It’s kind of a logical conclusion. We are friends with the people within our circle because they are like us. We’re inclined to cling to people who make us comfortable in our own skin – our friends make us comfortable because when it comes to the things most important to us, we are all alike in that area. It makes sense to me.
What also makes sense is that when it comes time to change as a person, if our friends can’t accept that change or downplay/inhibit that change in some fashion, they should fall to the wayside… right?
So what happens when our friends are standing in the way of our growth as healthy individuals? Think about it. Do we get together over a jog, or over a giant Three-For-All (pictured above)? Do we get together and drink a six pack together, or do we go someplace…. where food isn’t involved? If I suggest that we get together over an activity, not a meal… is someone wondering, “Yeah, and can we stop at Chili’s? I’m starving!”
I think it’s a difficult realization to face – that the people we love might be enabling bad habits that are hazardous to our health. I remember my best friend – who actually models – and I always would get together for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and/or the bar. She started working out at a local gym, and I… went for 7 days. That was it for us and the gym thing. And eventually, the more in-tune she got with her health, the more time it resulted in her spending away from me. Phone time? I’ve got you covered. Otherwise, it wasn’t happening.
I can admit it now – her “healthiness” made me uncomfortable! It was a constant reminder of how unhealthy I was, and instead of telling myself “Yeah, she might lap me on the track but I’m good if I keep going,” I said “I’m not going to embarrass myself like this!” She would also tell you, that my friendship was bad for her health. We talked all the time, but we couldn’t hang – because I always needed food to be involved, for some reason. That’s just the way it was. We can joke about it now, but it’s an underlying issue in many friendships, I’d presume.
Enter this lovely article that I came across via Yahoo! discussing how our friendships impact our health. Taken from the article:
In the study, 130 kids ages 9 to 15 were allowed to snack as much as they wanted while hanging out with a friend or with a peer they did not know. All the kids ate more when they were with a friend than with a stranger. But the overweight children ate the most when paired with an overweight friend – an average of 300 more calories than when they spent time with leaner friends. The research also found that friendship itself makes the appetite grow stronger: when overweight kids ate with similar-weight kids who were already their pals, they threw back an extra 250 calories than when they ate with chubby kids they had just met.
If that wasn’t enough to make you raise an eyebrow, here’s a little more:
Socializing with overweight people can change what we perceive as the norm; it raises our tolerance for obesity both in others and in ourselves. It’s also about letting your hair down. Past research has shown that adults tend to eat more around friends and family than they do with strangers. They shed their inhibitions about how it looks when they go back for thirds or order the alfredo sauce instead of the marinara.
I’ve got one more that goes in line with what I mentioned earlier:
Finally, there’s the idea that we like to hang with people who are like ourselves. Cornell food sociologist Jeffrey Sobal explains that “especially among two overweight people, there’s a sort of permission-giving going on. We’re encouraging each other to eat more.”
So knowing this, what do we do? Do we start dumping our friends who are less healthy than ourselves? Do we begin to grow offended by the friends who might’ve faded out of our lives? Do we simply chalk it up to natural progression and look forward to experiencing our own?
I can honestly tell you, I don’t know. Almost ALL of my friends were in single-digit sizes. They all tried to help me, but I had to come to this conclusion about my self and my health.. on my own. With the logic in this article, I should’ve fallen by the wayside a long time ago.
However, their lack of desire to talk to me about health and fitness wasn’t helping me, either. It was almost as if it made them uncomfortable, or they were afraid to hurt my feelings. No lie, it probably would’ve hurt my feelings for sure. It enabled my bad behavior (not like they should be responsible for it in any capacity, anyhow.) It took my making friends who were as fitness focused as I eventually became to help me integrate my healthy habits into my life.
It took me seeing that people “really live this way” (and yes, I put that in quotation marks because that’s the exact quote I said to myself!) for me to accept that this was an option for me. It took me learning that people “really think about these things” when they order food. And sure enough, when I started to blindly and openly talk about these things with my friends, all of a sudden we started to have new conversations! About calories, cooking, health, fitness, exercise, yoga, junk food, everything! It was like they were keeping a part of themselves away from me because they didn’t want to hurt me. Sure enough, our friendships grew much better beyond that because we were able to bond over one more important part of our lives. I learned a lot of the things that I share in this blog from those relationships.
So, I say all of that to say this: If your friends are hindering your progress, don’t just fall back – if they’re in the same boat as you, talk to them and see if you all have the same concerns and are just afraid to bring them up. If they’re “not concerned” or “just trying to enjoy today,” then find more friends to share your fitness goals and experiences with… and serve as a role model for your friends who are in the same boat as you. You never know who you may inspire, or who may bond with you after they become inspired by your progress!