Dieting is tough most of the time, but throughout December it goes to a new level. The increase in meals out, social events and socially accepted binge drinking, alongside the “office treats” that are brought into offices all over the country make Calorie control and staying on top of your nutrition extra tough this time of year.
Luckily, we have a few simple tips and tricks on how to best cope with this social shift, and keep on track to feel great and make progress, without needing to shut yourself away until the new year.
Today’s focus- managing meals out.
Quick but important point…
For us, avoiding these events isn’t the best option. There’s some awesome benefits of spending time with friends and family, going out and enjoying yourself, and even just going to enjoy some great food in a different environment that have a huge positive impact on overall wellness.
So, rather than avoid, let’s manage this.
Managing meals out whilst dieting
First up, meals out. Now, special occasions (every few months) we can write off, and do what you want.
But for a standard meal out, which could be weekly or more, we need a plan.
These are relatively easy to manage to make sure they don’t hold back your progress. That said, without managing them, 1-2 meals out a week can bring your weight loss to a halt. Here’s a few tips to make sure that doesn’t happen, and ensure we’re still making progress:
Pick the type of foods you’d have on your diet at home.
Here’s we’re talking a protein and veggies-based meal. By selecting the same food types, we’re straight away ticking the boxes of veggies, protein intake, and managing Calories. The portion size will be different, and the specifics of the food and cooking methods can bump up calories a lot, but if this a regular occurrence, you need to stop “treating yourself”, unless its built into the overall plan.
Sauce on the side..
A great tip is to get sauces on the side. This way, you can use what you want enough to enjoy your foods, but aren’t committing yourself to unnecessary Calories that don’t add to the experience.
Three courses probably should be avoided when dieting.
This one is really simple. If you’re mindful of amounts and Calories, two courses may be ok, providing you’re sticking to leaner options for both, but adding a dessert is probably an obvious no if you want to minimise impact on fat loss. Again, this is during a diet. This isn’t me suggesting you do this every time you go out, this is me making sure going out doesn’t impact your fat loss goals.
We’re talking about meals out here, not a general p*** up, so hear me out. Excessive Alcohol will have a big negative when it comes to overall health, fitness and fat loss goals. But some alcohol, less so. If you fancy a beer or odd glass of wine on occasion, I have no issue with that for fat loss, providing you have an awareness of the additional calories, and it doesn’t cause any other obvious major issues for you (such as terrible sleep, increased anxiety etc). But having 3-4 pints or a bottle of wine will almost certainly set you back on your fitness journey. For optimum results, keep liquid Calories controlled (probably to zero in most cases when out for food), and if you do choose to have alcohol, be really mindful of the total Calorie intake IN ADDITION to the amount of alcohol you’re taking on- both will impact your fat loss!
Should you track the meal out? That’s a tough one, and let’s go with “kind of”. If your diet is based mainly on tracking intake, then you should make a note of it- what you had, portion sizes, etc, and make sure that’s clear in any reports/ summaries you’re looking for (such as weekly Calories/ daily Calories/ etc).
For this, it may be easier to build some type of “quick add” food and guess the amount of Calories and any other necessary macros. I’d usually add more Calories that you expect, simply due to the fact great food at restaurants often contain higher fats… it’s just how it is. Remember, the chef’s job is to make things taste great, and that’s what they do. Calorie control throughout the week is on you.
These simple tips can make a HUGE difference when dieting at this time of year. This way, you can stick to your normal nutrition schedule, and enjoy meals out, without feeling guilty, off track, or having a bigger than needed impact on your progress.
Remember, this is one- maybe two meals a week at the most. Substantial weight loss is about Calorie control over and extended period of time- we can enjoy meals out, and manage the rest of the week effectively to factor the potential for a slight increase in Calories in there.
There’s only one thing I want to say avoid, and that’s the “starve yourself until the meal” attitude. This often leads to massively overeating during the meal, and although daily Calories may end up around the same, digestive discomfort, disrupted sleep and nutrition patterns and generally making the meal out a much bigger disruption to your progress than it needed to be.
Coming up, part 2: managing snacking and alcohol!
Josh Kennedy MSc, ASCC, CSCS
As always, want to get started? Book a call!
P.S. want more information on why this matters? Check out our recent Youtube video here.