Ever feel you have no choice but to order specific items on a menu? Or that your peers are judging you for the types of meals you consume?
You’re certainly not alone.
Clinical research shows many now experience peer pressure when evaluating their eating choices. You’ve likely experienced the same feeling.
It’s your turn to order at the restaurant. You hesitate for a moment, look around the table, and then go with the majority. You want to eat that delicious Greek salad but don’t want to experience negative feedback for your healthy selection.
Take the time to analyze your relationship with food. What elements go into your decision-making processes? What role do your peers and your environment play in your dietary choices?
Today, we’ll explore how you can manage peer pressure and take active, mindful control over your decisions.
Studies Show the Influence of Our Social Circles
A recent study published in Nature Human Behaviour explains how our social circle influences our eating patterns. The study examines 6000 Massachusetts General Hospital workers eating at the hospital’s cafeterias over two years.
The study uses cross-sectional and longitudinal data on employees making purchases within moments of one another. The results show the foods purchased by the various employee pairs were more alike than they were different. This data reveals how individuals tend to mirror the food choices of those in their social circle.
So how can you improve your meal choices when surrounded by friends or colleagues?
Communicate Your Goals Clearly
Communication is essential to getting your message across and explaining to your friends and colleagues the value of healthy eating within your life. Of course, you don’t have to bring graphs and charts to the lunch table. You don’t have to lash out at those in your social circle.
Articulate your thoughts clearly and detail your goals for the future. For example, you might explain: “I’m trying to stick to healthy eating habits. So, I’ll pass this time”.
Be direct. Don’t allow for interruption or interjection.
Build Trust in Yourself and Your Goals
Remember: You don’t have to justify your food choices to anyone but yourself. While a medical professional might ask you about your diet and how you plan to improve your health, those in your social circle have no right to give their input. Feel free to ignore negative feedback on your choices.
Make it abundantly clear you are making a healthy choice for yourself, and others are free to do as they please.
Your group will begin to admire your leadership. Often others feel the same way as you. They feel judged. As if they cannot make the choices they would like to make.
Taking control of your health can have a positive impact on others who wish to do the same. When you make healthy choices and make your honest feelings clear, you’ll soon find others look to you for leadership.
Rehearse Speaking with Confidence
Making any effective change requires planning. It requires you to consider the steps you’ll take and to methodically plot those steps in your mind before you take action. Practice saying: “No, thank you”. And remember that “no” is a complete sentence.
Focus on the Science
Thinking like a scientist will help you to stay on track with your healthy eating goals. The idea is that if you focus on the science behind healthy eating, you’re less likely to be distracted by emotion.
For example, someone in your social circle might comment on the “unhealthy salad” option you’ve chosen. The scientist in this scenario will consider the nutrients in the salad and knows that the fat in the dressing has some dietary value. The result is that you feel satisfied and enjoy a healthy meal that you’ve personally chosen.
Remember that a Choice Does Not Define You
The idea can apply to many areas of our lives, but it remains highly relevant to dietary practices. We often connect one poor decision to another.
We think because we went out last night and ate a greasy pizza with our friends that we might as well do the same thing today, but healthy eating and avoiding peer pressure is a day-by-day process.
It involves taking positive acting every day to find out what you love to eat and how you wish to accomplish your health goals.
One poorly considered decision does not have to become a pattern.
Tips for Building Your Support Network
You can surround yourself with well-wishing friends and family and still falter on your healthy eating journey. We all make mistakes. Those missteps are a part of life. It’s how you respond that matters most.
Building your support network is the best way to ensure you bounce back from a set back quickly and with a renewed positive mindset.
Consider the following options:
- Partner with an individual
Reach out to a friend or family member and discuss your health plans in detail. Ask them to hold you accountable for your actions. You can also do the same for them.
This system of accountability can help you create the foundation of your new healthy-eating strategy. You don’t have to share all your private thoughts and feelings with this person. Just ensure you can talk to them when you feel pressured.
Having access to this resource can be crucial as you begin to assess your eating choices.
- Consult with a health coach
A health coach is someone who can advise you about healthy eating options, but perhaps more importantly, they can help you manage potential lifestyle hurdles. Your coach will speak with you about your health challenges and offer guidance based on the latest medical data. Their guidance aligns perfectly with the scientific approach to healthy eating previously mentioned.
- Broaden your social circle
Now is the perfect time to join new and exciting social groups. Consider local meetup groups in your area based on healthy eating. Attend social events in your area and meet new people with varied interests. You’ll soon discover there’s a world of opportunity and information out there for you and you’ll regain your control and comfort as you adapt to new surroundings.
Use Science and Support to Define Your Meal Choices
You are in complete control of the choices you make. Your last choice does not define your next. Take time to yourself and consider your true intentions with the food you consume.
Support is available to help you reach your healthy-eating goals.