Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peer Pressure: How Influenced Are You By Others?

I spent the last few days at a conference. I had a great time and got to meet up with friends from grad school as well as various people I have worked with over the years. I am also excited about revamping my classes and trying out new ideas that I picked up at the conference.

While at the conference, I couldn’t help notice how many unhealthy temptations there were and how little people moved. The conference was in a convention center with two levels. To get from one level to the other you could take very long stairs or escalators. It was surprising to me that almost everyone stood in lines to take the escalators and hardly anyone took the stairs. We sat for most of the day, so a little movement was certainly much needed in my opinion. I also overheard several people asking their friends if they wanted to take the stairs, but each time the friend said “no” so they all took the escalator. I took the stairs every time and felt like I desperately needed the movement…

There was also an endless supply of candy and sweets in the exhibit hall. It was amazing how people repeatedly grabbed handfuls of candy and kept eating them throughout the presentations. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a little candy. However, I’m wondering how many people were mindful of what they were doing and how many simply followed what everyone else did.

And the same behavior continued after the conference ended and people gathered for drinks and finger foods. There was a lot of greasy food and people just kept eating, and some even joked that a conference wasn’t a conference without stuffing yourself.

In the past, I would have easily bought into the thinking that a conference was a “special event” and it was okay to “let loose” a bit. The problem was that I had come up with way too many special events. Also, having a good time doesn’t have to involve unhealthy food. My friend and I split a veggie sandwich and a small, truly delicious brownie for lunch followed by an iced latte “to get us through” the afternoon. :-) And after the conference we enjoyed a glass of white wine before heading home where I had a healthy dinner. I truly didn’t feel deprived and had a wonderful time.

Question: Have you ever been influenced to eat more and/or unhealthy foods by people around you? What are your strategies to make healthy choices when everyone else isn’t? For me, the key is to be mindful and have a plan beforehand. For example, I had a very firm plan that I wouldn’t eat greasy “bar food” when we got a drink after the conference.

Be well,