The Unhealthy Pressure of Society

by Steffen Messerschmidt, ND, Brisbane, Australia.

In the clinics where I practice, patients frequently report to me that they often only drink alcohol, take drugs or eat certain foods in order to be socially accepted and to fit in.

These days, in many circles, it is socially and culturally acceptable to drink alcohol, take drugs and eat in a way that is not supportive of our bodies and our health, and often makes us feel sluggish and bloated.

But for some, this way of living is recognised as no longer working and they are making different choices such as: not to drink, to quit smoking, go to bed early, to take better care of themselves, live a simple, joyful and loving life showing respect and love towards humanity and to respect others without judgement for their choices.

When they begin to make different lifestyle choices, they feel targeted, condemned or even bullied and find it hard to make the changes they would like to make simply because of the pressure that family, friends, work colleagues and society puts on them.

This does not make sense. Self-loving choices may seem out of the ordinary to some, but from what I witness on a daily basis in my clinics many people can now attest to the benefits they are feeling.

People feel so much pressure, some of which comes from and is perpetuated by the media, to continue to engage in unhealthy and loveless choices. You just have to look at all the advertising for alcohol, junk foods, soft drinks etc. and the daily emails advertising for alcohol specials and free junk food samples and unhealthy choices.

Under the pressure of society that encourages an unhealthy lifestyle, many accept this as a normal way of living without actually stopping and truly feeling if this suits them, if this is good for them and if this actually represents what they truly want to live.

Overall our bodies show lots of signs that the way we are living is not going well, but because of the pressure from all of the above we still give in and carry on with behaviours we know are unhealthy.

Many suffer from the consequences afterwards but can not say NO when it is just that one piece of birthday cake from your niece, the Christmas Dinner your family invited you to, just a glass of sparkling wine on New Year’s Eve, just that cookie or cake because the relative baked it herself, just that piece of chocolate because it is for a raffle for school, just that glass of alcohol because it is your friend’s wedding and so on …

Recently I also heard this one: ‘I know you do this healthy lifestyle thing now and do not drink alcohol but you can just have one glass with me and I will not tell anybody.’ Who needs enemies when you have friends like that!

And at the end of this list would certainly be the statement that it is Un-Australian not to drink alcohol on Australia Day! (1)

Again this list could go on and on and on, but I am sure you know what I mean.

Because of all this pressure we would rather suffer than dare to say ‘No’ to something we know does not feel right for us and is actually damaging our health, as in the end the body has to bear the consequences. How crazy is that?

World health statistics show that we are not getting healthier and we have epidemics in obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and many other chronic diseases.

It is time that we as humanity look at our choices, the consequences those choices bring and start to take responsibility for our own health. This begins by saying ‘No’.

Saying ‘No’ is definitely a more healthy choice than giving in to the pressure of peers to persist with an unhealthy lifestyle. Indeed, saying ‘No’ to unhealthy choices is saying ‘Yes’ to yourself, ‘Yes’ to lovingly looking after your health and your body.

(1) Why Caroline won’t be boozing on Australia Day.

642 thoughts on “The Unhealthy Pressure of Society

  1. We all know that certain life style choices are unhealthy and yet the majority not only choose that way but champion it. That is their right, but to abuse people for making healthy choices is a step too far.

    1. Odd isn’t it how we champion our ability to abuse our bodies. We cheer people who are able to drink massive amounts of alcohol and laugh when they get so drunk that they either vomit or lose control of their bowels! We glorify an athletes ability to keep playing with broken bones and clap them off when they finally limp or get stretchered off the pitch. There are so many examples of how we, as a society applaud self-abuse, it’s no wonder we’re all in such a mess. And the only way out of the mess is to start to put the body first, there’s actually no other way out, it’s our bodies that will lead the way.

  2. The day that I gave up drinking alcohol was the day I began to clearly see the societal pressure that had me previously saying yes to a drink when my body was saying no. The fact that I no longer drank rocked a few people around me so much so that they would endeavour to get me to have ‘just one’, as obviously me not drinking was stirring something up for them. But I didn’t waver in the least which I think bothered them even more, but it still wasn’t enough for me to say yes, as at that stage my body and I were in full and harmonious agreement; alcohol no longer had a place in my life.

