Have you ever noticed how it’s not particularly popular to be healthy? How people tend to celebrate the lazy, the greedy and the overweight? Homer Simpson is practically a hero thanks to his love of beer and donuts and about the least popular thing you can say on a night out is that you aren’t going to be drinking…
The same goes for saying you don’t want desert, or even letting on that you regularly attend the gym. The minute you let on that you’re willing to forego immediate gratification in order to protect your health and wellbeing, you tend to become less popular.
It’s even worse if you’re already in good shape. Tell your friends at work you ‘need to go to the gym tonight’ and often they’ll respond in exasperation: ‘you don’t need to lose any weight!’. What they fail to recognise is that it took going to the gym in order to get into that shape and that if you stopped, then you’d lose your current physique. That, and you probably quite enjoy pushing yourself in the gym too.
Still, the assumption is that you must either be mad to keep going to the gym, or just no fun… Nice.
Why Being Healthy Is so Unpopular
The first question we need to ask is why being healthy is so unpopular in the first place.
This comes down to a number of factors but one of the biggest is that training to become healthier or dieting for the same ends, will tend to make others feel guilty. They know that they shouldn’t be following dinner up with that huge piece of cheesecake if they want to lose weight, but they have decided to go ahead with it nevertheless. If you now show enough strength of character to turn down desert, you’ll then only be drawing more attention to their perceived failure and this will make them feel worse as a result. Had you joined them in their cheesecake however, they could have made the excuse for themselves that ‘everyone does it’. And whether or not you actually are, they will probably feel as though you’re judging them for their decision.
The other issue in this particular scenario, is that by saying no, you’ve now put them in a situation where they’re going to be eating cake on their own while you watch. This is neither very sociable, nor very fun for them. The same goes for going out drinking: it’s a lot less fun when you do it on your own. As such, if you have made the decision to go t-total, and people want to have a ‘wild night out’, you’re not going to be the first person they call. In fact they might avoid calling you – as you’ll serve as a constant reminder that they’re being unhealthy and you’ll make them look all the more drunk.
Another issue is that being incredibly strict with your health isn’t terribly relatable. If you have never been overweight, then someone who is overweight will feel like they can’t really talk to you about the plights that come with that – you wouldn’t understand. Likewise, if you have rarely been drunk, then people won’t feel they can share their drunken stories with you. ‘To err is human’, and if you never err, then people might start to feel as though they can’t relate to you and that you can’t understand them… almost as though you were a different species. This is why Superman comics often struggle to make Superman relatable – he’s in perfect shape, he never drinks and he never binge-eats.
These things don’t just apply to being healthy either: they apply to making the right moral decisions, to being conscientious and to being disciplined in every area of your life.
What to Do About It
This may seem rather unfair at first: you’ve gone to all this trouble to try and do the right thing by your body and to maintain your health, but instead of being happy for you, it seems that people don’t want to spend any time with you – and even seem to hope that you’ll fail.
So you’re left with two options: remain unpopular, or relent and start being unhealthy just to please others. The latter may seem like the more tempting option, but really you shouldn’t have to compromise your own health just in order to fit in with your friends and acquaintances.
Instead then, the better option is to look for a way to stick to your goals and beliefs, while not making others feel bad about it or coming across as inhuman.
Here are a few strategies you can use to that end:
Explain Your Reasoning: Sometimes, one of the easiest ways to get people to understand your position is just to explain it to them. In many cases you will have reasons for wanting to remain healthy that don’t apply to other people and that ‘let’s them off the hook’. This can also help to make you appear a little less ‘perfect’.
For instance, in my case the main reason I’m currently on a diet is to reveal my abs more. The reason I want to do this is that I’m running a YouTube channel and I need to demonstrate to viewers that my techniques work. So when someone asks me why I’m not eating desert, I explain that it’s for my YouTube channel. This doesn’t apply to them, so they can eat guilt-free, and it shows that I’m human – ultimately I’m motivated by money and fame after all! If your reasoning for not drinking is that you can’t handle your drink, then say that. Now instead of being highly disciplined, you’ll just sound like a lightweight. People can laugh about that and continue to enjoy their own beverages. ‘I don’t like the taste’ is also fine.
Find Allies: With the best will in the world, differences in lifestyle do lead to differences in behaviour and that means that you’re not always going to ‘fit in’ if you’re completely different from your other friends. Don’t let that offend you – just view it as a fact of life.
What is a good idea though is to have multiple groups of friends, and to make sure that you have at least some people to chat to who share your views. These are the people you can go out and enjoy a chicken salad with, or who you can exchange gym notes with. They will give you an outlet, and that way you won’t feel so put out when there are things you feel left out from while socialising with other groups.
Find Ways to ‘Join In’: When I don’t have desert and my friends want to, I will often join in nevertheless be sociable. Usually this means having a coffee which is a social drink that I can enjoy while they eat pudding. Joining in with alcohol is harder, but my t-total friend does it by drinking other drinks when playing drinking games, and by getting his own amusement from the antics of everyone else.
Likewise, don’t turn down a night out because you need to exercise or you’re essentially telling your friends that you value that one workout more than time with them. Just find another night to exercise, or do a quick one at home before you set off. Usually you can do both!
Be Genuinely Non-Judgemental: Perhaps what’s most important, is not to judge others for their choices. This means genuinely not being judgemental, because even if you don’t say anything judgemental that doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to be able to pick up on the general vibe that you’re judging them.
While you should be applauded for putting your health first, recognise that this is not the right approach for everyone. You can make a very solid argument for prioritising health over everything else and ensuring that you’re going to be healthy and happy into your old age. At the same time though, some people just want to have fun and would rather indulge themselves now – even if that means taking some risks.
They are not wrong, and neither are you. Everyone has to get through life in their own way. Unless they ask for your help, or they are putting themselves at serious risk, they don’t need your advice or opinion.