Do you ever feel like you are able to be “on track” most of the time, but then you have these moments where, nutritionally-speaking, all hell breaks loose? Is your weekend your “weak end”?

All week you’ve been eating balanced meals, prioritizing veggies, fruits and lean proteins. Heck, maybe you’ve even been tracking your macros down to the gram every day. Friday night hits and you're exhausted. Or you find yourself at an impromptu happy hour with friends.

It’s easy to get caught up in a moment and lose your motivation.

Thankfully, motivation is overrated. You don’t need it. But, you do need a plan.

Such a situation happened to me earlier this year. It really threw me for a tizzy. I was in the middle of a strict cut with a goal to lose body fat and preserve lean muscle mass. During the early days of COVID-19, it was easier because takeout was barely available. Not to mention, seeing friends was off the table.

At our first socially-distant social gathering, the group decided to order takeout. I remember being anxious about navigating a meal out after so many weeks of quarantine where I cooked every meal. I also remember being annoyed that I was anxious–life shouldn’t be that hard. I’m not training to be a professional body-builder. Perfection isn’t required.

But I still have goals, and maybe you do too. Often achieving a goal requires some level of “sacrifice” for some finite period of time.  

At the impromptu socially-distant backyard takeout soiree, we ordered Thai food. I had one of those “fuck it” moments spurred mostly because I was so hungry (and I didn’t have a plan).

My personal challenge isn’t so much staying away from super rich foods. It’s more about portion control. That night I went for it all -- full order of basil chicken, lots of rice and spring rolls.

A few things happened. I got all pissed off for falling off the wagon. My husband had to reassure me multiple times I had not ruined my progress. I emotionally felt like shit because I felt trapped in a vicious mental cycle: I have nutritional goals and I want friends.  

It’s pretty hard to build meaningful relationships in between meals.

At the same time this was all going down, I was studying for Precision Nutrition’s coaching certification, which introduced me to the concept of a “Break the Chain” exercise. It seemed too simple to work, but I gave it a try.

To break this annoying chain, I spent five minutes answer these questions:

  • What was happening around me?
  • What was happening in the few hours leading up to it?
  • What was I doing, thinking, feeling around this time?
  • What made the unwanted choice easier for me?

When I think about the time leading up to this moment, I was nervous about navigating a social situation while aiming for a challenging physique goal. Instead of planning a solution, I just stayed in the worry zone.

As it turns out, studies have shown that having a plan beats motivation.

I spent another 15 minutes dreaming up a plan to manage this type of situation in the future. I probably spent hours… over the course of many days, worrying about or being annoyed about this situation.

If it seems daunting to sit down and make a plan, know that you’re 5-15 minutes away from mental freedom. Not that bad!  

The plan I came up with was to build a hierarchy of takeout choices so that if something comes up, I have a preset list of options I can fall back on that were thought out in advance.

If one of the options is not available, I need to focus on portion control and not dwelling on the situation as a failure, but rather a one-off that I can come back from. Consistency is greater than perfection.

All nutrition facts are major guesstimates.

When you eat out, you are likely getting more fat than you think. By asking for dishes to be steamed, sauces on the side and strategically picking fat sources, you can minimize some of the hidden calories.

Control your consumption of sauces and learn to eyeball some basic serving sizes. For example, a true serving size of rice is about the size of a cupcake wrapper.  

Remember, nutrition is a long game.

Making slightly better decisions regularly adds up to results. As long as this is an exception, versus your daily dinner, let it go and enjoy.

Healthy-Enough Takeout Options

Thai

  • Papaya Salad with Chicken or Chicken Satay (400 calories; 62C, 12F, 28P)
  • Chicken with Vegetables.(500 calories; 30C, 21F, 46P)
  • Green Curry with Chicken, Veggies and Rice (500 calories; 75C, 9F, 31P)

Chinese

  • Shrimp and Vegetables (335 calories; 30C 11F, 24P)
  • Beef and Broccoli with Rice (440 calories; 52C, 30F, 30P)

Mexican

  • Salad with Chicken, Peppers, Black Beans, Cheese, Avocado. If there are multiple sources of fat, choose only two of them. Example: keep the avocado and cheese, but skip the dressing. (450 calories; 36C, 18F, 38P)
  • Steak tacos with Corn Tortillas, Veggies, Salsa, Cheese. Manage fat choices wisely by picking one: crema, guacamole, cheese, etc. (510 calories; 41C, 23F, 31P)
  • Fajitas with a choice of carbohydrate. Pick either tortillas, rice or beans, but not all three. (547 calories; 60C, 23F, 32P)

Italian

  • Salad with Chicken and a slice of bread (450 calories; 36C, 18F, 38P)
  • Grilled or Steamed Fish with Vegetables (350 calories; 20C, 16F, 28P)

General/American

  • Modified Cobb Salad. Choose two of these fat sources and skip the rest: dressing, eggs, avocados, seeds, bacon, cheese. (350 calories; 21C, 19F, 33P)
  • Chicken Burger with Salad or Vegetables (481 calories; 38C, 26F, 29P)

Pizza

  • Try to avoid but if can’t, try to get a salad too to fill up on greens
  • Limit to two slices which would be about 600 calories (68C, 24F, 24P)