Most of us have experienced peer pressure at one time or another, most likely when we were adolescents. At that time, it was pretty blatant: ’Buy these jeans, everyone else has them’…‘You need to make the basketball team, otherwise you’ll be a loser’…‘Try a sip of this punch or a smoke, it makes you feel great.’ As we get older, however, peer pressure is more subtle…more damaging. We are confronted with judgment and pressure from friends, family, colleagues and even the media, day after day, often all in conflict with one another.
Kellie, a friend of mine, grew up in a household where healthy eating wasn’t practiced. If anything, fatty meats and fried foods were quite the norm. As an adult, however, she has become more and more aware of what she should eat and what she should avoid. It hasn’t been easy for her – trying to break years of conditioning – but she is doing a great job and seeing the benefits of it each day.
Recently, Kellie went out to dinner with some friends of hers and while she ordered a grilled-chicken breast with steamed vegetables, her friends ordered the same old greasy fried food they always had. Kellie, received a lot of flack: ‘miss perfect…miss healthy…miss goody-to-shoes.’ She ignored their comments and after the meal, she knew that she had made the right decision. All of her friends proceeded to unbutton their pants in the car-ride home, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. Kellie, however, felt satiated, healthy and good about herself…a true reward. What Kellie experienced, unfortunately, isn’t uncommon. She was criticized for making good choices. In this situation, she was able to rise above it, but it isn’t easy: When people who you are close to don’t support you in your choices, it can be detrimental and undermine you in reaching your goals.
Being healthy is a choice, just as being unhealthy is a choice. It isn’t something that you are born with. I find it so aggravating when people mock those of us who choose to be healthy. If we did that to those individuals who are fat, out of shape, etc., we would be considered insensitive, demeaning and cruel. Well, it goes both ways.
If you have been unhealthy for most of your life and are trying to change, it takes a lot of work. If it didn’t, 65% of Americans probably wouldn’t be overweight with 31% being obese. Even when you have been healthy for some time, it still takes willpower and determination to stay that way. It isn’t easy saying ‘no’ to chocolate chip cookies while the rest of your office digs in. It isn’t easy getting up for the gym at 6am when you could sleep in until 7am after a late night. It isn’t easy maintaining balance when traveling for work. Choosing to be healthy takes continual effort, consistent motivation and great self-respect.
For those of you who are in the process of making changes in your life to be healthier, surround yourself with people who either ‘get-it’ or respect you for it. If people tear you down, tell them that it is your choice to be healthy, and if they have a problem with it, then they should keep it to themselves. Negativity is the last thing you need. It is hard enough to make the right choices without it. Trust in yourself and your choices…for they’ll pay off in the end.