Psychology is the study of our mental life and how it interacts with the world around us, including the social realm and its dynamics. Furthermore, this has a significant effect on our relationship to food. These are called psychosocial factors. Some key elements are sphere of influence, intrapersonal and interpersonal factors, conflict resolution styles and communication styles.


The Social Sphere of Influence

A sphere of influence refers to the interconnected tiers of individuals, groups, and organizations that hold weight in our information-processing and decision-making. Examples include close friends and family, religious establishments, medical professionals, political parties, etc. They have a huge influence on our lifestyle choices and eating habits because we tend to bounce off ideologies and values relative to the groups and people that we associate with. A group of people who is focused on health and fitness goals will tend to prioritize healthy lifestyle choices over a group of people who bond over partying every night. If we are surrounded by people and focus on eating healthy most of the time, there’ll be an incentive to start eating healthier.


Intrapersonal Awareness

intrapersonal means “within the person”. So, intrapersonal awareness is about how our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors relate and interact within our environment, such as our outlook on life, values, fears, anxieties, internal conflict, and habits. For example, doing something just because you feel like doing it regardless of other people is an intrapersonal pull. Individuals who have a lot of intrapersonal awareness can come off as self-involved and/or highly individualistic. They know what they want and what they value. Because of this sort of awareness, these individuals usually have an idea about why they are struggling with their health and fitness goals, but they can become stuck in rumination and stall.


Interpersonal Awareness

Interpersonal means “between persons”. So, interpersonal awareness is about how our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors relate to and affect other people around us. For example, doing a favor for another person just because you know that it means a lot to them is an interpersonal pull. Individuals who have a lot of interpersonal awareness tend to have a lot of empathy and know how to get along with others effectively. However, because of the sort of awareness, they can sometimes sacrifice too much of themselves to make other people happy. They may not know what they really want but are pursuing health and fitness goals because they feel like that’s what they should be doing or that it is what other people want them to be doing.

Conflict Resolution and Communication Styles

People who are more of a passive nature will tend to avoid conflict and be indirect in how they communicate with people. This can bleed into how they approach other areas in their lives, such as pursuing and maintaining healthy eating goals. If there is a hurdle or if it’s too complicated, these individuals may give up without truly resolving the issues.

On the other hand, more direct people will tend to confront issues head-on and try to resolve them. This pattern also shows up in other areas in their lives, such as unhealthy eating goals. However, because these individuals are often more results-oriented, they may become impatient and push themselves too hard to the point of injury or sickness.


What are Some Tools to Help with Psychosocial Factors?

As with most things in psychology, staying mindful of what you want is a good first step. With that information in mind, here are a few tips to help you navigate the social world.

Build and maintain healthy boundaries – what are your hardline values? What are your deal breakers? What are you willing to compromise on? These are some of the questions you can ask yourself if you are trying to define or refine your current set of boundaries. Remember, boundaries do not need to be end-all be-all type of things. As long as you have a good baseline of your most important boundaries, the rest can be tweaked through experiences and time.


Set reasonable compromises – Since the vast majority of us do not live on one-man islands, we sometimes have to factor in what others want alongside our own desires. If you don’t feel like you’re getting a fair deal, you can try to renegotiate the boundaries or walk away from the person (depending on the situation). For example, if you are on a specific diet but your partner does not want to participate, then you might have to ask him to put his favorite treats in a secret hiding place.


Consider different perspectives – Earlier, we were discussing intrapersonal and interpersonal awareness which are the opposite sides of the same coin. If one strategy is not currently working for you, such as focusing on other people, you can try other strategies, such as focusing on what you want. This is often the case for people who feel stuck in their health and fitness goals. Find the balance.