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9.26.2011

is your social life sabotaging your health?


You are up at the crack of dawn 3 weekday mornings hitting the gym. You go for a hike on the weekend. You log a 4 mile run on Saturday afternoon. You watch what you eat, provided you are in the comforts of your own home or at the office. On paper, you look like a health and fitness nut. However, something happens when you throw your friends into the bag.

...A lady friend wants to meet up for a post-work drink, which easily turns into 2 plus going to bed an hour later than usual. Your other pal wants to go out for dinner to catch up. Your significant other wants to go watch the game at the local bar. Your friend's birthday is this weekend, which means another night out on the town and waking up feeling awful. The scary truth reveals itself.

Society revolves around eating and drinking; and it always has. Unfortunately, social situations often call for nights out at the bar or in restaurants. Many argue that you have fewer choices and less control over your diet when you are out. This is an excuse. You can opt for something off the menu that isn't deep fried, you could eat something beforehand instead, or you could give some thought to what drink you can order to avoid blowing your entire diet. Moderation is the key in life. It's when things go from occasionally to usually that your health is going to suffer.

Humans are social creatures and many of us thrive on the rush of being in public for everyone to see. I think it's time, however, for us to consider how hard we work to stay healthy, and how our social lives may be sabotaging our efforts.

Did you know? "Your best friend could be your waistline's worst enemy: An obese buddy can increase your chances of becoming obese by 57 percent, and when your bestie becomes obese, your risk shoots up to 171 percent. The domino-effect data is harsh but makes sense: You live, laugh and love together? Surely you eat and exercise (or not) together too." (youbeauty.com)
Anyone who has actually considered this sabotage has probably tried at some point to either A. Say no more often to activities involving consuming alcohol or unhealthy food, or B. Tried to continue the same routine, but opt to not participate in the actual consumption part. Both result in a tough blow to our personal social lives in one way or another. We either see friends less, or we look totally awkward saying "No, I've already eaten," or "No, I'm not drinking tonight." So, what can we do to break the cycle of taking 1 step forward via your usual diet and fitness routine, just so you can take 2 steps back from a couple nights on the town.

First, consider your friends. Friends are supposed to share your same morals, standards, ideas, and lifestyles in some way or another. Have you recently taken on a new group of social butterflies? Are your friends in tune with their health? Are your friends big drinkers? Are your friends members of a gym? Taking a step back to reflect on the people you spend the most time with is so key. If you notice large differences, maybe you should consider a conversation about what their goals and life aspirations are. Maybe there is someone in your group that is feeling equally as overwhelmed in regards to spending too much time at the bars and is sick of feeling exhausted all the time. Believe it or not, someone who is feeling the same way as you may be closer than you think. If you have been spending too much time with people that don't agree with your outlook, it may be time for a friend facelift. This doesn't mean dropping your "party" friends like flies, but it may mean trying to link up with someone from your workout class, your anthropology course, your workplace, or the coffee shop. Put yourself out there and strike up a conversation with a stranger; you never know what sort of connection you could have.

Second, take personal responsibility. This is your life and no one is forcing you into eating or drinking anything you don't want to. No one has tied you to the couch for the last 3 hours. You are an independent person and are allowed to make choices for yourself. Sure, it may mean looking a little awkward being the only one at dinner to not be eating or to only be indulging in one glass of red wine. I guarantee you might feel awkward that night, but you will be 100% thanking yourself the next day.

Plus, it is a great conversation starter. An acquaintance might mistake your opting out by congratulating you on your pregnancy because you are drinking a good old fashion coca-cola. Here's the moment to tell her you believe it shouldn't take having to carry a baby to start looking out for your health or taking a few nights off from the gin & tonics. Don't doubt your choices in the face of the non-believers or neighsayers. In fact, see if you can get others on board. Suggest signing up for a Wednesday night yoga class with your gal pals instead of your usual post-work drinks. Call the boys and suggest a Thursday night pick-up-soccer league instead of your usual "thirsty Thursday" activities.

Take a moment to think. If you are constantly feeling tired, run down, and your trips to the gym aren't showing, maybe it's time to consider if your social life is supporting your fitness and health goals. If the answer is no, consider making small changes initially. If you feel as though your friends present to much pressure on you to skip workouts, eat poorly, or have that extra drink, it may be time to pump the breaks and make some bigger changes.  In the end, your personal health is your own decision. Make sure that no matter what type of lifestyle you choose to partake in, you take responsibility for it fully and completely. Bad influences can be eliminated, drinks can be left undrank, uneaten food put in to-go boxes, and being health conscious can be your priority.


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