December 4, 2023

How to Stay Social on Your Whole30

Dear Melissa—Melissa Urban wearing a light blue jean top and darker blue jeans, cooking on a wooden table top, and smiling at the camera.

I always encourage you to stay social on your Whole30, recognizing that your health commitment is an integral part of these interactions. Sure, this month, you’re not drinking alcohol, eating added sugar, or grabbing a slice of pizza, but that doesn’t mean you have to live like a hermit. One of the most powerful experiences on the Whole30 is learning that you can celebrate just as much, bond just as well, and have just as much fun without a glass of wine, slice of pizza, or piece of birthday cake in your hand.

However, during your Whole30, you may need or want to say no to certain invitations for gatherings, parties, or other events. Joining your in-laws in wine country may not prove a fun weekend for you, your office pizza lunch may leave you feeling left out, and you may want to avoid happy hour with your peer-pressuring boss—at least until you’re through the first week of elimination. So today, we’ll tackle how to approach social situations that may negatively impact your commitment, suck your energy and willpower dry, or just don’t sound fun at this phase of your Whole30.

Protect your energy and your health commitment

Some gatherings may not be the best environment for your Whole30, even if you usually enjoy the group or the event. Think of a pizza lunch with colleagues, going out for ice cream with friends, or an event that will demand you to stay up late, say no a lot, and perhaps feel forced to defend your health commitments. These may be instances that make it more difficult to stay social on your Whole30. Here are some generic phrases you can use to preserve your peace and energy:

  • “I’m sure you’ll have a blast tonight, but I really need a chill weekend at home.”
  • “I’m going to stay in this weekend and get organized for next week. I’ll text you on Sunday night so you can tell me all about it.”
  • “Thanks for asking, but I committed to meals at home this week. Do you want to meet up for a walk on Saturday?”
  • “Thanks for the invitation, but that’s not the vibe for me this weekend. Y’all have fun!”
  • “I’d like to spend time with you, but I don’t enjoy that group. Hit me up for some one-on-one time.”
  • “I’m bringing my own lunch all month—it’s a fun little self-experiment. Thanks for the invitation though.”
  • “I’m not drinking right now, so this party won’t be fun for me.”
  • “I’m deeply committed to an early bedtime this week, so I’ll pass on tonight.”

Notice that none of these lean on, “I can’t, I’m doing the Whole30.” While the rules will always be there to fall back on (and I’m more than happy to be the bad guy), leaning on the Whole30 doesn’t build your confidence setting and holding your own healthy boundaries. In addition, you may get unfair pushback: “Ugh, the Whole30 is ruining your life/our relationship/all the fun.”

Instead, lean into your own needs and feelings, and express them clearly and kindly. Yes, you’re on the Whole30 and that bar crawl won’t be fun if you’re not drinking, but that’s not about the Whole30 rules, that’s about prioritizing your health commitments and not putting yourself in a situation in which it will be extremely challenging for you to hold that promise to yourself. See the difference?

What if you already committed?

If you said yes to the event (like a wine and food tasting) before you committed to the Whole30, OR if you said yes, but now think this event, group, or situation isn’t in your best interest, it’s better to change your mind and communicate that clearly and kindly. (The alternative is going anyway and feeling miserable or anxious all night, letting it take a toll on your mental health, and potentially giving up on your health commitment when faced with pressure.) This is one area where you might want to invoke the Whole30, to demonstrate that you’re not just being flaky. Try:

  • “I was excited for this event, but I realized that it’ll be hard to participate now that I’ve committed to the Whole30—and this program is really important for my mental health (and XYZ—fill in your own personal reasons). Feel free to give my ticket to someone else–do you want to come over for dinner next week so we can catch up?”
  • “On second thought, I don’t think this group/event is really the vibe I need right now. I’m going to stay home.”
  • “I’ll be honest—I’m feeling uncertain about this weekend, and I feel like the best thing to do for my mental health and my Whole30 commitment is to stay in. I hope all of you have a blast, and I’d love to hear how it went when you get back.”

I’d also encourage you to share a bit more of your specific concerns, like, “I worry there won’t be anything I can eat,” or “I don’t want to feel pressured to drink,” then be open to their responses. They may come back with, “Let’s scope out the menu together right now,” or “Oh, it’s totally casual—bring your own Chipotle bowl, no one will care,” or “I know lots of people going who don’t drink, and this isn’t the kind of group to pressure you. I think you’d still have fun.” If not (or you still aren’t convinced), stand firm in your commitment, and offer another way to connect with this person or group. Finding alternative options that align with your health goals allows you to stay social on your Whole30 and still allow for meaningful connections.

Things you really should attend

What if you really should attend for the good of the relationship, but know there will be challenges that could derail your health commitments? Think about your romantic partner’s recreational soccer matches (where beer is plentiful on the sidelines AND they always end in a pub crawl), a good friend singing at a nightclub, or a baby shower where you know diet talk and food judgment will be rampant. Have you thought about how you might compromise?

  • “Babe, I can’t come to all your games, but I want to cheer you on. I can be there for the second half tomorrow after work—and you can enjoy the after-party with your team.” (BYO kombucha or sparkling water to cheer their goals.)
  • “Nightclubs aren’t my scene, but for you, I’ll be there. I may stand in the back where it’s less crowded, but I’ll wave to you! Can I meet you somewhere before the show so I can say good luck?” (This way, you don’t have to stay until the end if you don’t want to.)
  • “I can’t stay for the whole shower, but of course I’ll be there. Could I come a half-hour early to get some quiet time with you before everyone shows up?” (During the event, excuse yourself from conversations you find uncomfortable, step outside for fresh air as needed, and leave quietly when you need to.)

Whether the event is a birthday party, wedding, or mandatory workplace event, there are almost always compromises you can make, especially when your physical and mental health are at stake. Work with the event organizer, guest of honor, or a buddy to find a solution that works for both the relationship and your health commitments. This collaborative approach not only fosters understanding but also strengthens your capacity to stay social on your Whole30.

Best in health (and boundaries),
Melissa


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