04/16/2015 02:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2015

3 Social Strategies for Staying Fit

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If you've ever dieted, then you no doubt have encountered challenges in social situations. At some point, you're likely to be out with friends and family, and invariably, there is food involved and it's usually not on your diet plan. How can you learn to navigate these situations successfully, both socially and in terms of fitness? Your diet doesn't have to derail, but you don't have to be a hermit either. Here are a few tips to help you make the best of both worlds.

Plan your strategy-- Decide to make healthy choices at your next social function. Deciding in advance that you're going to make good choices and not giving yourself an option to do otherwise is helpful. If it's not a scheduled "cheat meal" then don't make it one.

Things you can do to help stay steadfast include some of the following:

  • Avoid standing continuously near the food.
  • If you're at a social function, then take it to heart -- and be social. That means tear yourself away from the buffet and make the rounds.
  • Eat in advance -- don't show up to an event hungry! In an article published in Psychology Today, Dr. Judith Wurtman says that a snack high in carbohydrates about 30-45 minutes prior to a social situation can help you not overeat.

Pay attention-- On the website, Zen Habits, Leo Babauta discusses eating in social situations. He says it's difficult, if not impossible, to focus on two things at once. He says it's important to pay attention to your food while you're eating it, and then shift your attention to friends and family when you're done eating. This way, you can give 100% of your focus to each activity. This is part of being what's called "mindful." When you do eat, be aware of what you're eating (and enjoy it!) so you don't mindlessly overeat.

Here are a few ways to eat mindfully:

  • Just eat. Try not to engage in too much conversation. Don't watch television, read books or surf the web. Have you ever finished a meal to find that you didn't really remember eating most of it? Chances are you weren't focused on the meal, and instead were consumed with another activity. Before you knew it your plate was empty and you were reaching for seconds so you could get some satisfaction from the meal.
  • Don't automatically assume you need to eat because it's "meal-time" or you happen to be at a function where there is food. Ask yourself first if you're truly hungry. If the answer is yes, then go for it.
Watch your portion sizes--especially if you tend to nibble. It's very easy to quickly overeat when you're grazing at a party.

Try these tips to help you eat less while out:

  • It's okay to split meals. According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, it's easier if you share with others. A good strategy is to get your own salad or appetizer and then go halves on an entrée with a friend. You'll both get a taste of everything but won't leave the table feeling stuffed.
  • Have one plate of food if you are grazing and then stop. This way, you can see everything you're eating right in front of you. It's when you eat a little bit here, a little more over there and then try the dessert that you don't realize how much you just consumed. Stick to one and done.
These few simple tips will help you get through some tough social situations that could otherwise stop your diet in its tracks. The good news is that you can still have fun with friends and family. Just remember the three "Ps"--as long as you Plan, Pay Attention and watch Portion Sizes, you can have your cake and eat it too!