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Peer Pressure: How It Affects You

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

Peer Pressure and Eating Healthier continued...

Low-Drama Solution: You don't need to make a big announcement about the fact that you're trying to eat better. "You want to protect yourself from the group mass-mentality where people are more likely to give you a hard time," says Reznick. "Instead, if you want to talk about your goals about eating healthier, pick just one or two trusted close friends who will back you up."

At the restaurant, though, think about ways you can steer the situation to healthier options. Maybe that's just getting a smaller order. "Maybe get a sandwich but no fries, or make your drink a diet soda," suggests Teresa Beach, a registered dietitian at Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. "Or just say, 'I'm not hungry,' and make sure you have a snack before you go out with friends." You could also bring your own snack, and say you're saving money for something like a car.

Another idea is to think about suggesting activities where food isn't the only focus -- like getting a snack in the mall food court, but spending more time walking and shopping.

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."

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