There’s no universal answer on whether you can have a social life and be healthy. Firstly, it depends on how healthy the people you’re socialising with are. It’s then a question of how dedicated to the cause you are.
The truth? Just because you’re trying to be healthy doesn’t mean life stops.
My social circle has people from all over the health spectrum. Some, like me, follow pretty strict eating guidelines. Choosing restaurants when we’re together is a dream because we’re both on the same page. But for the most part, I’m the painful friend who usually asks about the ingredients in each dish and whether it’s possible to switch out one item for another.
While it’s easier to be in total control when you’re cooking at home, existing only in this space isn’t going to bring you happiness. Learning to voice my needs and not show embarrassment when questioning the menu was a major hurdle I had to overcome, but am so glad I did.
It’s a massive self confidence thing to not feel like a total loser when turning down a glass of wine with colleagues because the sugar content will make you sick, or asking for gluten free bread and then having the entire table served gluten free food all night when they hate it (this actually happened at one of my friend’s birthdays and I wanted to crawl under the table and die).
My poor boyfriend is the one who experiences the pain of dining with me the most – fortunately he’s an incredibly loving and patient man (even when hangry).
The key to managing health needs and socialising is not to let it ruin your attitude. Always be open to trying new places just don’t be afraid to ask for specific things. Also know what you can and can’t eat and choose options that meet your needs – there should always be at least one that ticks all the boxes (the number of salmon fillets I’ve had since starting this journey is scarily high).
Where possible, I check the menu before visiting a restaurant and if it’s really bad, I suggest something else. Or if I know there won’t be a lot that I can enjoy, I try and eat a bit before I leave home so that I won’t eye off the pizza like a crazy woman all night long.
The other night I had dinner with Aaron, my brother and his girlfriend. I suggested an eight course degustation at a vegan, raw and organic restaurant which sounded amazing (to me!). No surprises, I was outvoted and we ended up at Greek. I managed the evening by checking the menus of a couple Greek places beforehand and found one traditional restaurant that served Prawn Saganaki with rice. While the dish wasn’t perfect health wise it ticked all the major gluten-free, sugar-free boxes.
Balance comes from knowing that on occasion you won’t be able to eat and drink exactly like you’d like to. The key to still feeling good about your decisions is knowing that that’s OK. When you make a conscious effort to choose healthy foods every day, on the odd time you have to pick something that doesn’t 100% meet your standards it won’t feel like the end of the world.
This may all sound very particular and overly fussy, but for those who have serious reason to avoid certain food groups, managing a social life can be a difficult task. Taking ownership of the situation and making it work for you is the only way to feel like you are still you.
Of course, hopefully you also have family and friends who understand your journey and to them, nothing has really changed that much at all.