Peer pressure is a very real thing, and it doesn’t stop after high school or college. It can be a serious hindrance for personal goals like weight loss.
When everyone around us is eating certain foods or overindulging in alcohol, we’re way more likely to follow suit. It’s no secret why—it’s fun to join in and comforting to feel a part of the group. But doing what everyone else is doing can lead to detrimental choices that compromise our health. And when people actively pressure us to join in, it’s even harder to stay focused on our priorities.
Of course, those who peer pressure us aren’t actively trying to sabotage our health. It’s human nature to question things we don’t understand or haven’t tried for ourselves (like saying no to that milkshake). Often, it’s coming from a place of love—they want you to enjoy yourself. Yet this mindset can often lead to them guilting you to the point that you give in.
Here are some tips to stand strong and navigate peer pressure, so that you can stay in control of your own journey and your goals. You’ve got this!
Set aside 15 minutes to consider and answer the following prompts. We suggest writing (or typing) out your answers:
Where are you in your health and wellness journey, and where do you want to go?
Are there people around you who’ve gotten in the way of your goals? How?
What do you value about your relationship with this person? Do you have a certain role that you slip into in that relationship?
This exercise is especially useful when you’re getting ready for a situation where you know you might bump up against extra peer pressure, like a vacation with friends and family or the holiday season. Use your answers to create a plan and set boundaries around your food and alcohol intake, exercise and movement, and how you plan to spend your down time.
When you’re dining out, here are a few simple steps you can take to stay in charge of what you eat—and how you feel.
Listen to your body before all else. Decide on what you’re going to eat before you even get to the restaurant. Pause for a moment to tune into your body. Decide how hungry you are and what your body needs that day. If your body feels like it’s needing vegetables, focus on the veggie options on the menu.
Be the leader. Offer to order first and you’ll help set the tone for the rest of the table with your healthy food choices. You’ll not only set a positive example for your group—you’ll also be less tempted to change your mind about your order.
Savor each bite. When the food arrives, eat mindfully: Notice the texture, the taste, and the smell. Enjoy your meal and your company fully, and keep your eyes on your own plate to avoid temptations.
This requires some forethought too. When making plans out with family, friends, or coworkers, try to nail down a plan beforehand on where to go. If you anticipate certain trigger foods being involved, you’ll be able to plan ahead and set yourself up for success, so you can set yourself up for success and enjoy the outing—rather than feeling stressed. For example, if, on coffee outings, everyone tends to order pastries, you can scan the menu before you arrive and choose the best-quality option (e.g. a treat that’s gluten-free, lower in sugar, and/or smaller in size). Or maybe you bring a healthy snack (like cacao-covered almonds or apple slices and almond butter) to enjoy either during or after the gathering to help balance your blood sugar.
Imagine that, after staying on track with both your exercise and eating habits for some time, it’s your birthday, and your coworkers make you a cake. Of course you’ll feel grateful, and obligated to have a piece—it’s your own birthday cake! But you might also have that voice in the back of your head reminding you of the weight loss journey you’re on, and how far you’ve come. You can take the reins by having a smaller piece. Either offer to cut the cake yourself or just ask for a half-size piece. If someone serves you too big a portion, simply cut it down. Ultimately, eating a smaller amount of a dessert will still leave you satisfied, and you also won’t have to compromise the hard work you’ve put in.
When you set goals that involve specific dietary choices, it can sometimes feel easier to keep it to yourself. But it’s almost always worth it to share what you’re up to with your peers and loved ones. When someone says, “Hey, have a doughnut. One won’t kill you!” you can simply say “no, thank you,” and explain that a doughnut, delicious as it may be, isn’t worth giving up your goals to feel more healthy and confident. If you find yourself at a holiday gathering where you need to turn down a traditional food, reassure them that this isn’t about rejecting their culture or familial love—it’s about you, your mindful eating practice, and your health goals.
On that note, it’s important to recognize how cultural practices—particularly ethnic and religious influences—inform how you feed yourself and your family. These influences can affect everything from the amount of sugar you eat in daily meals to the size of your plates. Don’t be afraid to broach the topic. When you show up to a family meal or holiday celebration, share your health goals with your family, so they’re clear on why you’re making adjustments to what, and how much, you’re eating. Explain that going for smaller portion sizes and loading up on veggie-rich options is what you need right now, and reiterate you’re there to celebrate and embrace traditions alongside them. More often than not, they’ll support you as long as you’re transparent, and they’ll just be happy you’re there.
If you’ve tried all of these tips and someone in your life continues to push you to eat the things that don’t align with your health journey, you may need to draw a line. It’s okay to create the separation you need in these scenarios. This can be hard if it’s a family member or significant other, but when others are impeding on your health, you need to set boundaries. If a certain friend who always insists on cheeseburgers and fries wants to go for lunch, you can decline and ask if they’d instead like to go for a walk with you or do some other activity that won’t compromise your goals.
If it’s your husband or wife guilting you, and you can’t agree on healthy meal options that work for everyone, that might mean you need to make your own dinner every night for a while. This isn’t an easy feat, but we believe in you—be strong, put yourself first, and be your own health advocate.
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving nearly 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.