Peer Pressure to eat Unhealthy

Peer pressure doesn't stop when we leave school. Who you spend time with really affects how much and what you're eating, which in turn will affect your waistline and your health goals. If you've ever ordered to fit in with your group of friends or family, that's peer pressure in action. Find out what to do about it.

Do you feel peer pressure from friends or colleagues (or kids!) to eat unhealthy?

You don’t think so? 

  • Ever wanted to order different to what’s on the menu but ‘you don’t want to be awkward’? 

  • Ever been out with friends and there’s something on the menu you’d like but everyone else wants to do the set menu, so you go along with them?

  • Ever said ‘I’m not going to drink much tonight’ only to end up drinking more than you really wanted to? 

If you think peer pressure only applies to kids and young adults, then think again. We all want to fit in and maintain our status within whatever group we’re with at the time. 

And I’ve really noticed this recently because I’ve moved to a new office in my non Midlife Menu world. 

I feel like I’m at a new school. There’s some new people to get to know, there’s a totally different environment to navigate and the ‘headteacher’ is three desks away from me! I don’t feel comfy in my space yet. I’ve neatly arranged all my stuff on the desk but it doesn’t feel quite right.

Whilst I knew change would feel strange, what I didn't expect was how much other people around me would affect my eating and drinking habits.

Peer Pressure to eat Unhealthy at Work

I’ve found myself feeling guilty for leaving my desk for a lunch break because other people are eating lunch in the office. It’s like when you go out for a meal and everyone says they’ll skip the starter and have dessert instead  … but you don’t want to. 

Do you become part of the Awkward Squad for making your own decision or do you fall in with everyone else? I’m feeling uncomfortable because I want to do something different and I don’t have the confidence to be true to myself.

I like to drink water throughout the day but now I’ve got to leave the building and walk 5 minutes to find the nearest water fountain to fill up, so I’m already aware that I’m drinking and walking less because I’m not in the routine of leaving my desk. And I’m desperately trying to avoid the cake table which has appeared with the well meaning but nightmare ‘welcome to your new office’ cakes! Argh! 

How does Peer Pressure to eat Unhealthy Start?

Fitting in is something we learn from an early age - there’s some really interesting research which shows that children’s eating habits are heavily influenced by their peers. In one study children aged between 2 and 5 years old changed their food preferences to fit in after just four days of being exposed to peers who ate foods the 2-5 year olds had previously claimed not to like.

It’s clear that the people around us influence us, especially when it comes to eating and drinking. Think of the times you had a glass of wine, not because you actually wanted one but because everyone else was.  Well documented research also shows that we copy others behaviour - if someone we socialise with eats a large amount we are more likely to and we eat more in a group situation than on our own. Anyone else found they put on weight when they moved in with their other half?! 

Decision fatigue also kicks in - it is often easier to just go along with everyone else. But the problem is that the next day you often feel bad and berate yourself for ‘failing’. I know my husband feels this quite strongly around drinking and going out with mates. 

So when I work with clients on changing their routine eating habits, believe me, I do know that it’s really difficult. That’s why having accountability and a coach alongside can make a big difference. 

What can you do about Peer Pressure to eat Unhealthy?

So this week I’m going to challenge you to:

  • Focus a little on those food decisions you make, and ask yourself - how often do I do what I want to? And how many times do I fall in with others to keep the peace?

  • Become aware of a habit influenced by others in the coming week (that extra large coffee, the slice of cake you just ate because it was there) and think - do I really want to do that? If the answer is no, then change it, just for a week. Have a tea instead of frothy coffee or move the cakes further away so you have to think for longer about eating one.

  • Be aware of your habits around the people you socialise with. This is empowering and can help you to make a small positive change based on who you are with. Being more true to yourself takes effort but it can also help you develop healthier food and drink habits in midlife.

For me, I’m going to pledge to leave my desk for lunch every day, have a walk around my new work neighbourhood …  and not feel bad about it!

I’d love to know what habits you find are influenced by others or what habits you are going to tackle. Click here to join the Midlife Menu Facebook community to chat with other like minded midlifers.


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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Midlife Menu Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.