Friendship can have a major impact on your health and well-being. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times.
Friends can also:
- boost your happiness and reduce your stress.
- improve your self-confidence.
- encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits.
When we form relationships with people who have healthful habits and lifestyles—those who can inspire, encourage, and motivate—it can help us immensely during our healthy-lifestyle journey.
Sometimes our friends may not be as supportive as we’d like them to be:
- Does your friend drop by with a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies, because she knows it’s your favourite?
- Does your friend bring you chocolate to cheer you up?
- Do you mention that you’re joining a gym, and your friend says, “I heard that exercise can actually make you gain weight”?
- Or are you at a restaurant and your friend orders fettuccine Alfredo, saying “I don’t know how you can eat that salad”?
Whichever scenario applies, the results are pretty much the same. While their intentions may be all good, the result can be disastrous for those trying to stick to a healthy-eating plan.
The problem may start because you’re in ‘change mode’ but your friend isn’t. A real friend wouldn’t intentionally undermine your healthy eating. A few reasons why they may do this are:
- They don’t understand. Friends who’ve never had a weight problem can’t understand why you don’t go back to eating ‘normally’ now that you’ve lost that weight.
- They miss the old you—the food experiences that you once shared. Food is often how we express love and happiness and good times.
- They may also feel guilty that they need to adopt healthier eating.
Here are some strategies to adopt that will help friends be more supportive:
- Have a heart-to-heart conversation. Your friend may not know what she’s doing. Tell her that getting leaner and healthier means a lot to you. People who don’t have issues with food, don’t usually realise the level of temptation experienced by people who do. Telling her that you need her help may make her more supportive. It may be best to directly ask your friend not to give you food as gifts.
- If it’s very difficult for you to stay on track, let your friend know. If you need support when the late-night munchies hit, ask your friend if it’s okay to call.
- If you’re at a restaurant—and you had no input as to the selection of that restaurant—and there are only high-calorie foods on the menu, ask your friend to split an entree with you, so at least you’re eating less. And next time, you get to pick the restaurant—one where you know you can order something healthy.
- Reassure your friend that you are driven by health, not vanity; that you are scared of the serious health risks associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, and that exercise and sticking to your diet and losing weight is one way to ensure that you’ll be around longer. In this way, you can share a long-lasting friendship.
Most people have at least one friend who is trying to eat healthier. When your friend is adopting healthier eating habits, here are some ways you can help her when you hang out:
- Pick a place or activity that is friendly to her goals. In the spring and autumn, see if there are restaurants that serve healthy food and that have a variety of salads.
- Know her goals. Is she trying to lose weight? Is she trying to eat healthier? Is she trying to cut down on sugar? These questions can help you relate to and support your friend better.
- If your friend is comfortable with it, you can offer to be her ‘accountability buddy’. Some people may find this helpful.
- Celebrate her success with her. Achieving a goal that you’ve worked hard at is always a big deal. Acknowledge that achieving a lifestyle change and adopting healthy habits is important to her, and celebrate her success with her.
- Help your friend see that she can both stick to her lifestyle and hang out with people they care about. Celebrate her success, console her when she makes a mistake, and always cheer her on.
Friends can play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Encouraging them to support you in your healthy-lifestyle journey can foster long-term, cherished bonds!
Rosalie Shatzman is a weight-loss coach who is passionate about helping people lead a healthy, active lifestyle. “When you have your health, you have everything.”
She works both in-office and remotely from Hewlett, New York.