It’s festival season! In this glorious time before the summer heat descends upon us, Tallahassee is buzzing with weekend events, each with its own craft beer, food truck, artisan-crafted baked goods, and perfectly understandable reason why the diet should start on Monday. It’s a fantastic time to see our beautiful and ever-changing city! Likewise, weekends are notorious for knocking us off of our healthy path. So go out and live it up, but as your wellness coach, I may whisper a reminder over your shoulder: “it’s all fun and games until your jeans don’t fit anymore.”
If that matters to you, of course. It might not. But if you set a goal back in January of losing weight or gaining fitness this year, then this is for you.
Growing up in the New Orleans area, I learned pretty early on that if I wanted to eat healthy, I would have to work really hard at it. Holidays and festivals flowed from one right into the next, all of them centered on food. As a destination where people travel with the sole purpose of eating, living in NOLA meant facing food obstacles at almost every turn and feeling doomed in the process.
As I started getting serious about losing weight, I had to face the reality of how my social life affected my chances for success. Every interaction I had with friends revolved around food, my family cooked and shared large meals, and it just felt weird to plan a social event and not start with the menu. It wasn't until I moved away for college that I began to set the boundaries I needed to manage my weight.
Heading out to a festival and trying to stick to a “diet” is no fun, I know. Strike a balance by staying in touch with your motivations for healthy change and keeping them at the forefront of your attention. Before going into social situations where you may be tempted to overeat, take a few minutes to plan out how you will manage your hunger. Pack a healthy, portable snack in case options are limited, write down the reasons why you want to maintain healthy habits on the weekend, and be realistic about what can and can’t be avoided. Most of the time, it’s not as hard as we expect to avoid unhealthy traps.
Choose your company wisely, and plan outings with friends who share your goals. But be prepared to fly solo if they aren’t ready for change. If being around old habits is a slippery slope, look for new ways to socialize. For me, this meant meeting friends for walking dates during lunch instead of dining out, planning active outings, and being prepared at parties with something healthy. Eventually, people began to expect me to cheerfully stick to my guns in the face of funnel cakes and walking tacos, which is how I earned my nickname: Healthy Heather!
Many times, it’s the people we are closest to who get us through the ups and downs of weight loss. But sometimes, those same people are our biggest obstacle and we have to consider whether old relationships are compatible with new habits. Friends who sabotage you, undermine your values, or make you feel inferior because you are choosing a different path may feel threatened by the changes you are making and how they will affect your relationship. They may be jealous of your success, or resentful that they are not ready yet to make the same changes. They have the right to feel that way, but they do not have the right to undermine your efforts for change.
It is still hard to eat within my needs when I visit my family in the Big Easy, but I do much better when I stay focused on the real reason for being there. Living healthy when your social life revolves around food can be overwhelming. A combination of preparation, compassion, and downright stubbornness can help you change your lifestyle and still have a life!