The Surprising Way Your Friends Influence Your Health

Photo: Sadie Lincoln

I am sitting here, spiraling, because I can’t figure out when I am going to work out today.

I’m craving the mind-clearing energy surge I get after a workout. I also want to feel organized, accomplished, and successful—and for me, working out takes care of all three of these wants. So, as the founder of barre3, why am I not in barre3 class right now?

The feelings of being a fitness failure are seeping in, and it’s only 9 a.m. on a Monday.

Well, I slept in, so I missed the early-morning hour when no one else wants a piece of me. My schedule today is jam-packed with meetings and deadlines. Right after work, I’m on mom-duty, juggling carpools, homework, team tryouts, and dinner. I didn’t manage my time well. Ugh. The feelings of being a fitness failure are seeping in, and it’s only 9 a.m. on a Monday.

I have yet to meet a single person who doesn't feel like a fitness failure on a regular basis. We all do. It’s a universal truth. Even the people you least expect—high-performing athletes, yogis, celebrities, people who run fitness companies (like me)—struggle with fitness.

What we all have in common is that we live in a culture that makes it challenging to be healthy. There are all kinds of external reasons for this—demanding careers, endless sitting, fast food, stress, trauma, injuries, unrealistic goals, confusing body-image messages, and more. All of these forces pull us from our optimal health.

Even though our culture makes it hard to be healthy, most of us put all the blame on ourselves when we don't exercise or eat as well as we'd like to. Why aren't we taking care of ourselves? It isn't for lack of knowledge; many of us know how to exercise and eat well. It isn't for lack of resources; we're constantly bombarded with fitness and diet products and services. And it isn't for lack of wanting; we all really want to be healthier and feel good in our bodies. Shouldn't it, then, be our fault if we don't take care of ourselves?

My answer is—no. I do believe that each of us holds the power to be healthier, happier, and more balanced. But the struggle to get there is very real—and it’s not all on us.

I call this building your OWN culture of good health.

So, what do we do? We can create our own mini-spheres of influence around us. I call this building your OWN culture of good health. My mom once told me, “surround yourself with people who feed you.” She meant that I should surround myself with people who support me, nourish me, and make me stronger, healthier, and happier. This is the single most powerful piece of advice I've ever received.

In my late 20s I made a conscious choice to seek out people who supported what I value, like being in the outdoors, taking fun group-exercise classes, eating healthy food, traveling, being silly, having meaningful conversations about relationships, growing old, reading good books, parenting, and all the other things that fill me up.

When I started barre3 in 2008, my community grew exponentially. I now have hundreds of people who support my healthy lifestyle each day, including everyone I work with. So, today, I plan to lean on my team. I bet someone would love to have a walking meeting with me. But even if this doesn’t happen, someone here will remind me that being healthy isn’t just about exercising. Someone in my culture of good health will inspire me to take a deep breath, laugh at myself, and move forward in a healthy way.

Chances are, you’ve already begun building your own culture of good health—perhaps without even realizing that’s what you’re doing. It’s the friend who takes fitness classes with you, the coworker you grab healthy lunches with, the sister who texts to remind you to take your Vitamin D. I encourage you to keep building, using my mom’s invaluable advice as your north star. And remember: Just as your culture of good health supports your healthy lifestyle, you support theirs. We are all teachers AND students in this, here to discover and learn from each other.

For more fitness and diet advice, check out my mbg course The New Food & Fitness Rules: How To Get Your Strongest, Most Balanced & Attractive Body Ever.

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