Whether it's politics, religion or the type of recreation we enjoy, we all tend to associate with people who are similar to ourselves. This is completely normal, of course, and there is nothing wrong with it. It does lead us to believe, however, that more people think or behave like we do than is actually the reality.
This tendency to group with like- minded people can cause problems when one member chooses to make changes in their lifestyle. It's widely recognized that peer pressure doesn't end in Junior High.
Felons on probation are forbidden from associating with other felons. People recovering from alcoholism and substance abuse are more likely to succeed when they stay away from active users. Smokers have a better chance at quitting permanently when their spouses don't smoke.
A few years ago a study was published that made the sensational statement that obesity is contagious. Obviously you can't catch it, but people do judge themselves by those around them. If your weight is similar to that of your friends, regardless what it might be, you tend to think it’s fairly normal. Eating fast food and deserts also doesn't seem like that big of a deal if everyone else is doing it with you. As I said, peer pressure doesn't end with adolescence.
Over the years of practicing chiropractic, I have had a great many patients who need to make a change in their diet or activity level. A common complaint I hear is that their spouses, coworkers and friends aren't supportive. In fact, it sometimes seems that they don't want them to be successful.
Recognizing that many people wishing to lose weight could use camaraderie, as well as sound information, my wife Ellen recently conducted an eight week permanent fat loss education and support program. A large part of its success was that members met other members who had similar goals.
Also, regardless of the changes we are wishing to make, most of us do better when we are held accountable. If I have a training partner meeting me at the gym, I’m not going to sleep in no matter how appealing the idea might seem when the alarm first goes off. If I have committed to entering a bodybuilding contest, I have a lot more motivation to resist foods that aren’t on my training diet.
You don’t need to enter physique contests to reap the benefits of accountability and camaraderie. Spouses, coworkers, and friends can all be great partners and allies in making a habit out of new behaviors. Whether it’s meeting your friend at the gym for a yoga class or walking after work with your partner, swapping healthy recipes or making a pact with someone else to eat less processed food, support and accountability are powerful tools when you want to make changes in your diet and/or exercise habits!