A Virtue of Vigour – 8: Don’t Get Dragged Down

Of all I have written so far, this one might seem the most out of place but it is actually very important. The company you keep does affect you whether you think it does or not. As committed as you may be to achieving physical and mental well-being, this can still be affected by those around you. The simplest way is related to the habits of those of your family and friends. If they have poor diets and do not get regular exercise, this is something than can happen to you simply by osmosis. A more sinister might be how people around you may react to any success you have. This might be down to jealousy or just a false sense of concern. I shall give a couple of personal examples that illustrate what I’m saying.

I have lived away from many family and friends for a long time but I still would generally go and visit them at least once a year. When I did, I was surprised almost every time at how different their diets were. Both the nutrition and especially the volume of the food was completely different. Though when I sat down with them to dinner, I of course felt compelled to eat with them. Luckily for me, this was only for a short time because had it been long-term, I could have easily seen myself just going a long with this.

Another example is the more sinister I mentioned. When I lost a lot of weight during university, I was of course very pleased with what I’d done. I was happy to hearing from people how I’d noticeably lost weight. One friend was less enthused and that he liked me the way I was before. He didn’t compliment me or even say “well done”. He knew full well how miserable my excess weight had made me over the years he had known me. Why did he like me like that? Because he was the kind of “friend” that likes to keep people around him down so he can feel good. He was also the kind of friend whose mood set the tone for any social gathering for better or worse. You may or may not have people like this in your life but if you do, you can be sure that they’ll be against seeing your self-improvement.

The latter is obviously a rare but definitely real. More likely you will have a parent or friend who may for example, suggest you are overdoing it, taking it too seriously or even imply you are hurting yourself even when you have objectively improved your health and fitness. For some it will just be a long-term and environmental influence. If people in your social circle tend to sit around in their free time or snack a lot, this could easily rub off on you.

Now by this point I think it is important to make clear that I do not encourage you to distance yourself from your loved ones. Far from it. I simply want to make you conscious of it. The ideal being that rather than allow yourself to be influenced by bad habits, you instead exert positive influence over these people in your life. They say courage is contagious and doing things differently and better than those around you can take a lot of courage.

I can say from personal experience that I have fallen into bad habits because of those around me. But I can also say that I’ve personally seen people change their habits for the better by seeing what I was doing. This was not by me nagging them or insulting their lifestyles but simply because they saw what I was doing and saw the results.

In fact it would be good to add that when you do see a significant improvement in your health and fitness, that you don’t forget where you were and keep some humility for those that are in the position you once were. This is a good rule for life in general. Offer advice when sought and speak with them with understanding.

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