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My Paleo Diet Experiment: Resisting Peer Pressure

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When I began my Paleo Diet experiment, I thought meeting the dietary restrictions would be my biggest obstacle to success.  In the experiment’s first week, it was.  The sudden removal of grains and sugar from my diet left me with very strong desires to cheat.  As the carb craving started to dissipate during the second week, I thought I would be home free!  That belief began to change when I went to a friends’ BBQ over the weekend.

Enjoying a great meal and summer evening with friends has always been a highlight of my summer.  I always enjoy some cold beers while a great meal is prepared over a hot grill, and the annual BBQ held by my friends is an event I look forward too.  My friends are great cooks and being from an Italian background, they always have plenty of delicious food.  I knew that steak fajitas were part of the night’s menu so I thought I would have no problem following Paleo Diet principles.  Boy was I wrong.

When the food began to be served, I enjoyed the fresh fruit and vegetable sticks as well as some grilled squid.  It was easy for me to avoid food that was not Paleo compliant. However, once the main dishes were served, that’s when the peer group pressure began. 

To be fair to my friends, for most of the time they have known me, I was a fatso who loved food and would eat as much of it as I wanted.  They have seen me lose weight over the last 2.5 years and most knew that I was conducting a Paleo Diet experiment.  Yet, when I made my initial blatant attempts to refuse non-Paleo food, they wouldn’t hear of it.  After explain to everyone in earshot what the Paleo Diet was and what I was doing, I gained some supporters from the women in the group, but my hosts and most of the guys continued to pressure me to cheat.  The peer pressure continued throughout the meal and into the rest of the night.  It was like they couldn’t wait to break me.

After a few hours of hearing “Go ahead, one tortilla, piece of cheese, etc… isn’t going to matter”, I began to realize that the people who exerted the most pressure were the ones who used to be my regular eating and drinking pals.  These were the guys that I would eat 30 chicken wings with, week in and week out for months on end.  They still looked and ate the way I used to.  It occurred to me that the reason why they wanted me to cheat on the diet was so I could fail.  Maybe they wanted me to fall off the healthy living bandwagon, so I could go back to my old ways and look and feel like them.

Delyse Hutchinson and Ronald Rappee wrote about the role of social networks and peer influences in the July 2007 edition of Behaviour Research and Therapy.  While their study centered on adolescents, their conclusions were similar to my own.  The found that an individual girl’s success at dieting could be predicted from her friends’ dietary habits and scores, and that binge eating, was also correlated significantly with clique averages on measures of perceived peer influence and body mass index. I had escaped my old clique.  I lost my big belly, had more energy and felt great.  For me to have gotten to where I am today, I don’t go out with those guys anymore for wings and beer etc…  Now, I spend more time with friends who live a more healthy and active lifestyle.

Although they didn’t say it, I don’t think my fatso buddies liked the new me.  The peer pressure they expressed that night demonstrated that they want me to fail.  I believe they want me to become like them again; fat, lazy, unhealthy and with aches and pains.  They didn’t like it when their wives said that they should follow my example and that I look 10 years younger. 

So don’t get discouraged when those close to you try to sabotage your diet through peer pressure.   Because your changing, they may no longer think that your part of their clique.  Stay strong and true to your beliefs, and feel confident that you are doing the right thing.  Misery may love company, but you don’t have to be a part of it!

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About Layne Pennell

  • Wenchypoo

    This happens with any societal subject: money, food, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, etc. When someone gets out of debt, and starts saving and investing, along comes the old in-debt crowd to lure him/her back into spending to seek pleasure. Sure, shunning them is hard, but it’s something you have to do to hang onto your new-found ways. You did the right thing in shunning the beer-and-wings crowd for the more health-conscious one, because your personal goals have changed. They seek comfort in their food, and you now seek comfort in avoiding certain food because of what they do to you.

    This is the key to ending addictions, abuse, indebtedness, and will probably be the end of poverty as we know it: getting in the right frame of mind, then reinforcing that right frame with people who share the same goals. If your crowd no longer meets your needs, find another crowd–we got tons of ‘em! Churches have bible study and Sunday service, Weight Watchers groups have meetings, Paleo dieters have Crossfit clubs, opium dens have drug addicts, downtown street corners have prostitutes…take your pick, but choose carefully–the behavior you reinforce may be your own!

  • bubba29

    i known what you are saying about the peer pressure. the key is to preserve those strong friendships despite the differences in the pursuit of health. i had a friend say the other day i would move out of this phase (the last 5 years) and eat like crap like him. i replied that i can’t afford it. healthcare costs are too high and my work insurance is not that great.