How your friends can influence your health
Friends with benefits
For the most part, we associate living a 'healthy lifestyle' with the choices we make around food and exercise. While this is certainly a significant part of what it takes to be healthy, it's easy to overlook other important behavioural influencers. Yes, being healthy means choosing to eat well and exercise... most of the time, but these choices are nearly always influenced by other factors. Sometimes there are factors outside of our control, such as the weather (it's easy to hit snooze when it's pouring rain and you have a bootcamp session to get to). However, there are some influencers that we can control; such as the company we choose to keep. We all have a handful of friends who don't quite share our passion for health and fitness. Perhaps they scoff and make fun of the fact that you're up early exercising on weekends, or maybe they roll their eyes when you politely decline their mid-week offer of all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta. When important values such as health and fitness don't align, it can place stress on any relationship.
Having said that, we choose our friends for lots of reasons. As such, I am certainly not about to tell you that you should ditch those friends who make poor choices when it comes to health. It is however important to be mindful of how your friends influence the choices YOU make when it comes to your health.
For example: you have decided that you really want to run in the City to Surf which is 10 weeks away and you've signed up to see a personal trainer. On the Sunday morning, two weeks before the big race you have your longest training run; this is a big session, and your trainer tells you that it's really important. Prior to the session, your friend asks you to go out with her on the Saturday night. You know she loves to party, and if you go there is no way you will be in bed before 3am. Backing up a night out with a 6am 14km run is likely to be impossible. This is a really common dilemma and one which can see people give up on their goals.
So what's the answer? Do you ditch your friend? Not necessarily. First of all, it's important to reflect on 2 things:
1. How important is your goal?
2. Does your friend respect your values?
Think about your goal. If it's really important to you, then it should remain a priority. Does your friend respect your values? Does she know how important your goal is to you? A good friend will respect our values, even if they don't necessarily agree with them personally.
If your friend knows how important your training is, and still tries to guilt you into coming out with her - perhaps it's worth declining her invite and seeing if she's free for a catch up Sunday afternoon. Offering an alternative catch up shows her that you still value her friendship.
If you do really value the friendship, and the night out is a really big deal to her, you might consider rescheduling your run (notice I didn't say CANCEL your run?) In other words, it's important to weigh up each factor while staying true to your goals and values. Remember, your needs are just as important as your friends; you shouldn't feel that you need to completely sacrifice your goals in order to keep the friendship.
What this may mean, is that you expand your social circle; keeping your existing friends, but also investing in friends who share your values, goals and passions. That way, when you feel your motivation for exercise lacking, you can turn to your exercise buddies for support. When you need to relax and let your hair down, you call on your other buddies. Not only does this enrich your social life, but it helps to create balance in your own life!
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