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Social Support: Helpful and Harmful Influences During the Holidays

Securing social support from the people around you is especially important during the holidays – Family, friends, and coworkers may negatively influence us by sneakily passing along that “extra cookie” or by offering too much of a certain dish or beverage at a party or potluck.

What other people say or do can be a helpful or harmful influence on the decisions we make – these statements or actions are known as social cues. Social support is a key component of everyday life, but also in achieving personal goals related to eating choices, being active and living a healthy lifestyle.

Harmful Social Cues

The office staff has a dessert day once a week during lunch for everyone to bring his or her favorite homemade treats for tasting.

Family or friends always bring a large amount of everyone’s favorite junk food during movie night.

The usual household routine is to lay on the couch and watch a few TV shows after dinner.

Helpful Social Cues

The sight of coworkers eating healthy snacks and lunches, and frequently sharing recipes.

Each month, the family plans a healthy potluck for dinner with a recipe swap and a fun group activity to follow.

 A family member or close friend checks in each day to schedule a time to walk or attend exercise class in the evening.

Continuous response to either harmful or helpful social cues develops a habit. The aim is to build more helpful habits than harmful habits, so that healthy eating and physical activity goals become easier to accomplish.

To be successful during the holiday season, inform your family, friends, and coworkers of your plan to maintain a healthy lifestyle and ask for support. If you really want to be held accountable, develop a buddy system and ask someone you trust to join you along your journey to a healthier lifestyle!

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