What to do when "everyone" pressures you to break healthy habits

Let's be honest, when you're ready to start a healthy lifestyle, the LAST thing you need is your closest friends and family members trying to convince you to break all the good habits you started.. just yesterday. Amiright? 

We all know the feeling - TODAY I'm committed! TODAY - I'm not eating sweets. TODAY I'm going to the gym. But then you're reminded that it's your co-worker's birthday. What do you do? As important as it is to incorporate healthy habits into your life, you would think it would be easier to get the support you need, right? Riiiight....

We have pressures ALL around us - enticing us to break healthy habits (or not start them in the first place). And all "for good reason." Sometimes it seems like everyone around us - friends, family, co-workers - are all encouraging us not to eat healthy.

"Wait.. you love me but you want me to be unhealthy!? I'm confused."

Why aren't you supporting me? Ever felt like that? Isn't it about time someone at least ACKNOWLEDGES how difficult it can be? Can't you see I'm trying here!? And you're messing with my groove.

The struggle is so real. Sometimes it seems like the whole world is against you - trying to make you break all the healthy habits you JUST put into place. Click to read exactly how to deal with those pressures, plus grab the free checklist!

Time to get real. 

Social Pressures

Maybe you have friends that are gym fanatics or are constantly eating clean. You know - the ones who have nailed the healthy lifestyle? The ones that will insist that it's not a hobby, but a way of life? 

If so - that's fantastic. You should probably get a little closer to them, because you already have a natural support group. 

But, chances are you might know one or two people like that, but that probably doesn't describe all of your friends. It probably doesn't even describe most of your friends. And most likely - those people you know who are actually living a healthy lifestyle-  aren't your closest friends. Again, I could be totally wrong. If I am, see above - we could all use a dose of that and you should take advantage of the support you already have. 

If you're like most people, you probably face some of these social pressures: 

  • "What do you want to do? Dinner?" (every day?)
  • "I don't feel like cooking. Want to grab something to eat?"
  • "Lazy Saturday -- Netflix all day!"
  • "Come on, it's just one piece of cake."
  • "Eat healthy tomorrow - it's my birthday today!"
  • "Can't you just skip the gym tomorrow?"
  • "Food is just too good. I don't know how you do it." <-- because I'm not depriving myself!?
  • "Check out this new diet pill - you don't even have to do anything." (and you don't see any red flags?)
  • "I'd rather die young than diet" **rolls eyes** I'm NOT dieting!
  • "Just come out with us - don't make it awkward."

With constant invitations to be unhealthy, you HAVE TO KNOW WHY you're creating healthy habits. 

You're going to see a common theme as we talk about 4 types of pressures today. The best way to combat these pressures? Create that foundation for yourself. Know why you're motivated - why you're really motivated. Dig down deep and find that reason (or reasons) you want a healthy lifestyle so badly that nobody can stop you. Need help? I have a motivation checklist for you. Yup, I got you covered. 

Here's the thing. That list I just rambled off, and all others you can think of -- are all invitations. Nobody is forcing you to make changes you don't want to make. Are they pressuring you? You better believe it. I'm not trying to lie to you. But it's an invitation. And you can ALWAYS decline an invitation. It's just easier to say no when you really know what you want.

Sure, you love your friends, but that doesn't mean you have to skip the gym or eat cake if you don't want to. It also doesn't mean you can't ever go out to eat or grab a sweet treat every now and then. Balance is such a sweet thing.

What it does mean?  It means that when you want to say no, say no! It means that if your friends really love you, you'll still be friends (even if they're teasing you more than you'd like). Also? When you say no, you'll be teaching your friends what's important to you. You'll be sharing that motivational foundation you've built and you might even be able to motivate some of your friends to establish a healthy lifestyle as well. They'll thank you later.

Family Pressures

First: obviously all of these pressures are going to have overlap. So let's just talk about the things we haven't covered yet. Good?

Family knows you better than anyone! They love you - they'll do anything for you! But often they'll also be the first to criticize you. Because they know you so well. And they're comfortable with you - in a no holding back kind of way. Y'all know it's true - and sometimes it sucks, I know. 

Do any of these sound familiar? (and you're lying if you say no.)

  • "I'm just sayin'."
  • "If we can't give you a hard time, who can?"
  • "Oh, so you're better than us now?"
  • "Remember? She doesn't eat our food anymore." Then glares at you.
  • "You can't go to the gym tomorrow, we have Anna's birthday party."
  • "Are you going to choose the gym over your family?"
  • "This healthy lifestyle is getting out of hand." (hopefully it's not.)
  • "Is there anywhere you can eat? We want to go out as a family and we know there's a lot of places you can't eat."
  • "Oh, lighten up!!"

Sigh. 

If only it wasn't true. 

But not all hope is lost. Come on -- this is your family! They love you! Sometimes you get "tough love." Sometimes that's just part of life.

Most likely, family (out of everyone) will be hard on you because they care about you. Even though you may not always see it that way.

Family pressures to break healthy habits

Unfortunately, sometimes we care about a person so much, that we think we know what's best for them and we insert our opinion a little too much, a little too strong. Good intentions aren't always carried out in a good way.

You're likely to get a lot of (unwarranted) opinions. Be kind. Sincerely listen. Implement the suggestions you think would work well for you and politely decline (or ignore) the ones you don't. Invitations may seem more difficult to turn down with family, but remember that the choice is still up to you.

