If I were asked to identify the most surprising change I experienced over the course of my journey from obese to obsessed with all things fitness, I’d have to say it was the one that occured with my social life.

People always go into weight loss believing that everything will be the same, but your body will be different. Well, of course that isn’t true—the life you lead today is the life that enables the body you have today, and no change in how you live almost certainly means no change in your size—but do we underestimate the degree to which things will change?

So many people ask the question about “social lives,” and how to navigate the number of events that a young professional—and, of course, you’re only as young as you feel!—would attend for business, networking, dating, friends’ nights out, or family. It makes total sense – not only are you likely to be bombarded with cookies and cupcakes, but there’s the alcohol, too. I’m constantly weary of Obligatory Drink-in-Hand Syndrome (if you don’t have one, rest assured, someone will bring you one.)

So, how do you manage a fitness plan with a social life? As always, I have a few tips:

1) Eat before you go… and I mean right before. Hors d’oeuvres are notoriously salty, or sugary, or fatty. It’s a part of the point – they’re delicious little bites, and you can find yourself curled alone in a corner with a half-eaten tray of bites scarfing them down, or wind up following the server around all night if you’re not careful. Not only is that gauche, it’s mad embarrassing. Eating at home, before you go out, saves your pride and satisfies your appetite. Never go to a party hungry.

2)If you do eat those sweets, do it mindfully. Decide to yourself, for yourself, that you are going to eat this cupcake. That you are going to taste it, and not inhale it. You might even toss it if it tastes bad. You’re going to look for flavor, and savor it. You are going to understand that the taste is supposed to be fleeting, and that once it’s over, it’s over. And the fact that it’s over doesn’t serve as a challenge to continue the taste (or any subsequent feelings) by diving in and eating more.

3)…the same goes for any drink. Drinking is already considered a no-go when it comes to fitness plans, and you should operate on that belief……but no one’s going to trip out of you decide to have that mimosa, or whatever specialty house drink is available that day. If the house is serving up oyster shooters, and you can mindfully enjoy one without it resulting in a binge? Then by all means, shoot. But remember – alcohol is an especially frustrating proposition because it’s not only unnecessarily high calorie, but the wrong combination of drinks, sans proper hydration, can cripple you until well into the next day. There’s nothing worse than trying to get in that early morning jog with a hangover. You also shouldn’t feel afraid of simply turning down the alcohol in favor of a non-alcoholic beverage, or – if you’re dealing with a particularly suggestive host – even duping everyone with what looks like an alcoholic drink. I’ve personally been known to add a little water to my own orange juice… viva la virgin screwdriver!

4)Accept that, sometimes, you just might have to say no. If anything, this was what surprised me the most. I had to spend a lot of time accepting that every event wasn’t for me. I simply wound up having to be more strategic about my social life. Part of what makes “fitting in” fitness into an already active social live so hard, is the fact that your calendar is already packed to the gills. Careful planning will require making sure that, on nights that precede an early morning session with that trainer, you’re in bed at a decent hour the night before. It might mean going to a function a little later in the evening, because you’re got to make sure you get in that post-workout meal.

Never fear, my Social Butterfly. Your social life doesn’t have to suffer simply because you want to get fit. Careful planning combined with mindful consumption can not only protect you from the foolishness, but can make your life that much more enjoyable sans guilt! As I always say, your body will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award winning blog A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, where she blogs her journey from 330-pound couch potato to certified personal trainer and nutritionist. Ask her your health and fitness-related questions on Facebook and Twitter