  3. My feeling is people don’t like being exposed for the various unsupportive reasons they make their choices with by someone who is able to choose lovingly for themselves. This for me shows we understand how powerful people around us are as reflections and role models. For example someone who is self loving with their diet doesn’t just reflect the benefits of a healthy diet, but that those who aren’t eating well can be in disregard of themselves, may have low self worth, may have caved into peer pressure to not eat well exposing the foundations of their relationships, or that they are avoiding responsibility for themselves. There is a lot that can come up for people but there is also a dishonesty that is behind trying to convert or pressure someone in healthy choices back to unhealthy ones. This is because we try to extinguish the reflection the person offers and the evolution and growth it offers, rather than being honest about what is there for us to work with.

  4. It is absurd that in many social climates making choices that will have a positive impact on our wellbeing, such as drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all, is judged and criticised. We do absolutely need a culture change where people feel able to support themselves and others.

  5. I can so clearly remember when I stopped making love-less choices as to what I was feeding my body and began to finally respect it for the wonderful and very patient vehicle that it had always been, that the spotlight was turned right on to me by friends and family, and then the pressure to stay the way I always had been began. I can also remember feeling extremely hurt by the obvious lack of support, as they all knew how un-well I had been. I naturally presume that to see me return to good health would have been worth celebrating. That really puzzled me. Thank goodness my commitment to my well-being was so strong as I never wavered from what I finally knew was the true way to care for my body.

  6. I keep coming back to this blog to see how the truth can so easily be presented as odd and the normality that is so damaging to ourselves and society presented as the way. We’ve got so much back to front in society, so why do we want to keep it this way?

  7. I’ve certainly said yes under pressure in the past – convincing myself it is my choice – when in fact I am just saying no to love and a foundation I have built. Reading this blog reminds me of how powerful it is to honour how we feel and to respond to that rather than to what other people want us to choose

  8. I used to believe that this outer pressure was bigger than myself, until I started listening to my body and living by how I felt from within to feel. That pressure to live a certain way is only powerful when I give it the power over me. Listening to my body makes the outer much more reduced in it’s ability to sway me.

    1. Saying no to something is difficult when the power of our life is in the outside. The more we know and honour the power we have within, the more easy it is to say no to what don’t support us. Love is the basis of it.

  9. We love to use the excuse that everyone does it so it makes it normal. However we are already looking for any excuse to avoid the responsibility of living who we truly are.

  10. I have to be fully committed to say no to my own unloving choices first, otherwise when I say no to tempting offers from outside I can weaken, then of course they will continue to suggest I join in with unloving choices, as I have had no consistency with my own self loving choices.

  11. This exposes just how much we crave to be loved, to feel a sense of belonging. Yet as we have already separated from the love we already are, that which inescapably resides within, we have instead fallen under the illusion championed by our minds, that the love we desperately seek is outside of us, as such at any cost we to try to fit in through lifestyle choices set by society standards as ‘normal’. All this trying to fit in is at the expense of honouring and cherishing our body, our truest guide to returning to living in connection to the all that we deeply crave and seek; our love within.

    1. We have to really question relationships that are based on conditions, that we are accepted if we enjoin in certain behaviours or not accepted if we don’t.

  12. I remember being caught up in wanting to be part of the crowd, which meant drinking and having fun, yet once I stopped drinking it didn’t take me long to work out how empty many of my relationships were because once you take the alcohol out of the equation we did not have much in common, there is no foundation to fall back on and for me it made it easier to develop new relationships that didn’t revolve around alcohol.

  13. Great question, who or what do you say yes to: your body and what supports it or people around you that have their own ideas and investments? We can’t blame the supermarket for supplying us with all the ‘goodies’ when we are the ones that ask for it. But we can change things by asking for food that support our bodies and live and move in a way that truly adds to our well-being.

