Eating Clean with Friends—Even Healthy Ones—Can Be Tough

by | Mar 1, 2018 | Nutrition, Training

I know the holidays are over, so social situations and parties are likely a little less insane right now. But weirdly, for me, I find it’s easier to start getting lax about food choices now, because I’m not being bombarded by holiday wellness tips for party survival. So let’s talk about healthy eating choices, especially in terms of what they mean for your social life and how even the healthiest of crews can mess with your feelings around food.

I’ll start by saying that my friends are all amazing and if I’m being honest, if I said “I’m not drinking right now,” or “I’m skipping dessert,” they wouldn’t be at all judgmental. That’s a point I’ll come back to later. They are fantastic humans and I love them. That said, I realized after a recent “family dinner” that even as extremely healthy, active people, we still find it hard to make decent, healthy choices at group meals—and if we, as well-informed mostly active-industry people, can’t get our $hit together, how is anyone else doing it?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am massively in favor of the 80:20-ish principles of healthy eating (eat really well most of the time, indulge the other 20 percent). But I have definitely learned that for me, that 20 percent creeps up real, real quick into 30 or 40 territory if I’m not careful. Especially given my deep, deep love of all things chocolate. I was a kid who grew up on Mountain Dew and Doritos, and adapting a healthier diet in my 20s was a huge struggle. The Mountain Dew thing didn’t really drop off the radar until maybe 4 years ago, and even still, occasionally I freaking love a good fountain soda. And again, I don’t even think of that as a major offense in the grand scheme of things. (We’re talking monthly, not daily or weekly, to be clear on where I fall on the soda-drinking spectrum these days, lest I accidentally make it seem like pounding Cokes is OK on the regular.)

Anyway… My point here—one that I’m epically butchering—is that I have a really healthy crew of friends.

And even with them, it’s easy to over-indulge and feel like it’s warranted. Case in point: We did a group Valentine’s Day dinner, and I’ll come clean here and say when dinner is served on a rolling, buffet-style basis and I’m the first one there… Well, I can and will eat A LOT. Also, there was wine. And did I mention the ‘clean’ dessert of a black forest cake where the cake was replaced by a meringue in order to make it more GF-friendly for the GF part of our crew? Yeah. That happened. It was freaking delicious.

I also went home with a bit of a stomachache from over-eating, and the fear of an imminent hangover looming. (Luckily, the hangover never materialized, but I was not in fighting shape the next day.)

And again, these are the active, health-conscious friends… and I will bet a lot of $$ that they were in the same boat the next morning.

So, after that brain dump, is the conclusion/solution that I’m trying to get to?

I hear a lot of people talk about how hard it is in office situations, family gatherings, social settings with friends who don’t have those healthy habits. It’s a common complaint/top problem that it’s hard to eat healthy when surrounded by unhealthy options. But there are very few people who won’t have that temptation. It’s just a different variety of unhealthy options presented at any given time, no matter how healthy your crew or workplace is.

Ultimately, it comes down to you making the choices. 

Does anyone notice if I swap wine for water partway through the night, or if I don’t finish the piece of cake that got put on my plate?


Are my friends going to get pissed if I don’t take the refill from the bottle that they’re holding out?


Could I put down the fondue stick and go sit away from easy reach of the tortilla chips?


When I started writing this, I really wanted to blame the situation for my overeating. But when I really started thinking about it, I realized that no one was ‘peer-pressuring’ me into another glass of wine, I was letting myself pretend it was peer-pressure making me go for the refill. It’s internally easier to say you didn’t have a choice. (Hilarious satiric piece over at the Reductress caught my eye the other day as I started drafting this, and I couldn’t stop laughing: Inspiring! This Woman Got Into Such Good Shape That Her Friends Stopped Inviting Her To Brunch)

OK. There are the cliched ways you can avoid the unhealthy meals you know you’ll be walking into: bring a few healthy options for everyone so you can default to those, stick to a drink limit, skip alcohol altogether in favor of sparkling water (or kombucha, for the wellness community). You guys know the drill, I don’t need to spell out those ‘hacks.’

This piece is just to offer the friendly reminder to myself, and to you guys, that we’re responsible for our food choices in any setting. And yes, sometimes it’s going to be hard, no matter who you surround yourself with. And it’s OK to enjoy the treats sometimes, too: I have zero regret about eating cake on Valentine’s Day (maybe just regrets about the half-bag of tortilla chips beforehand). When those types of meals are over, just reset and make sure the next meal is a little bit cleaner.

Don’t beat yourself up about your choices, but be aware that they are, in fact, your choices.



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