How to have a social life and still lose weight

Social Butterfly

One of the most frequent questions that we get asked is ‘I’m going out at weekend, how do I manage that?’

Maintaining a social life is one of the keys to success in lifestyle change, because, lets face it – we are social animals, and to remove ourselves from our social circles in a bid to lose weight is not healthy, nor is it sustainable. So we have to find away to make healthy lifestyles and socialising work for us.

How we manage it depends on how often we are going out socialising, and what the activities are that we are getting involved in. As this will all impact on what we eat and drink, and how much energy we burn when we are socialising.

If the occasion is a one-off; your birthday or a real treat then our best advice is to go and enjoy it! Eat the food, drink the wine, order pudding, and savour every single calorie.  Take a ‘meal off’  your normal eating habits. That means just taking a break from your eating regime for that specific meal, not for the full day, or the weekend, or the week.  Lifestyle change has to incorporate this sort of occasion, because that is real life. We just have to accept that on this one occasion, we may not see a loss on the scales, we may even see a little gain, but we made sure that we enjoyed ourselves so it was worth it. The following week, we get weighed, we assess the damage and we just get back on track.  Going out for one occasion only means that we stop being ‘on it’ when we leave the house, and we get straight back ‘on it’ again, when we get home. It doesn’t have to turn it to a full scale relapse into an unhealthy lifestyle for days and weeks, it’s just one night out!

Damage Limitation

If you socialise regularly, eating out a few times a week, and drinking regularly, you will have to come up with some ways to make this manageable, so that you can maintain your social life, but still achieve your goals. The same applies if you are really ‘on it’ and want to stay on track whilst going out occasionally.  We think it is possible to have a social life and stay on track, by making sensible choices whilst out socialising, and planning for a little over consumption of calories.  We call this ‘damage limitation’, so if you are still wanting to step on the scales and see a loss after having a (few) good night(s) out then you need to limit the damage that will undoubtedly occur.

Be a sensible saver

To limit the damage of a good night out cut back in the days prior and save a few calories, 50 calories saved each day for a week is 350 calories, which could be a pudding or a starter, depending on your choices, or a few shots of vodka, if that is your tipple. A lot of people save their snack calories for a few days before, to give them a bit extra to play with on the day that they are going out.

Wriggle room

Add to your saved calories, by upping your exercise a couple of days before, and maybe a couple of days after. I am not suggesting that you run 10k every day for three days before and after, but if you have an exercise routine, make sure you stick to it and work a little bit harder, to get a few extra calories burned. On the day that you are going out, if you can fit it in, do a class, go for a walk or a run, or even stick one of our HIIT sessions on and jump around in your living room. The exercise won’t necessarily mean you burn off enough to cover everything that you are going to consume, but it will give you a bit to play with.

Eating out

Eating out can be tricky, because we don’t know how food is cooked, or which extra ingredients (like wine, fats and sugar) are added to foods, to make them taste nicer.  If it’s a new place, you won’t know how big the portions are going to be either.

However there are steps that you can take to enable you to make better choices:

