Health Shaming & Social Sabotage

It’s Saturday night and you are out at a bar with your friends. It’s 9pm and you’re friends are about to hit the third round of drinks. You were feeling excellent; happy to see your friends and having a great catch up. You have also had a great week of training and eating, sticking to your plan. You are really happy with yourself for the week.

Now you feel stuck and anxious. Two drinks was the limit you set yourself for your night out tonight. Your friends love having a bit night out. So did you. You know that you can stay out and want to stay out with your friends. You also know that you are already at your limit of alcohol for the evening. Your friends are trying to convince you to continue drinking with them. “Come on, a few more won’t hurt”, “Don’t be a pussy just have a few more with us”. Does this dilemma ring true for you?

What I am talking about is Social Sabotage for health and wellness goals. More specifically, your friends and family’s health and wellness goals.

We may all have been guilty of this at one point in our lives. We want our friends to feel good and have a great time with us. What would that extra drink hurt? Or that piece of cake? Or that anything that we offer them when they have told us that they don’t want it. Can sabotaging our friends health and wellness goal just be an accepted social norm?

I am calling it out now. I am sick of my clients telling me that they feel like they have to go into social isolation to lose weight, or cut down on their alcohol consumption. I am sick of corporate institutions create ‘team bonding’ events that are only centred around alcohol and bad food.

How many times have you admitted to your friends that you wanted to lose a few kilos only to find yourself gorging on food with them an hour later and then feeling guilty for it?

These people are our friends, our partners, our siblings our trusted work besties. Yet we sabotage them again and again. We could be their champion, their leg to stand on when their resolve is wavering. Instead we are the ones dangling the carrot (cake) right in front of their noses more often than not.

There may be a few reasons for this phenomena that through my experience I believe to be true. As I have been well ingrained in the fitness industry for over ten years now, this food and alcohol peer pressure is much less prevalent. We live and breathe health and wellness and readily accept when our friends tell us of their health and fitness goals.  So I was unaware of this until I was hearing about it from someone closest to me.

My boyfriend, Michael, strictly adheres day to day to a calorie counting regime. Sometimes he is trying to gain weight, other times he is trying to lose. For the first few months of his weight loss regime (shredding) I found it extremely hard not to offer him extra food, extra drinks or suggest treats. I had to catch myself out and make sure that I was supporting him in his goals 100%. They were by no means unhealthy, and to reach a certain body fat percentage he needed to be strict and diligent 90% of the time. I had to stand with him. So I did. It completely strengthened our relationship. I didn’t lose out on things I wanted to eat and we didn’t have any problems.  When he reached his goal he was extremely satisfied with himself and when he is happy I am happy.

After noticing my behaviour during this period I would ask my clients about the people in their lives who were supporting them. Many of them would complain to me about how hard it was to go out with their friends while trying to lose weight. Their friends meant well, but would rarely listen when they mentioned their need for being careful with food and alcohol.

While many of you may say it is the person who is trying to lose weight’s responsibility for what they eat and drink. This is most definitely true. I will ask you this however. How challenging is it to say no to your friends, your partner or your family when they are offering you food and alcohol? How often would YOU overeat/drink when around the people you love most? Do you feel pressured to drink at corporate events so that you feel apart of the social norm, or close a deal?

If any of this resonates with you then I implore you to be the person to call it out. Watch your friends back and be there for them. Understand their reasoning for their weight loss or decrease in boozing it up. Understand why YOU want to offer them the piece of cake or extra drink.

Could it be that you are subconsciously feeling guilty about your behaviour of excess consumption and aren’t quite ready to do anything about it just yet? So if your bestie has that cake with you, or indulges in that third round of drinks, YOU don’t feel so bad? I am not saying that you would deliberately sabotage your friends. However I believe that it’s just as bad to ‘accidentally’ sabotage your friends goals while you are having a good time.

So the next time you are around someone who mentions to you that they are trying really hard to be healthier, would it really kill you to have some kombucha with them instead of 5 wines? Or make sure THEY get the kombucha while you have one wine and allow them just to enjoy your company like they want to.

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