Active Interaction: Zero Calorie Socialization

I like wine.

And by like, I mean I have an affinity for it so strong that I almost don’t want to admit it. I’m not a lush by any means, as I will always stop drinking once I can no longer appreciate the depth and the breadth of it (usually it’s a 4 glass max). But more than imbibing the wine itself, I enjoy the process of sharing wine with friends. It is, in fact, one of my favorite past times.

On any given night, I prefer to stay in drinking wine with my girls, as opposed to go out and partake in shenanigans. The taste, the company, the way it pairs so nicely with chocolate…what’s not to love? Not so coincidentally, that is exactly what I will be doing this evening to ring in the new year.

A few pitchers of sangria with my Bestie

The unfortunate thing is that I am completely incapable of being around wine without consuming it. I’ll say I’m not going to drink, for physique purposes, and then as soon as the delicious red elixir is poured into neighboring glasses, my walls come crashing down and the wine flows right on in.

Sometimes I wish I had a modicum of self-control.

Because I lack this quality altogether, I have previously found myself avoiding social interaction when I was trying to stay especially lean-for example when I was prepping for a photo or video shoot. Did you catch that? I would actively AVOID spending time with my friends because I didn’t want to eff up my nutrition. Now before you judge me for being neurotic and ridiculously lame, understand that number one-I’m now fully aware of it, and two-I’m actively working to ameliorate it. Thirdly, and most importantly, how many of you might be facing the same dilemma?

I’d gotten so tired of not cultivating relationships because of food; I felt as though I was missing out on my life due to my own lack of self-control. There had to be away to maintain my clean eating lifestyle and nurture my closest relationships.

So I got to thinking-how much of our social interaction, as a culture, revolves around consumption? And if consumption has become synonymous with interaction, couldn’t we bump up against that transpiration and create a new paradigm?

I’d had it. No longer would food control me and bludgeon me into hermitage.

Rather than go to parties and be restricted to celery and seltzer, I decided to make a concerted effort to engage in more Active Interaction; social interaction based on expenditure as opposed to consumption. Instead of meeting for a glass of wine, I’d meet up with a friend for a yoga class. I’d opt for long walks at the park to catch up on the latest gossip, and invite friends for training sessions rather than dinners out.

The crazy thing? It actually worked.

Now let’s be real–it’s not wine. Or chocolate. But it’s wholly satisfying in a very different way.

Sometimes friends can double as weights.

Being active with others is truly an unrivaled bonding experience. While we can bond over wine and food, there is a special kind of magic that occurs when these bonds are created with physical exertion. Activity stimulates hormones, encourages self-improvement and ultimately, helps create a better version of you.

Sometimes, my active interaction sessions are verbal therapy; we talk about the current muddy waters we might be navigating, flesh out ideas for new projects or help each other through rough patches. Other times, they are therapeutic without words, such as yoga sessions where we release toxic energy and seek balance, all the while knowing a friend is on the mat next to us, quietly supporting us.

Movement is a cogent form of self-improvement. It’s an act of physical intention, a quest for a stronger body, a healthy heart, a vibrant spirit-a better you. Bettering yourself while spending time with the people you care about creates a sense of community and positive productivity.

At the yoga studio with my GGS sistahs

Furthermore, while in the throes of physical activity, I don’t think about food. I wasn’t cognizant of this fact until I started to spend more time working out with friends, but training is the only time my mind isn’t on food. This was a pertinent realization in terms of healing my food relationship; the correlation is too significant to ignore.

There are few things I enjoy more than my weekly yoga date with Alli, my enlightening walks around the lake or evening hill sprints with Josh, and my serious training sessions with Jamie. They have further cemented our relationships and filled my life with exuberance.

As the year comes to a close, and you seek to find ways to create deeper happiness in 2013, I propose this:

Replace one social event each week with an active interaction.

If you do this, by the end of 2013 you will have accumulated 52 active interactions. That means that you will spend 52 days engaged in physical activity with friends. I know it seems like a lot, and who really has time for that? Well, you do.

You have time to make your life better and to share that enriched state of living with the people you most care about. That doesn’t mean that you won’t ever share a glass (read: bottle) of wine with the girls or commune with loved ones over a full table; it simply encourages balance in the way we consort, creating habits that will enhance and harmonize our perspective on consumption.

Here’s to a happier and healthier year ahead-make it the most active one yet!

  • Kari Mills

    I can TOTALLY relate to having no self control, so I avoid social settings when I’m trying to lean out. Good goal for 2013. Thanks for this. ;) Keep doing your thang,it’s much appreciated.

    • Neghar Fonooni

      You’re quite welcome, Kari! I know how much it sucks to avoid social settings when you’re leaning out-which is why I took things into my own hands. I hope you find success in that area.

  • KrisR

    Great post. And it’s so refreshing to hear a fitness focused person simply admitting that she likes wine and that it’s ok (in moderation of course!). We’re ‘wine people’ too – and I am just convinced that there is a way to have wine be a part of my healthy life.

    • Neghar Fonooni

      I’m not giving it up, Kris! No way. I can go a few weeks, sure, but I just like it far too much. Life is too short to deny yourself simple pleasures.

  • Lindsey Carter

    Agreed!! Love this… I’m taking it a step further and am actually looking for more like minded friends (health and wellness have grown from interests to non negotiable priorities over the past 2 years and I’m tired of having to beg and convince people to join me)… So my goal is to open myself up to forming relationships with the people that are ALREADY attending hot yoga, spin, kettlebells etc… Thank SO much for all your hard work, and happy new year :)

    • Neghar Fonooni

      That is an AWESOME goal, Lindsey. I applaud you for opening yourself up that way. I joined a commercial gym a few months ago and have met so many new people. It has really enhanced my gym experience!

