Dieting is hard work.
Social Influences, whether they be from your friends or family, can make it even harder.
You see, humans are naturally social creatures and eating has always been a part of being social in our culture.
Think about it. Almost all of the social decision we make involve food in some way...
Every family reunion is orchestrated around food.
You go out to eat with your friends on the weekend.
We buy our significant other chocolate on Valentine's day.
Unfortunately, most of the food we celebrate with are not favorable for losing weight. On the contrary, they are usually the types of foods that caused us to gain weight in the first place!
We Are Who We Surround Ourselves With
For most of us, it can be extremely difficult to maintain good eating habits when our social environment is regularly bombarding us with unhealthy temptations.
Friday night beer & wings and late night frozen yogurt extravaganzas can be hard to resist, especially when the invitations are coming from friends.
In fact, research shows that we are heavily influenced by the weight, habits, and lifestyles of those around us.
For example, one study found that having a friend, a sibling or a spouse who is obese increases your own obesity risk by up to 57%, 47%, and 37% respectively. (study)
Here is another shocking finding. (this one really surprised me!)
Each obese person you know is correlated with a 0.5 increase in your own risk of becoming obese. (source)
In on of my favorite nutrition books of all time Mindless Eating, author Brian Wansink describes how impactful our social environment is on the way we eat.
One of the most startling findings was this:
How much you eat while dining out depends on the size of the group you’re with. Eating with one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven or more other people is associated with a 33, 47, 58, 69, 70, 72, and 96 percent increase in energy consumed, respectively. (source).
It's not surprising why our social environment heavily influences our diet and eating habits.
It's only natural to want to fit in and avoid going against the grain.
Unfortunately, losing weight requires that you occasionally go against the status quo. Sometimes you have to pass up the Ice Cream Social or After-Work Happy Hour Appetizers
(These things are okay in moderation, but it's nearly impossible to eat fattening, high-calorie foods on a daily basis and lose weight at the same time. This is especially true if you aren't counting your calories)
Luckily, there are ways to create balance and compatibility between your health objectives and your social environment.
Build Harmony Between Your Weight Loss Goals and Your Social Circle
If you find that dieting is impacting your relationship with friends and family in a negative way, you may need to address one or the other.
It's entirely possible to accomplish your goals of becoming leaner and healthier while also maintaining friendly and happy relationships with the people in your life.
Here are some ways you can create harmony between the two:
1. Clearly Communicate Your Goals Within Your Social Environment
A lot of the time, your friends and family may not realize just how important your goals of losing weight are to you.
When I first started losing weight, I felt embarrassed about dieting (crazy how we can be embarrassed for eating healthier and exercising, isn't it?)
At first, my friends didn't realize how important losing weight was to me. They would constantly poke fun at my lunch salads and frequent after school runs.
However, once I verbally expressed how much I cared about getting healthier, they quickly become supportive of my decisions and even helped me by providing encouragement and motivation.
Your friends and family care about you. More often than not, they will provide extra support during your weight loss journey.
If they don't, then you may want to reevaluate their involvement in your life (more on this in a bit...).
2. Social Influence Works Both Ways
Just as your social environment can affect your eating behaviors in a negative way, you can also influence your friends and family with your new, healthy lifestyle habits.
Whose to say that your motivation for losing weight won't rub off on the people around you?
This happened with me and one of my best friends growing up. He noticed how I was able to lose a substantial amount of weight, and it gave him the motivation to get lean himself!
He is now no longer overweight and in incredible shape!
Don't just assume that your desire to lose weight is going to impact your relationships negatively, in fact; you may just motivate your friends and family members to follow in your footsteps.
3. Only Surround Yourself With People Who Will Build You Up
It's rare that close friends and family members won't support you in your pursuit of losing weight and becoming healthier, however, there are always those few who will try to bring you down.
When someone in your social circle tries to discourage you for losing weight, it typically means that they are either jealous of your progress and dedication, or they simply aren't as "friendly" as you thought they were.
If you have friends who negatively impact your ability to lose weight, then it may be time to rethink your friendship with them.
No true friend would actively discourage you from trying to live a healthier life.
Negative family members are a slightly harder to deal with...
It's probably not you desire or in your best interest to completely disassociate yourself with a member of your family. However, you CAN lessen the effect that their opinions have on you.
Developing more internal drive to lose weight is going to help phase out the negative influences of others. Once you develop a strong mindset and have a clear goal, what others think won't matter as much.
If you have family members who are discouraging you from losing weight, the best advice I have is to simply ignore them.
It can also help to find out WHY they are discouraging you.
Really think about WHY they may be dissuading you; you'll likely conclude that it has nothing to do with you personally, rather their own lack of motivation.
Build a Strong Mindset and Other's Opinions Won't Matter
When you're are affected by negative social influence, it's typcally because you haven't developed a strong mindset for accomplishing your goal.
A strong mindset is crucial for losing weight; it's what will keep you going when motivation and willpower run low or when others around you aren't as supportive as you'd like.
Your success or failure in losing weight and getting lean is entirely up to you. Once you realize this, it will be easy to embrace positive encouragement and block out negativity.
In my program Envision Yourself Thin, I actually dedicate the first few sections entirely towards building this mindset that's so critically needed for weight loss success.
It's only once you build the right mental strategies and thought patterns that you'll be able to experience lasting weight loss success.
Before you go, could you do me a favor?
If you found this article helpful, feel free to share it on Facebook, twitter, myspace (if anyone is still using it...).
Heck, it might just help "influence" some of the people you know in a positive way 😉