eating mindfully Aisling Larkin

Getting the support you need for your new wellness lifestyle

There are some crucial strategies for getting loved ones to support your new healthy lifestyle and effectively deal with negative peer pressure and sabotage.

Eating Mindfully  –  a new way for everyone ! 

Changing your mindset and habits around food and eating is a wonderful but challenging journey of self discovery and development. 

Getting loved ones to support you can be challenging at times. Personal journeys like this can feel lonely  – you are perhaps the one deciding to embrace this lone journey, break away from the pack, cause unwanted change to normality…. It can be hard  –  those first days are long and in a lot of cases all you can do is really try to be true to yourself ! You are doing the right thing, you have made the right choice, lets keep going and bring along the rest of your family. 

Do you have to convince your family to change their eating habits too ? No, this is about you ! This is your choice and your one life. However, for the same token it can make life a lot easier if they are with you each step the way. 

Also, you want your family and friends to be healthy and safe — to feel good. You want to protect them from the pain of poor health. You want the best for them. And frankly, you need support from the people closest to you.

It seems hard — even near impossible — to make these big changes alone.

If you’re feeling these things it’s important to know: These thoughts are really, really normal.

It is hard to eat and move in ways that support your own health goals when, in your social circle,  Friday is after-works drinks, Saturday night is a takeaway and a bottle of wine, Sunday is a big family roast and ice creams with the kids and in some ways, you can be the sum of your social circle.

Habits can be contagious.

The people around you matter. And you matter to the people around you. Most of this happens subconsciously. We often change our habits to match those of our social group without talking or even thinking about it.

Research shows that we are affected by the body composition, habits, and lifestyles of those around us. The more people around us are doing something, or living a certain way, the more likely we are to do and live the same — whether that’s what we eat, how we eat, whether we move (or not), how we move, and so on.

If your friends and family are fitter and healthier, you’re more likely to be fitter and healthier. And the reverse is true, too.

Research shows that:

  • The weight of those closest to you may help determine your own weight. According to one large-scale study, having a friend, an adult sibling, or a spouse who is obese increases your own obesity risk by 57 percent, 40 percent, and 37 percent respectively. The following evidence based examples will show that social norms and social acceptance is huge for your success.
  • Even your friends’ friends matter. Two degrees of separation between you and someone who is obese increases your own chances of being obese by 20 percent. You don’t even have to have met them for this to be a factor in your own weight.
  • Your social network affects your obesity risk exponentially. Each obese person you know is correlated with a 0.5 percent increase in your risk of obesity.
  • Your weight is more influenced by people of your own gender. For women, this means that a girlfriend’s or same-sex partner’s weight may have a larger effect than a guy friend’s or opposite-sex partner’s; and vice versa for men.
  • Weight convergence likely happens subconsciously. Researchers believe that we change our habits to match those of our social group without talking or even thinking about it.
  • The amount you eat depends on who you’re eating with. Dine with a big eater, and you’re liable to consume more; sit down with a light eater, and you’re likely to take in less. This effect has been observed even among strangers. When asked, the diners usually attribute the mirroring effect to taste and hunger as opposed to the behaviour of others around them.
  • How much you eat also depends on the size of the group you’re with. Eating with one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven or more other people is associated with a 33, 47, 58, 69, 70, 72, and 96 percent increase in energy consumed, respectively.
  • Your social network can also have a big impact on what you eat. People whose friends generally meet the guidelines for produce intake are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Your impression of social norms help determine what you eat, how much you eat, and your physical activity level. If getting a light salad for lunch seems “normal”, that’s what you’re likely to do, even if no one’s going to see you eat it. Conversely, if eating a bag of Ruffles for lunch seems “normal”, you may do that, even if you know the salad is more aligned with your health goals. Those who report a high level of physical activity as the social norm are also more likely to be active themselves.

However, lets look at the flip side of each of these  – as they say for every negative there is a positive.  Social influence is a good thing when used correctly. As human beings we are social creatures who have evolved to depend on each other and co-exist together.

We depended on social cohesion — on belonging — to survive. To be alone (whether abandoned, rejected, or left behind) often meant certain death.

Today, modern medicine shows us that loneliness can still kill: our bodies respond to social rejection and isolation as if they were viral threats. When we are persistently lonely, inflammation goes up, immunity goes down; we get more chronic diseases and die sooner.

Aloneness is scary. Vulnerable. Difficult.

“Aloneness” can be “real”, like the actual aloneness of a young woman who chooses to stay in to eat a healthy dinner and get a good night’s sleep when all her roommates have gone out for pizza and partying.

