaurant and you’re the lone wolf watching what you eat? If you’re lucky, your company will not comment that you’re the only one ordering a salad for dinner, while everyone else is ordering grease ladened, carb heavy, or meat heavy meals. If you do get the odd critique, just laugh it off by saying something like “I had a heavy meal earlier today and could use a lighter dinner”. Then change the subject. If you’re with true friends, they’ll understand and support you.

4. Office lunch peer pressure is a real thing. You want to eat something uber healthy, but the majority wants to order in fast-food. You work with these people, so you want to avoid any awkwardness. When the food arrives, either put a bit on your plate (you don’t have to eat it), or pass on it. If anyone asks why you’re not eating (which is really none of their business), politely answer that you’re not hungry, or that you’re saving your stomach for a big dinner.

Watch out for misinformed or insecure people who may inadvertently or intentionally sabotage your goals. Seeing your healthy habits may remind them of their own struggles and guilt for not watching what they eat. This may bring up the feeling of jealousy. Diffuse any comments by putting the focus on how your habits help you feel better vs how you look.

5. Happy hour after work is an opportunity to further network with colleagues. You want to simply enjoy their company and skip on the booze and greasy food. More often than not, no one will say anything if you order a cranberry soda vs gin & tonic. However, if someone comments on your virgin order, keep your answer short without making excuses about your lifestyle choices. This will simply prolong the discussion. Just say “I don’t feel like drinking tonight”.

If you enjoyed these tips or have other “sticky situations” you’d like advice on, please leave a comment.

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