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Peer Pressure: How It Affects You

How you eat, exercise, and feel is influenced by your friends.

Peer Pressure and Exercising More

When you're trying to improve your lifestyle, exercise is key. Nothing can discourage you, however, like having friends laugh at you for putting on sports gear. Sometimes, seeing you try something new can make your friends feel threatened, and that's why they laugh or make fun of you. "High school sports are exclusionary for most kids. Most kids are not going to be varsity athletes," says David Ermer, MD, a child psychiatrist for Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D.

If you want to join a sport and your friends don't, do it anyway. Maybe you can find a fun activity that you also could all do together.

Tough Situation: You and your friends tend to spend afternoons hanging out at someone's house. Typically you play video games and watch TV. But you've decided you want to spend a few days a week exercising more instead.

Low-Drama Solution: "Kids get bored and they like to switch things up, so it's worth a try to get your friends up and moving," says Reznick. "Why not say, 'I'm putting on some music. Let's dance!'?" And if that fails? Think about an activity you'd like to try, and ask a friend you trust to try it out with you -- whether it's going to a climbing wall, trying a yoga class, playing ball, or even just walking around the block a few times a week. "Finding someone else to do it with you is important," says Stone. "Kids who have a buddy for exercise will do it more, since they can support each other. You also get to socialize while you do it."

Peer Pressure and Your Mood

Your friends' general attitude on life can rub off on you, and raise -- or dampen -- your mood. (To be fair, if they're bringing you down, they might not even be aware of it.) Sometimes it happens, says Stone, just because "people get kinda drained from being a part of the group -- trying to fit in, getting along. It can be exhausting."

Or it may have to do with the dynamics you and your friends share, or how good you all feel about yourselves. "If you're feeling down, you might surround yourself with people who aren't the most positive," says Ermer. "If they have their own emotional issues, they might be bringing you down to lift themselves up."

Tough Situation: You and your friends have fun by making fun of each other, which is hilarious -- until you're the subject of the trash-talking.

Low-Drama Solution: "Put yourself in the third person," says Ermer. "Ask yourself, 'Is that how I would treat someone else, without feeling bad?'" When something does happen that bothers you, "Say something about it, but without being angry, like 'I really don't appreciate your making fun of me,'" he suggests. A friend worth keeping will respect that.