Friday, April 6, 2012

Social Dieting

I learned in graduate school how social networks affect your health – studies have proven that who you hang around with influences your ability to make long-lasting changes to your health and lifestyle. It has been shown that many people are overweight and stay overweight because of their environment and the people that surround them. I read a review for the new book “The Social Network Diet” by Miriam Nelson and Jennifer Ackerman – who hopes are to inspire a “ripple effect” of healthy lifestyles through their diet. The idea is very simple – remove the negative and add in a lot of positive. This includes people. And while the focus of this diet like millions of others is weight-loss and reducing obesity rates – it made me begin to think about this concept as it applies to my life with T1.

After 10 years with diabetes, I have to constantly inventory the “negative” influences over my diabetes and replace them with positive cues. For example, leaving my yoga mat in plain sight next to the couch so that is practically screams at me to get my lazy bum up and use it. Or, not buying chips at the grocery store because I am a snacking monster. But, how does this apply to people? I’ve certainly had a number of horrible health professionals that I’ve given the axe – including the biotch that told me I should carry a scale and a carbohydrate book to the dining hall at college for every meal. That would have been a foolproof plan for me to make ANY friends my freshman year. For the record, this “health professional” then went on to show me pictures of her pugs in costumes, enough said. “The Social Network Diet” influences people to be the epicenter of change in their network of friends, family, co-workers, etc. I think this is something people with diabetes deal with more than most. Every time we meet a new person, there is an internal gauge for how much that person needs or wants to know about your life with diabetes. Sometimes this is a forced and uncomfortable encounter and other times it’s wonderful to share. It can be a difficult to navigate social networks with a chronic disease – and to decide how much is too much when it comes to sharing about your health and not making people feel like they have to act differently around you. I’m sure it’s similar with weight loss – how many food items in the pantry can you throw out before your family stages an intervention and takes over the grocery shopping? How many times can you harass your friends to join your boot camp class before they stop answering your calls?

I might have to buy this book just to see what solutions they offer for the backlash that comes from being the “agent of change” in your social groups. This could be a mad social scientist experiment in the making – so beware friends, if you suddenly get a barrage of texts, emails and calls from me asking if you want to cleanse our pantries together please don’t ignore, I’m only trying to change the world one enriched flour item at a time.

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