The Social Struggle: Fun or Fit??

A fun, social guy…
always eating out with friends.
Social guy feels fat.

I wrote this haiku long ago… back when I was at an extremely low point in my life.

Just kidding.

I literally just made that up (…and not to poke fun at anyone who may be reading this and possibly facing some trying times.). Truth is, once upon a time I did find myself struggling to strike a balance between being super social and trying to set limits for myself when it came to meeting friends for drinks and eating out.

I think for many, the common denominator when it comes to being social is that a lot of times being in social settings entails food, or drinks, or food AND drinks, or just drinks… tons of drinks. I mean if you’re anything like me, then you’re likely able to drink family members and friends under, over and around tables. It’s not exactly something to scream about from the mountaintops, but for some (err, for me) being that way was (and potentially still can be) just a thing.

A fun, social guy…
Always eating out with friends.
Personally, I once thrived on the thrill of constantly being “on the go.” I was once that guy who would make plans with friends throughout the week, ensuring that a good majority of the week (+ weekends) were filled with some type of “after work” activity that involved dinner at the newest hotspot, or happy hour (that would turn into “happy” hours), or even swinging by the local shop for maybe 2 or 3 bottles of wine –all of which would be empty over the course of a couple of hours while sitting around chatting and snacking with friends.

Looking back, I can probably blame this behavior in part to living with my parents (temporarily at the time, of course) and trying to avoid being at their house with The Filipino Channel glaring in the background, and trying NOT to eat my mom’s homemade cooking –which is pretty outstanding though it may not be the healthiest. But as many of you out there who have moms that can cook the shit out of anything, you know that mom’s cooking is that good, comfort (aka “Filipino” in my case) food that ushers you into a lulling food coma after eating heaps and heaps of it. While the luxury of having Chef Mom preparing meals for me daily was definitely a blessing, it was also a curse. I knew that I could not sustain that lifestyle without gaining eleventeen pounds each week, so I’d try to derail this by hanging out with friends. But even with my friends, I still ended up being out and about… usually at some restaurant, 3 martinis in, on a 2nd “shared” plate of fries, and yappin’ away onto another plate of something or additional glasses of something more.

Mind you, I did this all while still working out… and I worked out A LOT. I realize now that all the “hard work” that I was putting in the gym was completely negated by all the social eating and drinking that I was doing.

Social guy feels fat.
While I thankfully never ballooned back to my college weight, I was putting on some extra padding, which I was not comfortable with. But I somehow felt that as long as I wasn’t tipping the scales, then my workouts were helping me maintain. But maintaining was no longer good enough for me, as weren’t the constant “you’re not fat” assurances that I was getting from my friends.

Eventually, I moved away from the parentals. (Praise!) In my own place, I had control of the kitchen, which was half the battle won. I could make my own healthy meals. Key word here: “could.” While I did make my share of healthy meals, I was still social. I was still meeting friends downtown, sometimes for multiple nights on end. I was still doing too much of the things that were keeping me from reaching my goals.

Now none of what I was experiencing was anyone’s fault but my own. After all, I am an adult who can make the right choices for myself. But for whatever reason, I just wasn’t making them. When I finally decided that I wanted to take full control of my life, and made the conscious decision to scale back the social time, then the change started to come slowly but surely.

It was hard at first, but eventually it simply became a part of my life. I stopped “rewarding” myself post-workout eats, and instead would push myself to burn even more calories than my last session, or increase the number of reps with each exercise. I learned the basics of meal prepping and portion control. I started to become conscious of the types of carbs I would have depending on the type of workouts I would do. And most importantly, I started to coordinate times with friends around my weekly cheat meal.

The short of it all is that I had to make some real decisions that aligned with my priorities; some were easy to pull off, while others were a bit harder:

  • I decided that I wouldn’t just be “good” only while following a specific plan. I’d been on 4-week, 16-week and other multi-week plans with fitness coaches in the past, but in-between I would pretty much act a fool when it came to food. I decided to shift to consuming maintenance calories per day and hit my macros in-between plans. (I’ll dedicate a separate post to counting macros soon.)
  • I got my friends involved in my world. I went on vacation with two friends a couple of Novembers ago, and I made sure that we worked out at the hotel gym together each day. It actually ended up being super fun (and super funny), and we continue to do group workouts together now and then when we can. At the least, the three of us now communicate almost daily on our progress, our struggles, and our triumphs at the gym and with our nutrition plans.
  • As I mentioned, I now coordinate my weekly cheat meal with friends so that I’m still getting my dose of “face-time” with them over a good meal.
  • I rarely drink. (As I type this I am looking at the bottles of alcohol on my shelves, and not even wincing. #triumph) If I do have a drink, then I have to accept the consequences (aka bloatedness) later… or make the right choice for me (Tito’s and Chopin are gluten-free!).
  • If I have to attend a work dinner, or if I get invited out to celebrate a special occasion, then I try to assess the menu beforehand so that I can make a well-informed decision. I also make sure I adjust my food intake throughout the day to accommodate those calories. Sticking to maintenance calories is always safe; being able to pull off a caloric deficit on days you’re eating out is even better!
  • If I find myself fighting against inhaling a pan au chocolate, or a Pop Tart, or a snack-size bag of Doritos –I usually just EAT THEM ALL. Kidding. I will have alternative snacks just in case. ALTHOUGH now and then I might give in to the craving just to get it out of my system. I’m likely to not go overboard if I’m able to satiate the craving. But, again, I would ensure that I am accounting for those calories so that I’m hitting my goal for the day.

I could go on and on. The moral of the story is that it IS possible to live a relatively healthy lifestyle without starving yourself, or living the life of a hermit, or being the “boring-boring” friend meeting up on the weekends. Set your goals, put limitations in place for yourself as necessary, and always try to be better tomorrow than you were today.

Many times we find it easier to give up once we’ve made a mistake. Or sometimes we second guess ourselves, and think we just don’t have it in us to lose weight or put on muscle. Or we throw our hands up in defeat when we don’t make the same progress after a 12-week program as all those sexy “before & after” pics we see all over Instagram. To that I say: Each of us is different, and so our journeys will surely be different than the regularly posted Instagram success story. Accept your small successes, but don’t reward yourself for them. Instead, build upon them, and work hard toward your next level of “success.” Stop saying that you “can’t,” and go full-on 2008 on everyone and say: “YES, WE CAN.”

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