We all have that friend. She doesn't fall victim to love handles, her muscle tone would give even Carrie Underwood major leg envy and she rocks a ponytail that's the perfect marriage of elegance and cheerleader pep.
She's also super nice, and she doesn't flaunt her awesome abs or flawless skin. So, you can't hate her. I know, It's rough stuff.
I'm not that friend.
When I lived in Chicago – a place where ranch dressing is a food group all to itself – I understood that effortless fitness perfection was not my strength. Then, I moved to Los Angeles. With every Lululemon Barbie who invited me to go hike Runyon Canyon, it became glaringly apparent I now live in a city where the entire female population is comprised of "that friend."
Hiking, biking, paddle boarding: It never stopped. But I couldn't keep up with it any longer. There had to be a better way to deal than forcing a smile as I ingested what seemed like the entire contents of the beach on a "leisurely" bike ride to the Santa Monica Pier.
Guess what? There is a better way to deal with it. With minimum effort and maximum trickery, I've nearly mastered the art of appearing healthy around these fitness fanatics.
Alas, my forever quest to "keep up" with these physically fit Angelenos is now my gift to you. Follow these six easy steps, and your Friday evenings will be spent cracking open a cold one instead of rushing to "friends and family night" at the rock climbing gym.
1. Make sure your workout wardrobe basics don't cost more than $5.
The fit facade you're trying to portray shouldn't cost so much that you have to forgo your weekly happy hour. The goal here is to make it to happy hour after slightly breaking a sweat while using your friend's "plus one" pass at SoulCycle.
Free workout classes are the only ones you should be attending. The clearance rack will be your new (and surprisingly stylish) best friend.
2. Only suggest workout opportunities that you know have about a 7 percent success rate of actually happening.
Effort is the number one factor here. Check the weather and traffic. Suggest a hike 30 miles away during rush hour, when there's a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms.
It looks like you're taking initiative. But when the time comes, you'll be snuggled in your onesie, binge-watching Netflix. Long story short? It'll be pizza and wine instead of a protein bar and water bottle you dropped 17 times in the dirt.
3. Follow healthy living social media accounts.
This is the same concept as making sure you at least buy the textbook you need for class. Appearance is key here.
You don't have to read all the health mags. Just scroll through the SparkNotes version that is Instagram.
Offer up the great quinoa bake recipe you saw Cooking Light post a couple of weeks ago. Make sure you recommend using the tricolor because it will give your meal fun variety.
Note: You don't have to buy into this blatant lie because – as you probably know – there is literally nothing that makes quinoa fun.
4. Understand the difference between a kettle ball and kettle corn.
Don't laugh this one off. I mean, I hope you chuckle a bit, but then go right back to business. It sounds like a little joke, but it's a mistake like that will instantly give you up as a health fraud.
Your perceived knowledge of basic healthy living concepts is the glue holding those wannabe abs together. When your friend asks you how heavy you go on your kettle swings, make sure to reply with the number of pounds. Ten should be a safe bet.
Do not, under any circumstances, bring up the sweet and salty goodness that is the best carnival snack known to man.
5. Offer to accompany your extremely ambitious friend to her next half-marathon.
Be careful, though: Do not mistakenly offer to run it with her. The sweet spot at these races is on the sidelines.
You get to savor some Starbucks, scarf down one too many breakfast pastries and create witty posters to motivate the runners. Seriously, though: The posters are the best part since they're basically just an excuse to search through hundreds of Ryan Gosling "hey girl" memes until you find the perfect one to pep your friend up as she hits mile 11.
6. Suck it up and actually work out (a little).
I'm not saying you should give up precious weekend sleep for a 6 am bootcamp class. But maybe you can take a stroll around the block or get down with some yoga while you catch up on whichever franchise of "The Real Housewives" is serving up the best drama. The sad truth is, exercise really is good for us.
Also, it works. (Don't you hate that?) It's actually super satisfying when you put on your pants and your buttons aren't all angry at you, threatening to pop at any given moment.
Number six stings a little, doesn't it? It took me a while to accept those cold, hard facts too. All or nothing is difficult to maintain.
I've run half-marathons – around mile eight, I always wish I could be on the sidelines – but I've also eaten takeout for dinner five nights in a row.
Something funny happened, though. While I was putting forth all that effort to avoid physical exertion and kale, I discovered a happy medium might be just the best place to land. For example, I find I'm happiest (and possibly even healthy) when I can chow down on any configuration of cheesy carbs on Friday night, and then wake up to accept a hiking invitation on Saturday afternoon.
So, take back your weekends from the serial cyclist who's always trying to drag you out of bed at dawn, and feel free to use these steps to find your way to your own happy place.