Fitness & Life Coaching

How To Control Peer Pressure & The Inner Voice

By Danny Wallis Personal Trainer & Online Fitness Coach

November 1, 2014

We start, we stop… We get motivated, we get distracted… Our energy is high, then it’s low – Our exercise and healthy eating habits are all over the place as a consequence. Along with all of the above are the constant changes of our mood and the frequent feeling of disappointment that we STILL haven’t lost last Christmas’ holiday weight.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had the motivation to NEVER quit our goals and objectives?

What if there was a way to stay focused, to allow ourselves a little break from the routine now and then without this overwhelming feeling of guilt of ‘we have failed AGAIN’. What if I told you that if in fact there is such a way…?

First we have to consider what causes us to quit on our health and fitness goals in the first place. Largely, it’s down to three main reasons;

The Internal Voice / Internal Pressure

You know the one I mean. It’s the one which tells you it’s ok to have that chocolate bar you promised yourself you wouldn’t have… After all, you work hard, you deserve it, in fact you need it…

It’s the same one which tells you after a hard days work one small glass of wine will make you feel more relaxed… “Oh, go on” it says… “It’s just the one with dinner and it tastes sooooo good”. Before you know it the bottle has gone and you are best part of 1000 calories heavier and that little bit further away from your goal.

The External Voice / Social Pressure

When you go out with friends with the promise you won’t drink, just for your best friend to look at you with a look of disapproval just to say “What, you’re not drinking? A bit antisocial of you, isn’t it?” Or when you’re trying to eat healthy and the rest of family decide they want a take away on Saturday night. What do you do? Exclude yourself and sit in solitary, salivating like a crazy person with a little salad while the room is filled with the ambient smell of your favourite pepperoni pizza? Or do you succumb to the needs and wants of the rest of the group just to feel riddled with guilt about how you let yourself down afterwards?

Both Social & Internal Pressures Combined Simultaneously

When with clients at my studio we refer to this scenario as the ‘perfect storm’ as it’s like the waves hitting the boat hard from both sides. Imagine you are attending a lunch with clients. You want to impress the clients, however, they have suggested a snazzy restaurant for lunch which means more than just the one bottle of wine and a big three course lunch. The problem is you have promised yourself a month of no alcohol and to eat healthy food little and often.

The inner voice says excluding yourself to a small salad and bottle of water is absolutely unacceptable as you need the rapport with the client to seal the deal.  Of course, the external voice here is of the client who has an expectancy for you to be on board for an afternoon of business, wine and good food – After all, in this scenario, you work for them and they call the shots.

There are other reasons for us to quit our routines which are outside of mere mind-set – For example; Being injured or unwell – Where you physically can’t exercise. These unpredictable situations are even more likely to cause you to quit your routine.

In relation to your fitness related goals, the internal voice starts saying “I can’t” and the mind-set shifts to the need for comfort rather than to focus on what you are still capable of in spite of your situation. If you can’t physically exercise, you can still eat healthily. In this context, it’s about staying focused on what you can control, rather than what you can’t.

Maintain a Strong Mind

Giving up on a goal is a psychological matter. You see multiple amputee war heroes in the gym determined not to let what’s happened to them stop them from staying fit, strong and positive while others tend to skip the gym because they are a little tired after a day’s work.

The best method to sustain your goals is to change your thinking toward failure and quitting. The ironic thing is we often know when we are going to fail our objectives but we do nothing about it in advance.

Plan To Relapse

Instead of going out for a dinner where you know everyone will be having dessert just to sit there tormenting yourself about whether you should have some or not, make it easy on yourself… Have the dessert… Have it, enjoy it and feel good about it! This is called ‘Planning to Relapse’.

It may seem strange for a personal trainer to be recommending to allow yourself a little treat which is probably full of unwanted fats and sugar. I would suggest if you are someone who never indulges on any kind of sugary snacks, savoury delight or relaxing glass of wine EVER then you probably have a good point. If, however, like the majority of people you can’t conceive never allowing yourself a little indulgence now and then, my suggestion will help create a positive mind-set and coping mechanism which will keep you focused on your goals, make your healthy habits more sustainable and your desired outcome that little more likely.

Stay Balanced

This, of course, comes with certain rules. When ‘Planning to Relapse’ you have to plan how much of a relapse you are going to allow yourself and ideally it shouldn’t sway too far away from your initial goals. To say “I will allow myself a drink tonight with dinner” to then have a bottle of wine with a meal, followed by a trip to the pub where you proceed to drink the contents of the cellar dry is not sticking to your planned relapse.

