How to tell your friends no

Where there is progress there is a pushback

How many of you had to deal with people expressing their unwelcome opinion to you such as:

“Why you workout so much?”
“You are no fun, eat this with us”
“You don’t drink like you used to, we miss the old you”

Those destructive comments aren’t the exception when you are changing your lifestyle to a more healthy outlook, they are often the norm as your friends and circle of acquaintances start to see you changing. They are expecting it to be a phase but when that phase becomes a habit, they feel threatened.

Those friends can often derail your progress, or they can prevent you from starting in the first place. For many of us who have been immersed into this lifestyle, this is often out of our personal wheelhouse of relatability. We have created a shell around us to mostly prevent the external peer pressure from taking hold of our goals.

There are moments we slip, like all humans do, but we know enough to drag ourselves back up from the fall and keep moving.

Not everyone who starts this little transformation journey developed those same defense mechanisms, and I would wager the peer pressure is a large part in why many people either never start, or quit when it gets too “hard”.

Peer Pressure for adults? I thought we were beyond that.

Peer Pressure isn’t just for kids. Do you remember your mom saying to you (well my mom did), “if your friends all jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you follow them?”

Of course the answer is yes, but what about…

“If all your friends were eating a large pizza and you didn’t want to, would you be able to say no or would you give in and eat more than you should?”

“If all your friends are downing multiple shots at the bar, would you give in or would you have 1-2 drinks and drink Diet Coke the rest of the night?”

“If all your friends made fun of you for training on a Friday night instead of going out early with them, would you skip the gym or meet them out after?”

See how simple it is to fall into peer pressure. If anyone tells me they never considered the answers to those questions, they are flat out lying. We all have, I have; it is human nature.

This is where people who are immersed into this lifestyle have a slightly easier time dealing with this type of pressure because we have, by actions and lifestyle, created a habit which can withstand a lot of external pressure. Even with those habits in place, we aren’t immune to them.

What to do… What to do…

Step 1:

Your goals are important and they are yours. This doesn’t need to be shouted on a Facebook status, a tweet, or even a long Instagram selfie post. Quite frankly, the only circle that truly matters is the one in your day to day life. 

It can start with a simple, “I will skip lunch with you guys because I brought my own food.” Set the tone by telling your circle that you are taking this seriously. Back it up and don’t give in.

This is where it gets hard because if you start to give in with, “ok, just this last day.” you made it all the easier to give yourself an out the next time they ask. 

The old saying, no better time than no, is completely relevant here because if you don’t take your plan seriously, and you give in when a little pressure to deviate strikes, how do you expect your circle to take it seriously and not expect this to be just another phase.

Step 2:

Remove trigger sources from your life. 

Do you like alcohol a little too much? Avoid bars until you can safely regulate yourself in the presence of it.

Do you tend to gorge on wings when you and your friends go out to watch the games at BWW? Find somewhere else to go with them, or watch them at home for the time being. I realize that spectator sports are a social event for many, but at this stage of the game what is more important, watching NFL football with your boys or starting a new lifestyle. If you said hanging out with your friends while you are at a crucial moment in progress,  maybe you aren’t ready to make this step.

Feel free to disagree with that but experience has told me that if you willingly put yourself into situations that are a risk for you to backslide, you will backslide until you have developed the habits and mindset to be in them.

Lifestyle changes are hard. There is a reason why people fail at diets, start exercising and stop, why the obesity rate is the way it is in America, and why diabetes and heart disease is a damn near epidemic.

It isn’t because adults are adept at smashing peer pressure and triggering situations, that’s for sure.

Step 3:

Be harsh.

Friends should support you, family should also. In a perfect pretty utopian world, all of your friends and family will understand and respect your wishes all of the time.

That world doesn’t exist. People are selfish at times, they are insecure, they will project their issues onto you, and sometimes they will want to sabotage your efforts to appease their own interests.

If you don’t believe that; well remember that bridge in Brooklyn my mom said don’t jump off of? I am selling it if you want to buy.

There is incredible merit in being an advocate for your own needs, and learning to say no. This is a habit many people have yet to cultivate and for some of it, this is terribly hard to do. If you are a person that wants to make everyone happy and hates saying no to your friends and family, you are going to have a hard time with peer pressure.

You are also going to have a hard time with your lifestyle because this lifestyle IS selfish, it is self-centered, it is completely yours but that is perfectly ok.

We deserve to take care of ourselves.

We deserve to be advocates for our own medical care and ensuring our long term health and wellness.

We deserve to look and feel our best.

Not a single family member, spouse, child, friend, or co-worker will give that gift to you. You have to do this for yourself, for your reasons, for your goals, and for your life.

If you cannot be firm and fair to your circle when it comes to your goals, I strongly suggest seeking professional help so you can learn how to say the word no and not feel guilty about it.

If all else fails and your friends or family can’t respect the level of importance this is for you; well, that should be an immediate revelation how they view the relationship with you. They like it on their terms, and that isn’t the most healthy relationship to have for you.

Step 4:

Here is the part where I say contact a coach who can help you.

I offer a three tiered online coaching plan, training, training and diet, or a partnership with SteadyMD for a complete fitness and wellness plan.

You can read more about them here.

If you are local to Kansas City, I own a gym downtown where we offer group coaching, one on one training, nutritional counseling, and it is a hell of a lot of fun. 

We preach strength training. Stronger bodies, healthier bodies, bodies that move better, feel better, perform better, and we do it in an inclusive coaching environment. 

Visit Kansas City Barbell for more information.

This step is a choice, like the prior 3 steps. The benefits of coaching are many. We give you the program, we hold you accountable, we can talk to you about those roadblocks you encounter and help you plan your way around them, we have a network of professionals who can assist you with bodywork and even therapy if you need it.

That choice is yours and even if you aren’t ready for step 4, the first 3 steps are very important to think about and consider how you will approach the outside pressures when you are creating a new lifestyle.

Take a stand

Be an advocate for yourself because nobody else will be as strong of a defender for your wishes than the person looking back in the mirror at you.


Check out the SECOND AND BRAND NEW Ashman Strength System e-book.

Join the Ashman Strength Facebook Page.

Check out Pump, Dump, and Hump; a fitness group based around health, lifting, and sexuality run by my wife and myself.

To inquire about training, contact us for more information or to set up a call about remote coaching.

If you are local to Kansas City and wish to kickass at my gym, visit us at Kansas City Barbell for the ultimate training experience.


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