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Surviving Health Sabotaging Peer Pressure
Aug 19 2015

Surviving Health Sabotaging Peer Pressure

By Guest Blogger Danielle Pastula

Peer PressureThankfully, it seems like we’ve reached an era where most people mind their own business when it comes to commenting on the health habits of other people.

You didn’t fall for that did you? Of course that’s not true, everybody has an opinion on everything, especially if it’s none of their business.

Therefore, if you’re someone who has recently adopted healthier habits, chances are you’ve had a friend or two make a passive comment or ask a question about your seemingly sudden interest in living a healthier lifestyle.

Sometimes these questions are purely out of interest, but other times those questions come with a side of skepticism that can leave you feeling like you have to defend your health-conscious actions or hide your motives from naysayers who want to sabotage your efforts.

As someone who has always received flack for eating healthy and being a gym rat, I’ve picked up a few tricks on how to fend off peer pressure from friends who just aren’t getting this “health kick” you’re on. Hopefully you find them useful too.

Tell Them How You Feel

If skeptical friends make comments about how hard it is to stick to a exercise routine or how boring it must be to eat “bland” health food (which you know isn’t true), the best thing you can do is be 100 percent straightforward.

Next time you have a friend trying to coax you in to eating something you’re wanting to stay away from, or convincing you to skip your group exercise class in lieu of happy hour just say, “Listen, I get that you think it’s weird that I’m focused on eating healthy and exercising lately, but now that I’ve made some adjustments, I feel so much better when I skip the junk food and only treat myself to happy hour once a week.”

Tell them that you’re not shaming what they eat or how they choose to spend their time, you like that stuff too, you’re just trying to make healthier choices 80% of the time, and the other 20% you’ll eat whatever you want and do whatever you want, you just don’t feel like making a 20% choice at the moment.

Invite them to the Gym

You’ll find that most people who express their distaste for exercise are typically people who haven’t done exercise they find fun before.So rather than trying to convince them how fun it really is to conquer an intense workout class, let them see for themselves by inviting them to the gym as your guest.

I’ve said things along the lines of, “I know you’ve tried working out before and haven’t enjoyed it, but I take this class with an awesome instructor who plays great music and actually makes it fun, come join me and you can see for yourself without going in alone. And if you really don’t like it, well, at least it didn’t cost you anything!”

Presenting your invitation as more of a friend date than a workout and emphasizing that they have nothing to lose is generally a winning combination.

Side note: I suggest starting off with a class that’s challenging, but not grueling so your friend can see the benefits without feeling like they’re too out of their element.

Change the Places You Go

For people who love to eat, it’s really easy to let gathering over food at the bar or at the newest restaurant in your neighborhood be the glue of your friendships. Sunday brunches, after-work happy hours, football tailgating…a lot of the fun we have with friends involves food.

Scaling back on these activities is one of the best ways to create an overall healthier lifestyle, but the downside is it may make you feel like you’re abandoning time with friends. You might be feeling like you’re damned if you do go to brunch (bottomless mimosas!) and you’re damned if you don’t (where did all my friends go? Oh, that’s right, they’re at brunch).

But just like learning how to balance fun with fitness, you have to learn how to balance your activities with friends as well. Rather than always gathering over food, suggest renting kayaks for a day on the Potomac. Or instead of just doing Sunday brunch, take yoga in the park and then head to your favorite brunch spot. Take the primary focus off food for your get-togethers and you’ll find that you can still have a ton of fun, and who knows, you may convert naysaying friends to your new bootcamp buddies.

With D.C. being one of the fittest cities in the nation, we doubt you have to deal with too much sabotaging peer pressure, but for the few friends who many not be on the same track as you, we hope you give these tips a try.

Have you experienced peer pressure around your healthy lifestyle? How do you handle it? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

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