Everyone - including your family - may not understand why you're making the changes you are. Some of your healthy changes might be foreign to them. Some might conflict with existing family traditions. The only person who can explain why it's important to you is you (shocker, right?). Particularly with your family, you need to know why you're motivated. Know it so well that you can easily explain it. Try your best not to get frustrated. Instead, try explaining why it's so important to you to create a healthy lifestyle and ask them to support you. You might be shocked to find how much of a difference that can make.

If they still don't understand, do your best to remember your motivation, reinforce it to yourself and accept their confusion, frustration or disappointment for the time being. They'll eventually come around. After all, they're family and they want the best for you.

Cultural Pressures

I'm half Samoan - you better believe I understand cultural pressures to eat. Anytime you go to someone's house, they're going to feed you. And expect you to eat. A lot. Why? Because they want to make sure you're taken care of. It's a wonderful thing! People are so kind and will always feed you - whether their cupboards are full or empty, they'll find a meal for you. So kind, and from such a good place. So how could you possibly say no!? 

Believe me, I get it. I seriously struggled with it. Honestly, one of the best things I did was to learn why I'm motivated to keep a healthy lifestyle. Having that foundation makes it a little easier for me to say no to all kinds of pressure. It also helps me understand where I can be flexible and where I can't. 

Whatever your cultural pressures might be, sometimes you just have to say no. As hard as it might be to recognize or admit, some traditions change (and should change) and that's ok.

When do have to say no, say it politely, of course. As politely as you can, say no if you're not hungry. If you are, go ahead and eat, but don't over-stuff yourself. Be sure to generously (and sincerely!) thank people for thinking of you and for offering.

You can still spend time with the people you care about and enjoy good conversation. Help out if you can - do the dishes and be sure the people you're with know that you sincerely enjoy their company. Sincerity goes a long way. 

If there are particular traditions or ceremonies that occur (and aren't in line with your healthy lifestyle), plan ahead! Know what you're getting into - where you can make exceptions, where you can't.

If there's someone who's being honored and you don't want to offend them, talk to them in private, ahead of time. Explain (again) why it's so important to you to keep healthy habits. Ask them if they understand and whether they'll be ok with you making an exception or coming late so you don't disturb other guests. Try to find a solution together. 

If you're still not sure what that reason is, be sure to download the free motivation checklist I have for you. This solid foundation is crucial to a successful healthy lifestyle.

Workplace Pressures

Another big awkward monster - workplace pressures! Talk about a tug-o-war!

  • You want to be professional but you want to stick to your healthy habits.
  • You want to bond with your co-workers but you'd prefer to bring your lunch.
  • You need to entertain clients, but you also need to get your sleep.
  • Everyone is going to lunch to welcome the new guy/gal. Everyone but you?
  • A client brought in donuts as a thank you. Will not eating one offend them?

No wonder everyone talks about a work/life balance! Not only does it apply as far as time off and time spent in the office, but it applies to personal habits and how you carry them out in an office setting. 

Motivation, motivation, motivation. Of course I'm going to keep coming back to that. However, tact in the workplace is probably one of the most important places to have tact. You can't just tell your boss no and run away - or look like the cold person who doesn't want to welcome anyone to the office. At least, not if you want to keep your job and a good relationship with your co-workers. Right? Is that right...?

To a degree, sure. But you can still always say no. Politely and as tactfully as possible. Even in the workplace, you're welcome to decline invitations. 

However, here are some suggestions you might find particularly helpful for the workplace:

  • Go out to lunch with your co-workers only ____ times a week.
  • Decide to bring your lunch ____ times a week.
  • If you're going out for lunch (or taking clients to dinner), suggest a restaurant that has healthy options. 
  • Go golfing with a client instead of going out to eat. (Or do something else active - I once did Hot Yoga with a client - you'll definitely bond in new ways.)
  • Suggest a healthy workplace challenge so everyone can get involved. 
  • If you're on a work trip, stock up at the local grocery store at the beginning of the trip.

All of these suggestions require first knowing your motivation. Once you have that foundation laid, you'll have reason to find and suggest healthy alternatives whenever you feel you "can't" say no. 

My perception is that the workplace is actually becoming a much more health-conscious environment. That doesn't mean that keeping a healthy work week lifestyle will be a total cake walk (ironic term, right?), but I personally think it's likely that your workplace will be receptive to healthy suggestions. So be brave, give it a shot. Instead of just making a suggestion for a healthy restaurant you like, suggest healthy initiatives your boss can put into place to help improve the overall quality of life for the employees - and ultimately help them be more productive. What company doesn't want that?

Before I leave you, let me give you a few tips

Tips for overcoming pressures to quit healthy habits

(that should apply to all of the pressures we talked about):

  • Know what you want and why you want it - don't let anyone mess with your motivation.
  • You might need to be more strict about not making exceptions in the beginning and that's ok.
  • The people who are important will still be around if you say no.
  • Invitations are meant to be declined (or accepted), but the choice is yours. 
  • Learn how to make healthy choices at a restaurant so you can eat out without destroying all your good habits. 
  • Sticking to your guns will help motivate those around you and they'll (eventually) thank you for it (most likely). 
  • Remember that the feeling of accomplishment you get from creating a healthy lifestyle will far outweigh the pressures you face. You'll be happier and it will get easier over time. (even if that's not how you feel immediately)
  • Grab the motivation checklist if you haven't yet. After all, it's helpful and it's free: