Today, I want to turn the spotlight on our relationships. Whether you like it or not, our health, well-being, food and exercise choices are very often related to the people that surround us. Husbands, wives, children, friends, co-workers, parents, in-laws, even our pets.
Although more general in nature, this quote nicely sums it up:
"Almost all our sorrows can be traced to relationship with the wrong people and our joys to relationships with the right people."
John C. Maxwell, "Talent is Never Enough"
Multiple social and behavioral studies describe the effect called mirroring. Whether consciously or not, we often mirror other people's behaviors, and that extends to food behaviors as well.
Have you ever caught yourself reaching for something you don't usually like, just because your friend was having it?
Here’s a sobering statistic:
For about 85% of female ProCoach clients, relationships are the number one cause of their troubles with eating.
Not “lack of motivation”. Not “lack of willpower”. Not “laziness”. Not “poor nutritional knowledge or kitchen skills”. Not “gluttony”.
Sometimes we fall into disordered eating almost by default — simply by copying what people around us are doing.
Can you think of any behaviors - helpful or harmful - that you've picked up from people close to you, or that they have caught from you?
Do you recognize any of these people around you:
You move in with a tall, skinny guy. He works a physical job, and you work at a desk all day. You eat what he eats. Years later, he goes to work wearing his high school jeans, and you've changed your wardrobe multiple times over the years.
You care for your family and want their approval. Food is love, you think. You cook what they enjoy, and indulge in it heartily, as a way of showing affection. Plus, the kids love pizza night, right?
The Food Pushers
"Oh just have one bite! You're always on some stupid diet!" Whether at a party, an office social, a bar mitzvah, or breaking the Ramadan fast, people sometimes push us to eat more or differently than we would like. Hey, everyone else is doing it, so it must be a good idea!
The Food Club
We all have friendships where bonding happens over a coffee and cake, or a couple of drinks and some nachos. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying food and the occasional martini with our friends. But some of those friendships can turn into unholy and unhealthy pacts: I won’t notice you getting fat if you won’t notice me getting fat. And often, women bond over mutual self-criticism — “Ooh, I’m so fat!” “No, I’m fatter!” If you’re getting off that track by making positive choices (and you are, right?), others can feel defensive.
If you suspect that your relationships are contributing to unhealthy eating, it’s time to figure out what you can do to change that.
Firstly, take some time to think about how certain relationships in your life affect your food, drink and exercise choices.
Map out who are the people that help you reach your health and fitness goals and who are the people that hinder your progress.
It can be overwhelming to focus on all relationships at once, so today concentrate on just one relationship.
Is there any way you could make that particular relationship just a little bit better?
For example, can you start meeting your friends in places that serve healthier, yet still delicious, meal options? Start small and see how it goes.
Before I go, I wanted to mention the other side of thinking about relationships.
Have you ever thought about how your behaviors affect other people around you?
It can be very motivating to realize that our actions can positively or negatively impact our loved ones.
When you reach your health and fitness goals, how is that going to affect your relationships, with your spouse, kids, parents?
How will they benefit from you succeeding at your challenges?
If you need help getting motivated, figuring things out and learn how to navigate around cravings, give me a shout.
I can help you learn new habits that will support your health and wellbeing as well as everybody around you.