It’s your friend’s birthday and you’ve been invited out for a meal.
The problem is, you’re dieting. You’ve made good progress thus far and you don’t want to lose momentum.
Equally, it’s a great chance to catch up with old mates that you haven’t seen for a while and something you don’t want to miss out on.
What do you do?
Sure, you could go all out and write it off as a ‘cheat day’.
However, if you’re anything like me, you can find it tough to get back on the wagon once you’ve fallen off.
A cheat day turns into a cheat weekend and you’ve quickly undone a lot of hard work you’ve put in over the last few weeks.
Over the years, I’ve created a method that allows me to go out and enjoy social occasions without significantly denting my fat loss progress.
Throughout this guide I’m going to go into depth on how I do so.
Step One: Eye up the menu
Most restaurants nowadays have a website – even the smaller local joints.
On here they’ll most likely have a copy of their current menu.
This is awesome because it means you can look at the options available and make a smart choice.
Some of the larger chains will publish their nutritional information online. This makes it super easy to choose a meal that fits within your daily caloric goals.
Unfortunately though, this is a rarity in the UK, and a long-shot if you’re going to a small local establishment. Therefore you’ll probably need to use some intuition.
Most people will immediately assume that the ‘healthiest’ option on the menu will be the salads. Whilst some salads are a good choice, they’re not always low in calories.
Many will be topped with bacon, croutons, creamy dressings, oils or cheeses. Quickly that lighter salad can become 800+ calories.
Often, steaks can be a good choice. Especially leaner cuts like sirloin tip side (sometimes referred to as strip steak). Pair this with some seasonal veg or house salad and you’ve got a low carb, low fat, high protein meal.
Chicken dishes can also be a good choice, depending on the toppings and sides.
Burgers are also not out of the question. A lot of restaurants will do ‘naked’ burgers, without the bun – accompany this with a baked potato and house salad and you’ve got a tasty, satisfying balance of protein, carbs and fat.
If the restaurant doesn’t feature the menu online, give them a call and ask them to email it to you – most will be more than happy to do so.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask the waiter or waitress for special instructions. This could include swapping fries for a baked potato or salad, leaving the dressing off the salad or reducing the amount of oil/butter they use to cook your steak.
Step Two: Adjust your calories leading up to the event
The thing about eating out is that the restaurant doesn’t really care about your diet.
They care about serving food that tastes nice and they care about providing you with a good service.
Often, to make food taste good, restaurants will use lots of oil, butter and sauces. They may also choose to use higher-fat cuts of meats.
How do you combat this? You drop your calories leading up to the meal.
Often, manipulating your calories on the day of the meal will suffice, but if you want to dig deep for a few days leading up to it, this certainly won’t do any harm.
Generally, I’d recommend keeping your protein high throughout the day, but keeping fats and carbs to a minimal.
This could look something like this:
- Breakfast: Ham and veggie egg white omelette or low-fat yoghurt and berries.
- Lunch: Chicken or tuna salad
- Snacks: Protein shake or bar, beef jerky, yoghurt or fruit.
Alternatively, you could utilise intermittent fasting (IF). This is a great way of saving lots of calories for later in the day.
For example, you could fast until 2pm. Eat a high-protein meal and snack on shakes, bars or fruit and leave the rest of your calories for your meal out.
Many find that IF can help to boost dietary adherence – give it a try and see how you get on.
Step three: Chuck in some extra cardio
Another great way of making room for the extra calories you may consume when eating out is to move around more.
This could be as simple as taking an hour walk on the day of the meal.
You could even throw in an extra couple of HIIT sessions during the week.
It doesn’t have to be blood sweat and tears, just get up and move around!
Step Four: Try to limit liquid calories
So you’ve eyed up the menu and chosen a macro-friendly option. You’ve reduced your calories leading up to meal and you’ve even done 15,000 steps to increase your energy expenditure.
The only thing that could ruin your diet at this stage is liquid calories.
If it’s not the type of even where everyone is drinking alcohol, simply opt for a diet drink such as coke zero or diet lemonade.
If everyone is drinking alcohol and you want to have a few drinks too – go for it!
It’s important to live your life, even when dieting. Unless you’re prepping for a physique competition, a few drinks are not going to hurt.
With that said, some alcoholic drinks are more diet friendly than others. For example:
- Frozen Margarita – 250Kcals
- Vodka and Diet Coke – 60Kcals
As a general rule, it’s best to stick to spirits and diet mixers.
A light beer will contain around 140kcals, as will a small glass of red wine.
Cocktails are generally very high in calories thanks to the sugar, fruit juice and sodas that are added.
Step Five: Have a good time
As I touched on above, it’s important to remember that your diet shouldn’t take over your life.
It’s also important to remember that food isn’t a prerequisite of having a good time.
Just because you’re not binging on a burger, chips and ice cream, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.
Immerse yourself in the time you’re spending with friends and family and the food won’t matter.
In-fact, becoming less food focused is one of the best ways to increase dietary adherence. Simply, don’t romanticise food.
If you think it will help, vocalise the fact that you’re dieting. If they’re good friends, they’ll support you.
I hope this guide has helped you to understand how to balance a social life whilst dieting. If it has, feel free to share it with friends.
Have you got any cool tactics you use when eating out and dieting? Let me know it the comments section below.