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5 Ways to Stop FOMO From Stalling Your Weight Loss

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After a very weird, very difficult, and very isolating year and a half, people are starting to socialize again. The invites for brunches and barbecues and birthday parties may be rolling in — along with all of the festive foods and special treats and alcoholic beverages we typically enjoy with friends. But while gathering together may be a boon to our mental health, it can sometimes make it harder to stick to a healthy eating plan. 

Research shows people eat more — as much as 48% more! — when dining with friends and family than when they eat alone. Avoiding social gatherings entirely may seem like a solution, but it’s one that can easily backfire, says Ronald Levant, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Akron. If prioritizing your healthy eating plan feels like a punishment, it becomes really hard (and un-fun!) to stick with it long term. 

Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean you’re saddled with FOMO (fear of missing out). There are simple, easy ways for you to eat, drink, and be merry without going overboard or derailing your healthy eating goals. Here are some expert tips to help you socialize and stay on track.

Find Activities That Don’t Involve Food

“Not all social engagements have to revolve around food,” says Maxine Yeung, a registered dietitian and owner of The Wellness Whisk. To reduce your worries about what you will or won’t eat, Yeung suggests coming up with social activities that don’t involve meals or treats. 

Sure, you and your bestie used to beeline to happy hour most Fridays. But what if you met up for a walk instead? Or visited a local museum, or took a painting class together, or learned to play cards? Shifting the environment may make it easier to shift out of your old habits (“Pass the bar snacks, please!”) and maintain your new ones. 

Eat Before You Go Out

You know that old advice not to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry because you’ll want to buy everything? Same goes for social plans. Whatever you’re doing, eat first, says Yeung. A satisfying snack at home means you won’t find yourself ravenous in the middle of your activity where food options might be limited to less-than-wholesome quick bites. 

For a filling snack with staying power, prioritize protein and fiber, both of which take longer for your body to digest. Popcorn with a small handful of nuts, a pear with a cheese stick, or cucumbers and hummus are all solid options that can help you keep hunger at bay — so you can focus more on your friends.

Drink Smarter

Not only can boozy drinks pack empty calories, but they can also make you forget your healthy eating plan. (Tipsy people don’t always make the smartest choices, do they?) Try chasing each beer or cocktail with a glass of water or club soda with lime. It’ll help you keep clear-headed  and well hydrated, and will cut down your calorie count, to boot.

Need another reason to sip more water? Consider this: It’s really common to confuse the feelings of hunger and thirst, says Yeung. And the only way to know if you’re truly feeling peckish or parched is to drink some water and then see how you feel. Yeung recommends carrying a water bottle with you throughout the day, so sipping becomes second nature. 

Define Your Boundaries

Having a plan for how you’re going to navigate a food-centric event can help you feel more empowered in the moment, so “define your boundaries,” says Levant. That includes figuring out where you want to say yes (loved one’s birthday cake? Yes, please!) and where you want to pass (ho-hum bread basket? No thanks!). A slice of birthday cake or a small glass of wine can fit within your healthy eating plan, guilt-free.

If you’re worried you’ll abandon your plan at the first mention of mozzarella sticks, Yeung suggests ordering first so you’re not influenced by what your tablemates are getting. You can also share your healthy eating intentions with a friend. Stating a goal out loud may make it easier to follow through, and it can remind others that you’ve gathered together for the friendship, not (just) the food.

Be Gentle With Yourself

If you were a robot, sticking to an eating script would be effortless. But you’re not — and that’s ok, says Yeung. It’s important to celebrate your healthy intentions and savor your time with friends. And if you sometimes eat a little more than you want or indulge a bit much at a social event, well, try to treat yourself with compassion. “Know that one meal out will not undo all of your efforts,” she says. Rather than beat yourself up, “be in the moment and try to enjoy your time with others.”