The real trick here is while planning to relapse you also plan how you are going to get out of your relapse and back to your healthy routine at the same time. For example; “I am going to eat out and have a three course meal on Saturday night but I will be back in the gym for a spin class at 10am Sunday morning.”  Failing to plan to come out of your relapse period very often means you stay in it. You then, of course, must actually stick to the plan.

As I said in my previous post Food For Thought “No one ever got fat from eating something once”. If you are someone who rarely eats desserts, one every now and then will not make you fat. Have one everyday and that will change.

Plan Ahead

If you eat well for 7 days and know full well Saturday night is family take away night, keep your food clean all day Saturday and enjoy the indulgence with your family. When Sunday comes plan in advance to get back into your healthy routines with a healthy breakfast or a gym visit and be happy with the fact you haven’t quit or let yourself down, you have simply experienced a ‘Planned Relapse’.

Body builders are among the leanest, most muscular people on the planet. They would refer to this scenario as a cheat meal. It means to come out of your routine just long enough to enjoy the little indulgence but not in a reactive way where they have let themselves down or lost sight of their objective.

We love being goal driven because achieving our goals makes us feel good. Failing always makes us feel bad. My advice? Keep your diet clean and exercise regularly.

When you know you are going to be excessively tired or face an occasional internal, social or perfect storm based pressure, take the heat off yourself and enjoy the moment because the very next day you will be back to your routine – Happily moving forward towards your goals… Guilt free and, probably, just that little bit happier.

About the author

Danny Wallis is a Personal Trainer, Sports Therapist, NLP Life Coach and Nutrition Advisor, with over 20 years experience in helping people achieve their goals.

Danny Wallis

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  1. Ah…you managed to express a method that I have been using for years:) The cheat meal…it seems to work for me. Somehow it makes it easier to pass things up, when I know that I am not saying no forever.

    1. Absolutely Jackie, you have got it in one. I don’t encourage ‘dieting’ as they can often be nutrient deficient and too restrictive for people. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of what you fancy now and then as long as its balanced and controlled in order to stay healthy.

    1. Yes indeed Ken. Your new habits become much more sustainable when you set realistic targets. If you start small and allow yourself some breathing room from time to time, your objectives become much more likely to be achieved.

  2. I am one of those people others love to hate – I have never had to diet in my life. Having said that, however, I do have to watch the other way, that I don’t become to much underweight. However, your post, while addressing diet can be applied to many other goals – just focus, keep moving forward and when you fail, pick yourself up and carry on.

  3. No-one ever got fat from eating something once. A perfect line for those trying to be motivated and having a tough time when guilt beats the crap out of us.

  4. Great post!

    I agree that you need to incorporate treats, especially if it is a life long regime.

    95% of the time I eat healthily and the other 5% I allow for relapse – meals out, special occasions.

  5. I am enduring the struggle right now. I have yet to learn to indulge without guilt and often find myself “cheating” unless I weigh in daily. Neither are good things. Certainly must make more time for the gym. Thanks for the reminders.

    1. What I find most interesting about what you have said here is how you ‘find’ yourself cheating. That suggests that your cheat meals are not something that you are conscious of doing in the first place. If you are not eating regular meals or if your calorie intake is too low, your blood sugar drops causing your subconscious brain to start foraging for food – normally in the form of something sweet. Next thing you know you have had a bar of chocolate and don’t know why. It could also be simply a habit. Regular exercise will help shift your mind-set to eating healthy as will planning your food in advance – including cheat meals. Feel free to subscribe for regular updates on managing your mind-set with food and exercise. I wish you every success Jacqueline.

  6. What a good article, we need to keep inspired and dedicated to a diet, or anything else we set our mind to.
    I wished you posted this before I ate all the Halloween candy that was left over.

  7. I always try to keep my weight on a certain level and if it goes up I start dieting but I believe that just going out of plan once or twice can not do much damage. It is very inspiring and helpful post. I hope that I will be able to make more time for gym in my busy schedule.
    Thank you for reminding me.

  8. Exercise can make the difference between regaining a few pounds and maintaining my desired weight. Once I learned to watch my portions, eat mostly raw food, and walk instead of drive during my off-peak hours, I was fine. Now I’m too happy with the weight I’ve lost to backslide. I do appreciate hearing another voice–yours–telling me I can have cake a certain way!

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