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Holiday Eating Guide: 6 Tips to Avoid Social Pressure

Holiday Eating Guide: 6 Tips to Avoid Social Pressure

For many people, the holiday season can feel like walking through a minefield of sugar bombs awaiting to tempt you away from your healthy eating plan. With the added pressure from well-meaning friends and family, how can you avoid the ever present danger of giving up and giving in?

The Facts About Social Pressure

According to a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine, people have a 57% greater chance of becoming obese when they regularly associate with friends who are obese. That percentage increases among close relationships (like best friends). If one person becomes obese, the other has a 71% greater chance of becoming obese too. This study confirms that your social network directly influences your perspective on what’s considered normal.

Knowing this gives you a secret weapon to avoid the potential negative influences from friends and family who don't share your priority of eating healthfully. In addition, these 6 strategies can help you navigate the holiday season with poise and confidence.

6 Tips to Avoid Social Pressure

  1. Don't confuse your value of your relationships with an obligation to eat the same way as other people in the group. You can respect your friends and family without choosing to eat the same way they do.
  2. Be honest with yourself, your family and your friends about your goals for a healthy life. Whether or not they respect your choices, it's important to value your own priorities.
  3. Set clear boundaries in advance for what you will and won’t eat. Have some phrases prepared in advance, such as "no thank you," and "I prefer to keep excess sugar out of my body."
  4. Allow other people to make their own choices about how they respond and what they eat. If your friends get upset or offended by what you choose to eat or not eat, that's their responsibility, not yours.
  5. When possible, socialize with a different group of people who support your healthy lifestyle. Identify yourself with a tribe of people who make healthy choices (even if that tribe is virtual, for example, read fitness magazines instead of cooking magazines).
  6. Before a social event, mentally rehearse the behaviors that will support your goals, like politely saying “no thank you” to sweets and junk food, and maintaining your decision to eat healthfully. Practice holding your ground even when people push. No is a complete sentence, and you do not have to justify your choices to others.

Remember that the only person you can ever really influence is yourself. Use these tips as your "secret weapon" for navigating through the tempting minefield of holiday social pressure so you can quietly and confidently emerge on the other side keeping both your relationships and your body healthy and fit. 

Lauren Archer Lauren Archer directs our Mindfulness Program. With over 25 years in private practice, Lauren is the author of Six Word Lessons on Changing Habits: How to Stop Self-Sabotage and Gain Self-Mastery. She has taught classes in the Community Health Education program at Evergreen Health, and helped thousands of people adopt healthier habits.

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