My mentor would always say, “You are the sum of the five people around you.” I apply this wisdom to all facets of my life, especially when it comes to my health.
Have you ever considered that your eating and exercise habits are greatly influenced by the people around you? Well, they are.
Your circle of friends and family can help make or break your health goals. And, here are the main reasons why:
Studies show that more than 40% of participants drop a fitness plan shortly after they start if they pursue it on their own. Now if they work out with a friend, the dropout rate decreases to 6%. That one friend makes a difference.
As a fitness professional, I’ve learned to set my own routine that consists of various types of workouts. I often do cardio and weight training alone, but other than that, all my other fun workouts are usually with friends. When my closest connections choose to do workouts as a way to spend time with me, that means I will get my workout in. This works the same way with my eating habits.
I am less likely to veer away from my diet when I am dining with like-minded individuals who are also keen on eating clean. You have no idea how many times good friends have stopped me from cheating on my diet by reminding me of my goals by simply being there.
Sometimes when the commitment is only with yourself, our minds have a tendency to find an excuse not to keep it. But, if we include others, we are less likely to weasel our way out of it! You know this to be true (We all do it!) and it especially applies when adhering to a consistent workout and diet routine.
Researchers believe that we change our habits to match those of our social group even without talking or thinking about it. Take dining with others as an example. If you are out with a group of people who tend to order a huge amount of food, you are more likely to eat more.
Consequently, if you are dining with someone who orders very little, it’s likely you also will consume a similar amount. Your social circle has a huge impact on what your norms are. If pasta is a common meal for your friends, you are more prone to eating pasta, even if a fresh salad is more in line with your diet.
In addition to that, did you know that this benchmarking effect can extend to a friend of a friend of a friend? Meaning that two degrees of separation between you and someone who is obese can increase your own chances of being obese by 20 percent. You don’t even have to have met for this to be a factor in your own weight. Isn’t that crazy? Mind blown.
Encouragement and Positive Influence
Humans are social creatures. We need human contact–conversations, similar interests, doing activities with each other, and support. When your social connections understand what you’re going through and give you positive reinforcement, it helps. Living a healthy life is still somewhat against the current here in Manila, so a little encouragement and show of support go a long way. The top two barriers to exercise are lack of motivation and social influence. If you have the support and encouragement of others, those two obstacles go out the door!
Furthermore, once you get past the barriers and actually work out and eat healthy, doing so with supportive friends can help you do these better. A study of women’s exercise behavior found that 64% of women who train with their friends were more likely to push their workouts to the limit than those who exercised on their own. Friends help friends be better!
The people around you matter. And, you matter to the people around you. By no means am I encouraging anyone to ditch friends and family with unhealthy habits. What I am actually recommending is to be aware and be a positive influence yourself, especially since now you know the great impact a social circle has on one’s health. Stay focused on becoming the best version of you that you can be, and share that vibe with those you care about. Social support works both ways. The people around you can influence you, and you can influence them back!