“Aloneness” can also be a feeling, like when you are the odd one out because you order a glass of tap water and a salad  –  dressing on the side of course  and all your friends are tucking inot chicken wings and burgers.  Going against the grain is hard. Of course, it is possible to go it alone but lets face it  – it becomes very difficult. 

1. Removing Friction 

As with all things, the laws of physics come into play. When you’re trying to change, you may encounter either friction, or momentum. Sometimes in behavioural economics we call these  frictions “barriers to success”.

In order to be successful we need to remove the barriers to make the journey as smooth as possible.  These barriers make things harder to do and we all know the harder it is to do the more like we are to quit! 

Quitting equates to a feeling of failure, negative emotions and can often lead to actions spiralling out of control or what we refer to as “falling off the wagon” or for the longterm it can have a negative chaining effect . 

Instead of failure we need successes, little wins to keep us going and for this journey of self discovery and change to be sustainable. We need momentum and encouragement to keep us moving and to replenish our enthusiasm and courage when “its just too hard”.

Our social support team can keep us focused and connected and also accountable for our actions. 

Be brave; be positive and be kind. Using some simple loving-kindness meditations throughout the Eating Mindfully programme will allow us to accept the things we cannot change and be grateful for all that we do have. 

Remember something very powerful – social support works both ways.

The people around you can influence you. And you can influence them back.

This is where the good type of “going it alone” comes in: leadership.

While it may be easier to wait until your immediate social circle comes around to prioritising healthy choices, it’s also incredibly empowering and inspiring to be a leader for change, despite the forces against you. And in doing so, you’ll build your own small wave of momentum that, little by little, erodes the friction you encounter.

In order to slowly reduce that friction we use some simple techniques of mindfulness. By using meditation we are pausing for a moment to bring an awareness to the situation. Being aware allows you to enter a new level of acceptance. Acceptance that you may not be right (this time) . 

With loving kindness and self compassion take a step back, embrace some of the realities and simply say to yourself “ and thats ok….. ” !!!

No judgements, no blame, no preaching, no arguing the toss  – just a simple calm, awareness and acceptance of the moment. Bring gratitude, empathy and compassion to the friction situation and accept all behaviours and reasons ( regardless of your opinion) have a right to exist. 

Remember whatever habits your loved ones are practicing, they are doing them for a reason. In some way, their habits are “right” for them. They may have only a limited toolbox of options or coping skills. You are the one evolving, growing and improving and we must now too be patience, understanding and accepting of them.  When we do this the conflict seems to slowly dissipate, thee is more of a willingness to connect, collaborate and help out.

2. Accept that change is scary

Forcing other people outside their comfort zone and asking them to a accept and adapt to a new norm can be very difficult. Our closest allies can experience a loss of control, a fear of losing you and their current life as they know it. They may feel they are losing control and their sense of purpose and identity through your change. Your choices may make them experience their own inner shame, anxiety or discomfort. 

Resistance more often comes from fear than from true philosophical opposition.

Change can feel scary. It can bring up issues of control, security, and identity, and it can also bring up painful emotions like anxiety, panic, shame, loss or fear.

This fear can stir up unpleseant feelings for some. So while you must press forward with the changes you’re trying to make for your own well-being, you’ll more likely get support if you practice persistence rather than pushiness. Do this in a gentle and positive manner which allows you to connect with you friends and family and over time they 

3. Remember the “why” always comes first then the how

Change is difficult and in order to sustain these improvements and changes we must sometimes revisit the why. From our behavioural economics this is called our intrinsic motivation –  it is your own connection to your internal reasons for your choice. Intrinsic motivation requires some visualisation, goal setting,  deep thought and reflection, and it may take a longer time than expected to develop this new mindset for success. Explain to friends and family your why. Whether they get it or not in that moment always remember you are doing this for you ! Research shows that intrinsic motivation leads to change that’s longer-lasting and more self-sustaining than extrinsic motivation, which is based on the desire to obtain external outcomes. As you progress on your journey of Eating Mindfully you will begin to experience this on a deeper level through meditative practices and visible results in wellness. Each week it becomes a little easier to focus on the why and to continue with it. 

Mindset Belief Discipline Experience Knowledge Concept

Respect that your loved ones may take time to connect to their own reasons for eating and moving better.  You will inspire them and show them through reliance and perseverance that anything is possible . And while you lead the way  and discover what to do next remember “just do you”.

To finish, involve and integrate your social network into your life, without forcing them to change themselves. Be accepting, show them loving kindness, have patience and a deep rooted sense of self belief in the process and yourself.

Simply put just be here now for you and the rest will follow !


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