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We all have those friends and family members who say, “Come on, just eat a piece of cake.” The people we spend our time with can have an influence on our habits and even our health. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine illustrated that your chance of becoming obese increases by almost 60 percent if you have a friend who’s obese.
What we are learning now, however, is that there are also people around us who are good influences on our health. They say things more like “Let’s go try that great new organic salad place.” Research conducted at the Mayo Clinic shows us that your social circle greatly influences your health behaviors. In other words, just hanging around your salad-loving friends can improve your own health.
I’m going to take this one step further and challenge YOU to be a healthy lifestyle influencer! Take charge of your own health and be the change we all need to start a healthful trend! Here are three things you can do to make the world a healthier place – one friend, relative or co-worker at a time.
Most offices are chock-full of donuts, chips, candy, and soda. While the access to vending machines and junk food won’t change – and will remain certainly tempting at times – start by stocking your office with healthier options!
Many times, if people see that someone else is bringing carrots with hummus or a fresh fruit bowl to work, they will too! You don’t even have to say anything; just help yourself. If healthy options are easily accessible and more widespread, people will choose it.
Does your family eat out a lot? Do your friends always want to check out a new burger place together? Eating out is a fun and social activity, but it can hurt your health if you’re tossing back fries and a beer too often. Take charge of choosing the restaurant. Suggest the new “farm to table” place or host a healthy tapas get-together at your place.
You can also make healthy choices at any restaurant, especially since it’s much easier to do so these days. Once again, be the healthy influencer! Chances are, by ordering dressing on the side or skipping the fried foods, you can inspire someone else to do the same.
Instead of going to the movies or playing cards, plan a social hike, take a tennis class, or go kayaking! There are endless group activities that will provide lots of laughs and add movement to your day.
It’s not always easy to convince others to change, but if you stay true to your own healthful habits, people will notice. They may not make any changes, but they will respect the fact that you have health-focused goals. Peer support is a major influencer in success. If people around you support your habits, it makes you more likely to sustain your healthful habits! And if you support the healthful habits of others, everyone wins!
Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.
Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.
She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.
Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!