One thing that makes Nutrisystem so great: You can lose weight without losing your social life. Unlike other diets that tie you to the kitchen, you can stay on-plan with Nutrisystem while meeting friends, family and coworkers for happy hours, dinners out or weekend barbecues. With Flex meals, you have the opportunity and the guidance you’ll need to stay on-track while preparing healthy foods at home with non-Nutrisystem foods or eating out.
But maintaining a social life can still be tough when you’re trying to stay on track—there’s tempting appetizers, tasty desserts and sugar-heavy drinks just waiting to blow your diet. Don’t let them get you!
Follow these 10 tips to having a social life without slipping up on your journey to weight loss glory:
1. Don’t just plan your day. Plan your week.
Weight loss isn’t just about creating a caloric deficit today. It’s about creating one for the week, the month and beyond. Start with those seven days: Depending on where you are in the Nutrisystem program, you might get one or two Flex meals per week. So if you know you’re going to happy hour on Thursday with friends or a picnic this weekend, save it! Stick to your no-questions-asked Nutrisystem meals and snacks, and save the Extras and Flex meals for when you head out, so you can order without stress.
2. Offer to host.
You don’t have to go out to have a social life. Invite friends and family over to your place, where you can control what’s served so you know what’s in it and how much, so you know what’s a solid serving to stay on your plan. Or if you’re meeting at another person’s house, offer to bring something—show up with a healthy dish that you enjoy. When it’s time to eat, you can pile a big portion of this item on your plate, and fill in the rest with other offerings that look tempting.
3. Suggest a get-together that isn’t focused on food.
Go bowling, try a painting-with-wine class, have a board game night, start a book club or see a concert. Find events that you’ll enjoy that keep you in touch with your social life without focusing just on food. And if you are at a bar, restaurant or barbecue, remember why you’re really there: Put your focus on catching up and bonding with friends and family while you’re there.
4. Look at the menu before you go out.
If you do decide to get together at a restaurant, go in prepared: Pull up the menu online before you head out. See if calorie counts are listed, and use them to guide your decision. If they’re not, find a dish that looks delicious and fits with your plan and decide to order it before you go. That way, you won’t feel pressure when you sit down, and wind up ordering something off-plan—or something you won’t end up enjoying.
5. Don’t show up hungry.
You might think it’s best to “save up” for a treat like a night out by eating less throughout the day. But this can backfire: You may wind up so ravenous that you eat more than you originally planned. Put a little something with fiber and protein in your stomach before you head out so you can feel a little full in advance—a Nutrisystem shake is a perfect, easy choice. This way, you can enjoy your socializing treat with a healthy portion.
6. Attack your cravings!
Don’t dance around your cravings: Nutrisystem dietitians say to attack them. If you’re really craving a juicy burger, order one and have a portion-controlled size. Our experts say that when you avoid your cravings, you can end up overeating by trying to satisfy it with other foods—eating a bunch of pretzels, for instance, when what you really want is a bite of chocolate. Instead, recognize your craving, order something that will satisfy and take the time to enjoy it.
7. Keep a Nutrisystem snack tucked in your bag.
One way to attack those cravings is to come prepared. If you’re out longer than expected, you might want to dive into dessert, even if it’s not in your original going-out plan. Having a Nutrisystem snack handy—like Nutrichocolates or, if you’re into salty, Popcorn or Snack-a-Rounds—can give you something safe to munch on and stay on-plan.
8. Alternate a glass of water with each alcoholic beverage.
You’ve heard this one before, but that’s because it works: Water will help you metabolize the alcohol, so you don’t get too tipsy—which can lower your inhibitions to other foods and portions you’re trying to avoid. In fact, the alcohol may make greasy or other cheat foods seem more appealing: In a 2015 study of 35 women, those who had alcohol in their system had a more sensitive brain response to food aromas, which led to eating more than those who were sober. Water will also keep you hydrated, which can make you feel less snacky, since our bodies sometimes mistake thirst for hunger.
9. Ask a friend to be your accountability buddy.
Staying on track is easier with support. In fact, multiple studies have found that it’s easier to stick to a diet or fitness plan when you do it with a partner or friend. When you head out, enlist help. Ask a friend that you trust to help you: Tell them your goals for the evening and ask them to gently help you with a subtle reminder if you go for an extra dessert or order something off your plan. You may still decide to have a small off-plan treat, but the reminder could be enough to make you mindful of your decision and stay on track.
10. Remember: It’s cheat meal, not cheat day.
If you go overboard at a social lunch or happy hour, you haven’t ruined your weight loss progress: Many dieters trip up at one meal, get discouraged, and go overboard for the rest of the day because it’s already “ruined.” The term is “cheat meal,” not “cheat day”: If you have a meal that you think could set you back, remember that it’s just one meal. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t give up. Give yourself some slack, remember that you enjoyed your cheat and get back on track—little decisions that you make, starting right away, will lead you to weight loss success.