July 19, 2017

Maintaining Diet and Weight as a Social Professional

By Bo

The following is a guest post from one of our clients, Tim Murphy. Since he began training with Kyle at our Zionsville location in 2014, Tim has lost over 70 pounds, reduced his waist size from 40 to 28 and reduced his suit size from 48 portly to 38 slim, among improvements to other key health metrics. To hear more about how 20 Minutes A Week has benefited Tim, check out his Client Spotlight.

It started out when we were kids. The big event of the day growing up was dinner. That was family meeting time, and an opportunity to spend time together. Then as we got older, our first date was probably a dinner. To celebrate life’s milestones, we – you guessed it – go to dinner. We meet our friends to socialize in restaurants, and we are constantly surrounded by food.

To further illustrate the point, our professional, social, and networking events are nearly always food-centered. Receptions, lunch meetings, and dinner events are standard occurrences in our lives. This is even more magnified if you’re in a profession or volunteer role whereby entertaining (and being entertained) is daily business, like association executives, lobbyists, meeting professionals, and others who attend or host a lot of conferences and meetings. We walk into the board room for our meeting, and there are a million calories’ worth of sweets on the table; at noon the board then breaks for lunch; in the afternoon, there’s a refreshment break. After we conduct our business, there’s a 3-hour, 7-course dinner awaiting. And then we’ll conclude this event with a breakfast meeting the next day.

I began to pay close attention to the prevalence of our food-centric culture when I was the chief presiding officer of a huge fraternal society whose mission it is to be social. Every meeting was a dinner event, and there were four of them a week. That was my volunteer role; I am also an association executive professionally, whereby the above scenario is a regular part of life. My big issue at the time was that I was trying to lose weight! Success wasn’t going to come easily, especially with my volunteer and professional life being so completely social in nature.

With the guidance of my fitness coach, Kyle Truitt at Exercise Inc, I developed a sensible eating plan with balanced nutrition; all medically sound. (We observe the Paleo diet and lifestyle, which fit my needs perfectly.) And that was great if I was eating at home, controlling the menu; but most often I was not. So, I had to get creative in order to stay on point with my food intake. Here are a few tips for navigating the calorie- and fat-infested waters of those who are subject to so many food-centered events:

  • Don’t actually eat at the dinner event. I know that sounds odd, and might even be considered rude, but there’s a way to pull this off without offending the host. If you’re at a large event in a hotel ballroom, this is easy to execute. (And there’s less temptation, since hotel banquet food is seldom extraordinary.) After the salad is served, take a few bites, politely excuse yourself from your fellow table guests, and visit the other tables so you can see everyone at the event. Depending on the size of the group, it may take the entire entrée and dessert for you to have made your way around the room. You avoided the ‘late in the day’ calories, and got to see all your friends at the same time. If you’re at a smaller venue like a restaurant, and you’re all at one table, this is socially more challenging, but can still be done. Order an entrée that can be re-heated later at home (and is good for you). Take only a few bites, and be very slow in doing so. When everyone is finished, simply make a comment like, “My eyes must have been bigger than my stomach; too bad, because the food here is so good.” Then ask the server for a to-go container. No one will have noticed that you didn’t eat much; you’ve avoided social awkwardness and unnecessary calories.
  • Go for the crudité plate at the reception. Receptions typically have “finger food” that is fat-, sodium-, and calorie-packed, like chicken wings, stuffed mushroom caps, mini sandwiches, and cheese displays. Instead, head to the crudité display and have some vegetables. (And yes, you should not overdo the fat-laden dip it comes with, since that defeats the purpose!)
  • Navigate the buffet with a purposeful Paleo focus. I never liked buffets for a variety of reasons; and when I see one in a room, I know I’ll likely be dining elsewhere. However, if that would be a business or social faux pas, go with the Paleo rules – unprocessed, lean protein and vegetables. You can fill a plate up quickly by making most of it salad (and watch your salt intake on the dressings). Go for a sample of the sliced chicken or roast beef (if it’s in its au jus; if it’s swimming in gravy or thick sauces, skip it). Avoid the potatoes and corn, and head right to the green beans. There’s a lot of temptation at a buffet display, so don’t linger, and don’t go back for trip number two!
  • Make your morning set the tone for the rest of the day. Typically, breakfast is the only “private” meal in the life of a professionally social person; as such, you’re in complete control. Have unprocessed, lean protein, like chicken, turkey, pork loin, or anything else that tickles your taste buds. Cook up an omelet, make an egg casserole, or have a hard-boiled egg. (Avoid luncheon meats, as they are quite processed and packed with salt you don’t need.) Personally, I like ground turkey patties on the grill for breakfast. The protein in the morning makes you feel fuller and more energetic, so the temptations you encounter throughout the rest of the day will have no power over you.

Even though you’re always in the midst of food, you can maintain a sensible diet, and thus healthy weight, by using these proven methods of calorie control at your social functions. And always remember that nothing tastes as good as fitness feels!