  14. This reminds me of a dilemma I used to have whenever I went away from work for a while and I wanted to bring back something for my colleague. Not that there was pressure from them, but I was aware that they hardly ever take days off longer than a day or two in one go (this is Japan after all), and me being away had added workload to them and they graciously undertook it while I was away and I wanted to be able to say thank you.

    Then there was always this question of what to bring back. They love cookies and chocolate and in fact we would get all kinds of sweets from visitors that I personally wouldn’t choose to eat. Should I bring back something I know they like even though I would not choose it for myself? Or should I bring back something I know they would not choose for themselves but I think would be a better (or less harmful) choice? Or should I just not bother? I eventually found some beautiful herbal tea everybody enjoyed, but it was a process of feeling through and discarding my seeking of belonging.

    1. Oh, I know that dilemma. Also what to do with a bottle of wine you got from a very grateful client? Say no thank you, pour it down the sink or give it to someone else, who really likes it. I found I can’t give presents to people that I think and have experienced are poison, like alcohol. I also search for something that both or everyone of us enjoys.

      1. I am going to a 50 year (!!) reunion tomorrow and I shall make some gluten and dairy free nut balls and make up some small bottles of essential oils for my old flatmates.

    2. Often we don’t have to think about these situations as our relationships with others already gives the reflection of how we live and the quality of presence we will offer another.

  15. I love it. It is not so much a case of saying no to things but as you point out it is about saying yes to taking care of ourselves and making choices that support our health rather than ones that diminish and destroy our health, all to avoid someone else’s reaction or disfavour that you won’t join them in their self harming.

  16. Under the pressure of society that encourages an unhealthy lifestyle, many accept this as a normal way of living without actually stopping and truly feeling if this suits them, if this is good for them and if this actually represents what they truly want to live.” So true Steffen. What we consider ‘normal’ is anything but – yet when we make healthy choices people often encourage us to revert back to keeping them company in their own unhealthy choices, rather than be inspired by a different way of living, thus condoning and making ‘acceptable’ their own unhealthy living way.

  17. Making choices to self-care and look at our food choices can really shake things up and not just in our own lives, ripples of these changes can be felt by those around us also and reactions can come up, for example if you stop having the champagne or cake to celebrate an occasion this can often bring straight up disbelief and in some cases outrage, I have experienced both. I have felt pressure to conform by others that are uncomfortable with my changing ways of eating and living..and actually giving up alcohol was the easy part, personally the tricky bit came after when people wanted me to have a drink with them, got angry because I would not and basically attempted to bully me into joining, either emotionally getting sad, moody or being furious with me for breaking our previous way of interacting with each other.

    For me this clearly illustrates that food and drink are not just simple products we consume, they have emotional ties and personal needs connected with them, they come loaded and we need to be aware of it. The reactions encounter do not really make sense, most of us would want to see our friends and family well and healthy, so rationally we think it should be meet with enthusiasm and support, but if we have this expectation then we can be hurt and shocked. In a sense it is not personal, but the choice to self-care in a way that brings real change can be confronting and it can not be underestimated, it absolutely changes lives and this will inevitably change our relationships.

  18. It takes great dedication to one’s health to be able to hold steady in one’s choices as all around us want to not see the true benefits that are evident when one makes such a choice to care deeply for self. As it shows that they too can choose the same, but the choice means that responsibility needs to be taken for where each person finds them self in life. No longer can one blame another.

    1. Yes, taking responsibility is key. Much easier to blame another for ones unhealthy choices – currently being the high sugar content in food and drinks – yet no-one is forced to buy these items, let alone consume them.

  19. “Because of all this pressure we would rather suffer than dare to say ‘No’ to something we know does not feel right for us and is actually damaging our health, as in the end the body has to bear the consequences. How crazy is that?” And it seems to have got worse since you wrote your article Steffen. We just don’t seem to want to take responsibility for our own health, but prefer a quick fix from the outside, which often just masks symptoms anyway.

  20. When we do the sums it is clear 1 and 1 do not add up. The missing part of the life equation is our awareness of energy which we don’t want to feel. Because of the unseen forces we ignore, we make choices that as you say Steffen, don’t make sense, except they work supremely well to block life out. We have to want to start to know the truth, then we can return to health.

