It's become clear to me recently that when people are trying to stick to a certain set of nutritional guidelines, it isn't the day-to-day preparation of meals that is the problem.
Most people find it relatively easy to make more of an effort to plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks in an effort to lose weight and feel more healthy.
It isn't the daily routine that is a problem. It is the 'special occasions', the birthdays, weddings, funerals, leaving dos, girls' nights out, quiz night, poker nights, reunions... And while these feel like special occasions and therefore exceptions to the rules, it is just these occasions where it's almost more important to say no to the bad stuff, to stay on track and make sure you are planned and prepared. There are always going to be birthdays, weddings and funerals.
So while it's important to get yourself into a routine daily where you are making sure you have a good breakfast and don't allow yourself to get too hungry so that you aren't able to make good choices, it's also important to get the special occasions under control.
The pont of a meal out is not to stuff ourselves with as many starchy carbs and sugar-filled treats as we can, the point is to relax as we haven't got to think about planning, preparing or cooking the meal, to relax as we don't have to set or clear the table or wash up pots and pans, fill and empty the dishwasher. The point of a meal out is to spend time with people you want to spend time with - be it family friends, colleagues or good contacts.
There are always ways to make a seemingly unhealthy choice of establishment work for you.
Try to go for a light starter if you have to have one, one that avoids bread or anything deep-fried. Go for a salad and ask for the dressing on the side, not to avoid the fat but to avoid the sugar that comes in most commercial dressings - or ask for olive oil and vinegar.
Try replacing the chips that seems to come with everything, including pasta dishes, with extra vegetables or salad - most places are happy to do this for you.
Try to avoid things that come with pasta or pastry and go for fish or chicken dishes.
Try to avoid the deserts at the end of the meal, choose fruit if it's an option or if you have to have a pudding, have one or two bites instead of the whole thing. That way you don't feel like you're denying yourself but you limit the fallout!
If you are faced with a buffet, avoid anything that is deep-fried or comes with pastry - go for the meat, fish and vegetable options - stack your plate with salad - potato salad does not count!
At the end of the day, the way you approach special occasions should be the same as you approach everyday life - plan, prepare, think.
Having said all this, there are occasions that you can plan and prepare for well in advance. Perhaps you have been uber strict with yourself for months so that you can have a Christmas day blowout. In that case, enjoy and for goodness sake don't feel guilty!
Just get back on track as soon as you can and don't let it become a habit - because you know it's always someone's birthday!