How to handle social pressures while losing weight
Julia Hahne • May 16, 2019
Let’s face it, losing weight isn’t easy to begin with. What can make it even more difficult is when family, friends, associates, and peers attempt to pressure you into indulging. This can not only become frustrating for the person trying to better themselves, but can also become mentally draining feeling like your goals are constantly being sabotaged. This blog will not only provide insight on why people may peer-pressure, but also provide helpful tips, tricks and strategies on how to handle it the next time it’s happening!
Why do people do this?
I will start off by saying that we are creatures of habit, it is understandable and normal to want to fit into a crowd. Being the only person not indulging in that chocolate cake or sugary cocktail can leave you feeling isolated and socially anxious. What makes this worse is when people feel the need to force food/alcohol on you, which may leave you feeling guilty and suggestive to temptation. It is important to understand WHY people may be doing this.
There are countless reasons people feel this need to sabotage the progress of others. Some people may have tried and failed to accomplish what they see you successfully achieving. In this case, seeing you fail will enable them to rationalize their own failure. Some people, on the other hand, may just be insecure and resistant to change. In this case, this person will probably do whatever they can to bring you down and discourage you so that they feel better about themselves. Other people may have a different philosophy than you do when it comes to weight loss. In this case, these people may feel challenged by your methods and try to force their opinion on you, or they may not understand why or how your approach is working for you.
Try to remember that whatever the reason, this is the persons own coping mechanism in dealing with whatever struggle they may have going on behind the scenes. Next time someone tries to bring you down while you’re doing something to better yourself, think could they be feeling disappointed in their own inability to say no to peer pressure? Could they be feeling guilty for not being able to succeed in their own weight loss or personal goals? What helps in these situations is surrounding yourself with a social network who share your goals, mindset and values around bettering yourself to live an overall healthier lifestyle. The ones who truly care about you will understand that you’re pursuing a positive change in your life.
Tips on avoiding peer-pressure:
While avoiding negative people while you are on a diet may be impossible, how you react is your choice. Here are some tips and strategies to hopefully make your next encounter easier!
- Be prepared! – A key part of maintaining your goals is being able to plan ahead of time. This means figuring out your environment, who will be there, and what your options are. If you’re going to a restaurant, for example, you can look at the menu ahead of time to make sure there are good options. If you are going to a friend’s house, you can offer to bring something that you won’t feel guilty about eating! Knowing who will be there will be important in knowing what way they will try to pressure you (if at all) and how you can avoid that situation.
- Choices- If you are in a buffet or self-serve setting, simply choose foods that you can have. If your worried that people will question your choices, then put other things on your plate and just eat around them! As long as you have the food on your plate, they will most likely assume that you have already been eating it.
- Eat before you go- If you are ever in doubt about where you are going, what is going to be offered there, and who will be there, just eat before you go. This way you will be full and satisfied while you are there and less vulnerable to temptation and pressure.
- Let them know ahead of time! – One of the easiest ways to avoid peer-pressure all together is to talk to them ahead of time. If you’re going out to dinner with your friends you can say something as simple as “I am on a diet and I have been really good about it, so I would really appreciate it if you guys could support me and not pressure me tonight” Or if you know the restaurant does not have many good options, you can always ask them if they don’t mind going somewhere else where there are more options to support your lifestyle.
- Focus on emotions rather than outcomes- When people question why you are dieting, try responding with “I am trying to practice my willpower” rather than “I am trying to lose some weight”. If you focus on a positive outcome you are trying to achieve, it is going to be hard for people to retaliate. Focusing on an emotion makes it nearly impossible for people to be able to judge because no one can tell you how to feel. If you tell them you are trying to lose weight, you might get the likely “oh stop! You do not need to lose anything!” response.
- Bend the truth a little- No one needs to know why you are doing what you are doing. If people are persistent with their attempts to bring you down, tell them that you think you may have a gluten or lactose allergy and that it has been making you feel sick, so you are trying to avoid it. There is almost no possible way that people can pressure you after telling them this.
Strategies to avoid alcohol:
- Bring your own ingredients! – If you’re at a house party, simply concoct your own non-alcoholic creation. Stur, stevia, seltzer and garnish are going to be great options in fooling people to think there is alcohol in there! Add all the ingredients together and it will resemble a vodka soda with a splash of cranberry and lime.
- Order a mocktail- If you’re at the bar, ask for your favorite alcoholic drink to be made “virgin”. For example, you can ask for a virgin margarita or a virgin mojito! (note: if you are on program omit any non-program approved additives). Keep in mind you can always ask for soda water with lime or lemon which resembles a vodka soda!
- Slowly empty the drink– If you are holding onto a drink, try and “milk” it. Chances are, if the drink is empty friends and peers are going to pressure you into getting another. You can just say no, but if your sensitive to suggestion you may cave. In this case, your best bet would be to slowly sip on the drink all night so that friends do not pester you. Another option can be to slowly find opportunities to slowly rid of the drink. For example, tell your friends “Mmm this is so good! Try it!”
- Cover your drink- If you’re at a house party, try bringing your own koozie and hide a polar seltzer or Zevia in there! No one will question it and assume you are holding a beer.
- Focus on outcome- If you give people a reason that drinking may have any negative impact on your night/ day, it will be hard for them to push and easier to shut them down. For example, if you find that they are continually pushing alcohol on you, explain that you have a lot to do in the morning, so you are trying to avoid a hangover. Another option is pretending like you are just getting over a cold and you want to focus on getting better. Or, (my personal favorite) pretend like you’ve already had a few drinks and you want to avoid getting too drunk because you have to drive.
Keep In mind, if you feel comfortable telling people the truth about not wanting to drink, take this route! No need to deceive people if you are comfortable saying no to pressure or if you feel like your friends will accept your eating habits and decision to not drink!
Please remember that this is your weight loss journey and no one else’s. There are always going to be events/ parties/ situations that will be impossible to avoid. If you want to treat yourself after all your hard work, then go for it! However if you feel like you’re constantly avoiding these circumstances in order to avoid peer pressure, that you are continuously succumbing to temptation, or simply find that your weight loss goal is being sabotaged, then it may be time to re-evaluate who you choose to spend your time with. Hopefully these recommendations make your next social gathering easier!