  21. It’s crazy that society encourages us to be unhealthy and abuse our bodies, it literally makes no sense when we all know the health system is about to collapse through the fact we are not looking after ourselves and as a whole we are getting sicker and sicker. It also doesn’t leave people free to make their own choices, whether the pressure is to be healthy or unhealthy.

  22. For me when I am being truly self-loving it is easy to only eat nourishing foods and saying no is not an issue, however, recently I’ve been drawn back to eating foods I haven’t eaten in a long time. It’s Easter Sunday today and in a place where I’ve been volunteering they have served up hot cross buns. I’ve been eating gluten free for years so what was it about these fully glutenised rolls that drew my attention? That or moist sugar-laden gluten free bread. There’s something about the texture of cake that pulls me in and I’m not sure what it is but instead of beating myself up for being a bad girl I am trying to read the underlying cause, i.e. what am I trying to avoid feeling?

  23. I find it interesting that people assume that you have allergies or have had to stop eating and drinking certain substances because the doctor said so rather than it being a personal choice to live more healthily.

    1. It’s true, its hard for most people to accept that not eating certain foods is a choice, and for them it does not make sense, but I know for me listening to my body and being able to feel which foods work for me and which don’t, does make sense. To feel so much more alive and full of energy is far more enriching than the few moments of pleasure that is offered from foods that really don’t work in the body.

      1. Yes I love the expression a moment in the mouth, a lifetime on the hips. It captures the craziness of that moment where we give in to a pointless temptation.

    2. As personal choice is an open offering to everyone. Showing clearly the benifits to health and wellbeing that can be obtained when health becomes about self care and attention to our particular body’s requirements. Rather than resenting having to do something because the doctor said so. This shows me that personal empowerment is avoided and in preference the choice to remain in the throes of blame and resentment is by far the choice made by the masses. Why?

  24. it is almost like there is this rule that is unspoken and we all adhere to and when someone doesn’t play to the rule that everybody feels disturbed too and start to make comments. Yet what I find fascinating is that we often never consciously choose to live by the rule grow into it and then defend it with all our might.

  25. Who benefits from all the advertising of unhealthy food? It is certainly not the public or the hard pressed medical professions but it would be good to investigate how much influence they have on governments so that healthy initiatives so often fail or do not continue for one reason or another.

  26. It is often only when we start to take loving care of ourselves and feel the benefits of making healthy choices that we become strong enough to withstand the pressures not to conform to the current unhealthy norm in our society which says more about how our society operates and how these pressures are accepted as the ‘way things are’ rather than people questioning the craziness of the collective choice to self-harm with non-prescription medication i.e. not just alcohol etc but also a dizzying array of unhealthy foods.

  27. There is pressure to eat and drink what is not good for you and there are many groups where people boast about how exhausted they are from the large amount of work or business travelling they do. That does not seem very sensible or productive.

  28. It is an interesting question to ask: is this the way that you truly want to live. Personally, this stops me in my tracks and makes me re-assess everything.

  29. Many people want to pull others into their self harming choices, I know because I was very much like this with alcohol. Drinking on your own feels wrong but if you can involve a friend or two, suddenly it is not just ok but great fun. But is that true, is pulling others to join us in self harming really fun, if so we must surely have a very distorted sense of what fun really is.

  30. What if we started a healthy pressure on society? One where we are looking at how well we eat, how well we take care of ourselves instead of the one to check out, numb out and party.

  31. Yes it’s odd when you consider it, we’re asked to fit in at the expense of our bodies and yet we’re then asked to take care of ourselves, but not just yet. How can we be there with another if we’re not taking care of ourselves?

  32. It is time as a society we wake up and realise the way many are living is impacting on their health and well-being, one only has to look at the current statistics on obesity, diabetes, cancer etc to see it is clear something needs to shift before things get worse.

    1. Yes, that understanding of choices and consequences does not seem to be shared by everybody, despite the obviousness of the concept.

  33. “Overall our bodies show lots of signs that the way we are living is not going well” and the more and more we listen to our bodies, the more and more we can tune into these signs.

