Eating Healthy When Those Around You Don't

Friends interfering with your weight loss success? Remember your goal, be a role model, and plan ahead

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One of the most common complaints I hear from my patients is that it's hard to eat healthy because the people around them don't. Their co-workers, family members, and friends seem to eat whatever they want, whenever they want, without thinking about their health or weight.

Keri Gans
Keri Gans
Sound familiar? Are the behaviors of others getting in the way of your choices? If so, read on:

1. Remember your goal.

It is very important that you have a goal in mind when trying to lose weight and improve your health. Maybe you want to avoid developing diabetes and heart disease, as others in your family have. Or maybe you simply want to look sexier in a pair of jeans. Whatever your reason, keep it top of mind. Stay focused, and don't let those around you interfere with your commitment. If you do, you might end up resenting them.

2. Lead, not follow.

This is a hard one, but sometimes you simply need to be the one to step up. You might be surprised to find that your commitment to healthy eating inspires others to follow suit. When dining out with friends, why don't you choose the restaurant? That way, you can pick a place that offers healthy options. And always be the first to order, so as not to be influenced by anyone else's choices. When eating with the gang in the office, be the one who picks the place you are ordering from—or better yet, brown bag it. Maybe even get some of your co-workers to go for a lunchtime walk.

3. Be a role model.

This is especially important if you have children. I love when patients tell me they have to buy certain foods for their kids that they otherwise wouldn't eat, such as cookies or chips. I always have to remind them that there's no need for "kid" vs. "adult" foods in the house. Everyone should be eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. If you don't have children, but have a partner who refuses to change the way he or she eats, don't worry about it. It is just as easy to broil a steak for them and fish for you. Who knows, when you start to feel great, they might just jump on the bandwagon

4. Plan ahead.

If you know the office is a trigger for you, keep healthy snacks around. For example, it's someone's birthday (again!) and everyone is having cake. Sure, have a sliver, but then enjoy a flavored, low-fat greek yogurt that you brought instead. Or, if your trap is Thursday night happy hour, where you're surrounded by bar appetizers your friends insisted on ordering, make sure to grab an easy, protein-packed snack on your way to help keep you fuller for longer. And if you're going to a family member's house for dinner and they tend to forget what a vegetable is, offer to bring a mixed green salad. You can still eat what they're serving, but less of it, since the salad will help fill you up.

I also enjoy when someone in my office says they have a friend, male or female, who is "skinny" and can eat anything he or she wants. My rebuttal:"Skinny is not necessarily healthy." That friend can still get heart disease, cancer, or another chronic disease. Most importantly, I encourage my patients to stop comparing themselves to others and actually be a little "selfish" when it comes to their health. If you don't put your health first, who else will?

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.