Sunday, 16 October 2016

Post 28. Ketogenic Social Events (or how to eat clean at social gatherings)

Hi Guys,

I’m sure you’ve come across this problem before;

Your knee deep in your diet, you’re doing really well, losing weight, looking good and feeling good, and then something dark looms on the horizon. An event which previously would have brought joy to your heart, has now mutated into something awful. A question arises which wasn’t really a problem before: what does one do for social occasions? How do you negotiate the awkward jarring of your old and new life? Can you have your cake and eat it too? (huhuhuh)

This is the sort of event which, as Jack describes, is commonly defined by that sweet devil named cake. And don’t fool yourself, because you know that it’s not going to be some “healthy cake” made with organic ingredients. Or better yet, a “fat bomb” (look them up, they’re awesome).

This is the chocolate cake with icing, sprinkles and those stars on top which people eye up with a near fervent desire. Better yet, it’s a Colin the Caterpillar cake from M&S… And it doesn’t stop there, because the cake is preceded by all the foods that you swore off.

So what can you do? Become a social pariah and demand that only food appropriate for your diet is served? Perhaps. I mean, it would be effective at maintaining your progress, but not your long term social life.

A lot of advice gets thrown around and a lot of it is cliched, so today I want to present to you first the boring ideas, and why they might work, and then I want to throw at you the advice which I follow myself i.e. the stuff that really does work. As always, I want to tell you, the reader, exactly what I do to stay on track. This is my own tried and tested method which you can start using straight away.

The Cliched Advice

1. Talk to them ahead of time

Ahh the old classic. “Maybe if I just explain to them beforehand they’ll totally understand”. Face it, you’re being a pain and you’re being apologetic; you haven’t got the balls to say what you really want. Worse yet, your host goes out of their way to make a special dish for you, which, while absolutely lovely, is just extra hassle for an already busy person. Talking to the host ahead of time can be effective in getting what you want, but it’s the “behind the scenes” effects which aren’t worth it.

2. Refuse to eat anything

This was referenced to previously, but it creates the same risks as point 1 and to be honest you’ll just come off as an arse. Take notice, however, that I say “anything”, rather than “particular things”. It’s going to come off really badly if you show up and say “no thanks I’m going to be chowing on some internal fat stores”, but if you start to pick and choose exactly what you want… there could be something there…

Don't become a social pariah. You're going to need something better than the cliched advice

3. Schedule a workout on that day

Now this comes last and perhaps could have made it into the “proper advice” section, because it genuinely does help. What defines social gathering’s food offerings? Carb dense foods. And when are you at your best to receive carbs? After a workout of course. The only reason why I would avoid this strategy is because once you start to say, I can have all these delicious things because I worked out, then why not say that on any other day? It might be that to stick to your diet, you’re the sort of person who needs to be absolutely strict. This is what works best for me. I feel at my best after long periods of “clean eating” and on a scientific level, it takes 2-3 days to get back into nutritional ketosis. So if this is the case, why would I want to be breaking my state on every workout day? Once you open up that door it is hard to close it. I would rather stack all the “bad things” on one day. Which leads me to the following...


On a personal level, I’m more of a fast/feast/binge/purge kind of guy. I’d rather go all out one day than spread it out over the week, because it works for me on a psychological level. Knowing that I’m going to throw caution to the wind and have exactly what I want to have at a social event frees my mind to enjoy a clean lifestyle otherwise.

What cheat day means for some...

On these days I’ll have a long fast beforehand, and probably another one the day after, but apart from that I like to simply go nuts and have anything I want. This happens maybe every two or three months. So perhaps the problem isn’t “how to stay keto/eat clean at social events” but how to introduce a little scarcity into your life. You’re not at every event, because it goes against what you want to do/eat, but you’ll sure be there for the big occasions, and on a mission at the same time to enjoy everything you’ve said goodbye to.

Also, in a perverse way, it reminds you of how bad things used to be. You realise what it means to feel bloated, and what it means to be tired all day even though you slept for a long time. I’m not eating junk food, I’m eating perspective!

Real Advice: Become a One Man Brand

Now we get on to the real advice, the stuff which I do myself to turn a gathering more ketogenic. This is in addition to what’s said above about sometimes just throwing caution to the wind and going nuts.

Becoming a “one man brand” is my absolute number one tip, and pretty much encompasses everything I have to say from an effective advice perspective. This is something that I have built up over time and is like any reputation.

Now, you need to realise that you don’t need a blog to make this part of your make-up. You earn it over time and eventually it supplants the first piece of cliche advice. When people know “what you’re like”, they’ll go out of their way to support that without you asking. This dramatically reduces the hassle resentment.

It also massively helps with rejecting certain foods. You’re the “healthy guy” who doesn’t have “that stuff”. You’ll no longer get odd looks, tuts and sighs, because it’s your “thing”.

Part of this reputation is built off of the back of a little initial awkwardness. There is no free lunch, after all. You’re going to learn to reject things you don’t want, but remember, they’re not off the table forever, especially if you allow yourself to say “screw it” every now and then and do whatever you want. In this case, honesty really is the best policy, become a straightforward person and don’t have things you don’t want to. The downside is actually pretty small. It’s your body after all. If you try and make me feel bad for not eating something then you, quite frankly, can go to hell.

Being a OMB helps you to pick and choose freely just as Jack talked about in the initial question. You can load your plate with the food that you want and avoid the ones that you don’t. All the while you have an implicit agreement with the other people there that it’s all par for the course. And this is a big point as well, if you’re serving yourself, then you have absolute freedom to pick and choose exactly what you want. Just do the obvious thing and give yourself a small portion of whatever you don’t want!

This is a sneaky one, but if you won’t be serving yourself, then eat a lot beforehand, and then you won’t be at fault when you say that you’re full, and you won’t feel like you’ve cheated yourself out of a meal.

Not only that, but when you’re showing off your legendary willpower (people will be genuinely amazed that you can resist sugary treats) they will be more likely to want to find out about your lifestyle and what you do to stay healthy. From that point onwards it’s only a matter of time until everyone is dancing to your keto tune…

I’m extending this analogy ad absurdum, of course, but the point stands. Being a role model in this way will make people stop and think. It starts with a small change and that snowballs into something else, and you become their point of reference. It generates massive respect.


So what are you to do with all this? The truth is, you’ve changed, and other people are going to need to start realising that. So use this week’s takeaways to break through one of the biggest problems you face in keeping a diet going and staying healthy:

  1. Become a “one man brand” and let your actions do the talking
  2. Get over the initial awkwardness, realise that it’s your body/life and you can do what you want with it
  3. If you feel like you can’t give up these things forever, then schedule days where you have everything that you want. Throw caution to the wind in its entirety.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and good luck going out there and building your own OMB. What are your own experiences? Have you tried out these methods and succeeded or failed? Leave a comment below and let’s get the discussion started.

Until next time,



  1. Great advice Tom, love reading your approach to these circumstances.

    I take a similar approach - I try to limit the damage without being neurotic about it. Some really great ideas here in this post!

    1. Cheers Mark! I'm wondering, how do you approach your cheat days? Days, or meals? And all out, or just more food?