  34. There is a huge ignorance in thinking that we can not make a healthy choice for one moment and because no one knows we will get away with it. Our body records everything and ‘off’ moments it does not see through the fingers so to speak. Not in a punishing way but just in an honest way of that is the consequence of that choice. That is on a microscopic level what also happens with all our choices on macroscopic level in all parts of our life as every choice has and outcome and effect.

  35. It’s not only poor choices, but this ‘unhealthy pressure’ you mention Steffen that we contribute to. It doesn’t appear out of nowhere but is a consciousness we promote via the way that we live. They say turkeys wouldn’t vote for Christmas but we do and much to our own detriment.

  36. Whilst the fact that this plays out in society is most illogical and very unfortunate it proves that there is more going on behind the scenes of what we see so to speak. There is no way when someone is living from their essense that such a response to anothers embrace of their own love would happen. In fact it would be confirmed and appreciated. So does this not indicate that there are more forces playing out in our realm than we care to realise or give credit to?

  37. People often can’t cope when we say no to something they are saying yes too, because it makes them uncomfortable and feel how their own choices are unloving. It used to bother me that I stood out as different or odd, when I said no, but I love what you write here that we are actually saying yes to ourselves and our loving choices for our bodies.

  38. It feels like the tipping point will happen at one point as more and more people choose to make more loving choices and this will gather momentum to tip over into more larger scale humanity where more and more people will do so as well.

  39. It does seem bizarre that making healthy choices gets ridiculed, snubbed or even attacked. But at the end of the day, it’s a choice to want to fit in or stay true to what feels right for you… regardless of the pressure or negative comment.

    1. Beautifully said, it is a choice and one we constantly need to make – to compromise and reduce ourselves or to remain true to what feels right and lead the way forwards.

  40. The worst pressure in this world is the one we subscribe to and apply to ourselves. We think that as others do things we have no choice but that is simply not right. We always have the possibility to see the truth and stay strong in that. All we need for this, is to love and back ourselves regardless. As so many of us don’t do this though it can easily seem like there’s no other way. Thank God for those like you Steffen who show there’s another option.

  41. Waywardness is a conspiracy we are all in on until such a time that we lift our head above the cloud we collectively live under and begin to make choices that are true for our body and being.

  42. Society is definitely set up to make us unhealthy in many ways, it only takes a few people to start saying no to alcohol, drugs, sugar etc, and others start to question their own choices, at the end of the day by taking responsibility for ourselves, we offer society a different choice.

  43. The key is to know what our true choices are and then it is easier to make them. We don’t need to be perfect – it gets easier over time, though.

  44. It is amazing – despite all the signs our bodies and the statistics are showing, we keep justifying the abuse we inflict on ourselves and each other and accept as normal. Saying ‘no’ to the normal can seem confronting at times, but it is an amazing offering to everyone around us to start considering a new (not so new actually) and more loving normal.

    1. Yes, that is because we are prepared to pay the price (feeling lethargic, aggressive, affected, chronic lifestyle diseases etc) in return for the momentary relief.

  45. I have noticed that people who drink alcohol, smoke, eat unhealthy food etc often feel very uncomfortable in the presence of those who are making more loving choices. Does this not tell us that we all know what is true for our body but don’t always want to make that choice to be responsible for ourselves?

  46. You spell it out really clearly here Steffen, we live in a society that is unhealthy and not only that it promotes ill health. We learn many subjects as we grow up yet the biggest one – self responsibility – is never taught.

    1. A class on self-responsibility in our education system would be amazing. I know this concept wasn’t introduced to me until I was in my 20s, and I feel like as kids we innately know self-responsibility and what it means to look after ourselves and our health and well-being but it’s almost taught out of us. It would be brilliant if it was nurtured early on.

  47. You would think that as a society we would want to help ensure the health of our community, its amazing to consider how the opposite is actually the true.

  48. There will always be pressure from others if our diets are different to the norm. People suppose that we are missing out, when in fact we are actually protecting ourselves from disease and opening ourselves up to Love instead. I do still get caught out but my own fault rather than someone else.

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