It’s never fun to deprive yourself of things you enjoy, and when you’re cutting out certain foods—whether it’s due to health reasons or to shed a few pounds—you’re pretty much gonna end up saying “no” to your favorite snacks and meals. But passing on that cupcake with the perfect frosting-to-cake ratio can also have unexpected mental collateral damage.
I would know. Earlier this year, I was on a strict nutritional program: Beginning January 1, I said goodbye to sugar, carbs and even my beloved (and bloat-inducing) La Croix Pamplemousse. It took going on the biggest health kick of my life to realize that maintaining a strict food regimen is extremely isolating. Aside from working out, reading or watching TV, there wasn’t much I could participate in under my self-imposed constraints. Dinners were out. So were meetings for cocktails, perhaps the most social activity for adults in modern-day society. Eliminating all unhealthy foods and alcohol can mean spending the majority of your time alone—and there’s only so much Bravo and Netflix one can binge before unraveling like an Edgar Allan Poe character. After a week or so, I stopped missing chocolate chip cookies and started missing my friends.
Look, I get it—in order to reach your goals, you must sacrifice. But I was sacrificing food and my social life. So how did I keep myself from becoming the focus of a future episode of Dateline? Here’s what I did to stay sane.
Being Good Is Lonely
Whether you're toning up for summer, training for a marathon or going HAM on your exercise and eating regimen for any other reason, focus on that specific goal. It will help alleviate the pain of your sacrifices.
When you know there's an end to your strict self-discipline, it's easier to get past the suckage by being strong because you know it's only for a short period of time. Plus, you can remind yourself that your reward will be worth the short-term discomforts.
While I was eating scrambled egg whites with hot sauce (ketchup has sugar and unnecessary calories), I kept thinking of the penne alla vodka I would have for dinner as soon as I was able to break my healthy eating. It got me through all of those boring meals, and when I finally could eat that pasta, I swear it never tasted as good as it did that night.
Ask friends who understand if they will join you for fitness-related activities. Invite them for a hike instead of a cocktail so you can catch up and socialize while staying on track. As a bonus, you don't feel the burn as much when you're gossiping about your friend's latest Bumble date while you're hitting the trails.
Okay, I would normally never advise anyone to cheat at anything, and it's probably not the guidance you were expecting. But if you're really feeling the pain of isolation, it wouldn't hurt to go out for one drink—and only one! Just make sure that instead of going crazy in the opposite direction, you skip the sugary mixers; or, if you're going to dinner and splurge, don't feast on the bread basket when you have pizza or pasta coming your way.