  • Abby

    You read my mind. Seriously, I LOVE wine and I enjoy having a glass with dinner. I drank A LOT more when I lived in Philly and had friends over for weeknight dinners. However, since moving to San Francisco, my fiance and I drink LESS because we don’t have any friends here! I’d say we split a bottle of wine maybe once during the weeknights, if at all. Since we’re moving back to Philly in August, I’m definitely going to use your “active interaction” tip. Since all of my friends workout, I’m sure we can get our sweat on instead of getting our drink on (unless it’s the weekend). Happy New Year!

    • Neghar Fonooni

      Good luck on your move, Abby! Once you start to make it a point to “get your sweat on” with friends, you’ll notice that when you do get your drink on, it’s less indulgent and that much more special. Happy New Year to you as well :).

  • Anders

    Good advice – Thanks

    • Neghar Fonooni

      You’re welcome-thanks for reading!

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  • Tracy Prior Seffers

    Nutritional debauchery . . . love this . . . I felt the same way over the holiday, and am dialing in the nutrition!

    • Neghar Fonooni

      Same here! 30 days of NO junk or alcohol over here and I am excited for it.

  • Madam Von Sassypants

    In the last year my friends and I have mixed it up by going in on active Groupon or Living Social deals together. It takes us out of our normal routines and we bond by exploring a new or different activity together. We’ve gone rock climbing, discovered a couple new yoga studios, tried “non-pole based exotic dancing” (which actually led to us hiring the instructor for an active kickoff to my bachelorette party), tried hiking yoga, and Crossfit. It’s been a lot of fun and we plan on continuing the practice into the new year.

    • Neghar Fonooni

      That sounds fantastic! Good for you :).

  • Olivia Kaye

    I can definitely relate to this post. I’m a traveling consultant and for me, it’s always been the happy hours with coworkers that have killed my diet. I actually invited a few coworkers to CrossFit with me on the road a few months ago and now a dozen or so of us go CrossFit after work instead of go to happy hour!

    • Neghar Fonooni

      That’s awesome, Olivia!

  • Renita Kalhorn

    I love the suggestion of shifting the nature of social interaction away from consumption. Over the holiday, I met up with a friend who I typically meet for coffee or dinner to play squash (finally, after many months of talking about it). It was so much fun and, like you say, a much more energizing and supportive way to interact.

    • Neghar Fonooni

      I’m really glad you were able to experience that, Renita. My favorite thing to do is a tough training session with friends and a healthy lunch afterwards :).

  • Brenda Banuelos

    Love this! Thanks for including me! Lol

    • Neghar Fonooni

      Well, you’re my bestie!

  • Peleg Samson

    Great advice!

    • Neghar Fonooni

      Thanks, happy to help!

  • Carson

    Love this and awesome advice :)

    • Neghar Fonooni

      Glad you think so.

  • Maggie

    I am totally guilty of this! I used to skip social events all the time because of their potential to mess up my eating plan or because I didn’t want to miss a workout. Unsurprisingly, I started feeling really isolated and lonely! Last year I made a concerted effort to come up with “active interaction” ideas for me and my friends, and I also made new friends who shared my interests. It turns out getting sweaty together is such a good way to bond! Your advice to find balance is right on — thanks for a great post!

    • Neghar Fonooni

      It really is a crappy feeling to miss out on life because of food.

  • Shane Organ

    This is extremely well written, and a stellar message at that.

    • Neghar Fonooni

      Thank you so much. Means a lot to me :).

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  • Gráinne

    So good and so relevant to me! I’ve skipped dinners MULTIPLE times. I’m getting better at suggesting alternatives though-outings that don’t involve eating and spending too much. Think I might suggest yoga or something next. Was surprised how receptive one friend was to cinema over drinks and have managed to get others to do coffee and a stroll instead of food. I miss runs with my friend Paul. Nothing like shared outdoor activity to open your heart :-) Thanks Neghar!

    • Neghar Fonooni

      Yoga with friends is the best.

  • Chiara

    i have been begging my friends for this!!

    • Neghar Fonooni

      Make them do it!

  • Thom Lamb

    Excellent article, I’ll be sharing this with my clients !

    • Neghar Fonooni

      Thank you!

  • justjuliebean

    I’m more of an ex-smoker than an athlete, but where we used to do a happy hour, we now walk up a hill. Or go for a bike ride to the beach. Sometimes we may still go for a drink or nosh (these are meals for me, no longer pre-meal/snack), but we’ll go over a hill or three to a different neighborhood. Some people are more receptive than others to this idea.

    • Neghar Fonooni

      I love that! Every little bit counts.

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  • Lori Hutchins

    I have a fantastic group of friends, and most of them feel the same as I do when it comes to free and healthy social activities. So, instead of drinking we try to go for a hike or go to the gym together. I have weekly dates with friends that involve these actions and we push eachother to be strong. It is amazing! My early 30′s have changed my perspective of what is “fun” and I adore this new view!

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  • Jess Yang

    I thought I was the only one! At first I blamed it on my poor self-control in social situations and I either restrict myself and feel somewhat crappy, or have a bit of the pizza, chips and cupcakes and end up binging (still trying to find a more balanced way of doing this and a healthier relationship with food) but this sounds pretty enlightening and you’re so right about social situations being constantly revolved around consumption! Thanks!