  1. Snack beforehand – Before you even get to the restaurant, have a small healthy snack. Don’t stuff yourself but try having some water, a small handful of nuts or fruit so that you aren’t ravenous – just to take the edge off. This will help you to resist the bread basket and olives, or the slice of cheesy garlic bread for the table, and to make sure your willpower isn’t compromised. Treat the snack as part of your eating out ritual and know how many calories it is.
  2. Research the menu – Sometimes there is just too much information on a menu to take in when you are in a busy restaurant with all your friends around you chatting, laughing and having fun.  Look at the menu online before you go, decide what to eat in advance and stick to it. You could even ring the restaurant and place your order before hand, to take away any panic ordering at the table, or a poor choice once you have had a glass of wine. Doing this guarantees a well thought out choice. If there isn’t anything on the menu that exactly fits what you want, give them a quick call or drop them an email. Explain you’re making some changes to your lifestyle and ask them if they can tailor a meal to your requirements.
  3. Take the waiter aside – If you cannot make contact in advance, it may not be a pre-planned visit – and you have some particularly specific dietary requirements, try approaching the waiter away from the table upon arrival (if the venue permits). Most restaurants are used to some complex requests such as allergies or specific questions about food content that they need to go away and research the answers to. Remember, lots and lots of young children with really fussy eating habits frequent many restaurants.  In this context they will be pleased, and relieved, that you’re only asking for a healthier option. Only you will think that you’re making a fuss. They are absolutely used to specific requests being made and if you ask with a smile, will surely mean they do their best to help you.
  4. Load up on veg – If there is nothing on the menu that works for me, I would ask for a salad with no dressing, or some griddled or dry roasted veg and some grilled chicken or fish and I am usually very happy with this.  In fact, this is the option I often go for, it’s tasty and doesn’t compromise any of my eating plans, particularly when it’s included in a current goal.
  5. Avoid unhealthy cooking methods – Choose grilled, steamed, broiled, boiled, roasted, baked or poached foods, over fried or sautéed. Avoid anything breaded or battered – there are better options. If it’s not obvious on the menu, clarify it with the waiter. Often, they will simply ask you how YOU want it cooked, or prepared.
  6. Ask for a starter or smaller portion – if smaller portions are on offer, try it, it may well be enough.
  7. Tomato based sauces – anything in a tomato based sauce is a better choice than a creamy sauce. Lower fat, therefore lower calories and you will be getting one of your five a day!
  8. Engage in conversation – Make sure to not be completely focused on what you are eating. You are there with company, so enjoy it and make the most of it.
  9. Choose mindfully – It’s all about balance — if you want dessert, pick a lighter main, or vice versa, make it fit for you. Really be aware of the delicious flavours, and eat mindfully, enjoying your surroundings and the whole experience. Cut the food into small pieces, eat slowly, savour the food. This is a treat, so enjoy it!

Drinking alcohol

Alcohol is loaded with calories, so drinking alcohol is often where our weight loss plans fall down, and our deficit is eradicated. But there are some sensible swaps that we can make when including alcohol in our social plans.

  1. Alternate every alcoholic drink with a low calorie/zero calorie soft drink or water. Less hangover and less calories!
  2. Switch to spirits and ‘diet’ mixers – max 70 calories per single shot and mixer – compared with over 250 in a pint of strong lager – and you can make them as long as you like, to make them last longer.
  3. If you like wine, there are lower calorie/alcohol versions available in supermarkets to take to a house party.
  4. If you like cocktails, go for the ones with less fruit juice in and more soda to save some calories.
  5. Sparkling wine like Prosecco tends to be lower calorie than non-sparkling varieties, or you could dilute your wine with soda, diet lemonade or even ice.  There are even some schools of thought that say you can drink red wine with ice – apparently the Spanish like a nice Shiraz over ice – some might call that heresy, but it might be worth a try!


Socialising doesn’t always have to be about going out for food, or spending time in the pub. There are so many other things that we can do with our friends and loved ones. Here are some ideas:

  1. Going for a bike ride, or a walk or even a run on a weekend afternoon or in the lighter evenings – getting out in the fresh air, a chance to chat with your friends, and best of all it’s free!
  2. Cinema – check out a new movie, or maybe an old favourite
  3. Bowling
  4. Rollerskating or ice skating – get back to the 80’s and see if you can still skate like when you were a kid!
  5. Meeting for a coffee
  6. Do a workout class together
  7. Mini golf or pitch and putt
  8. Trampolining
  9. Ninja warrior style assault courses
  10. Learn a new skill
  11. Fruit picking (in summer obviously!)
  12. Games or cards night

Losing weight doesn’t necessarily mean we have to turn into boring hermits, who don’t go out and have fun any more. When it is like that, it makes the lifestyle totally unsustainable. In fact our chances of success will be far greater if we make these small changes which still allow us to enjoy life. If we want to make this change forever we have to make it manageable and realistic. It’s still ok to have the odd blowout.  Just get straight back on it and accept the damage that you have done – that is how you remain accountable – that is how you succeed!

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