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Factors Influencing Diet and Exercise Adherence pt 2 (Personal & Interpersonal Factors Factors)

This is part two of the two-part series that started with this article that covered the socio-economic and cognitive factors that affect diet and exercise adherence. This part covers the personal and interpersonal factors. 

Interpersonal Factors

  • Social Support
  • Family Support
  • Relationship between trainer and client
  • Trust in trainer 
  • Communication between trainer and client

Social Support

Studies show that having a supportive group around you helps you stick to a healthy lifestyle. Conversely, a social circle that is negative and unsupportive can make it harder to stick to the plan. That said, I firmly believe that wanting to “prove everyone wrong” is a very powerful motivator, so even if you are in a negative social environment, embrace it with an attitude to “show them all,” and stick to your guns.

Family Support

Family support is closely associated with lifestyle (inc. exercise and diet) recommendations. Family support was found to be the strongest and most consistent predictor of adherence to treatment in patients with type 2 diabetes, as per this study. Conversely, family conflict is linked to non-adherence and making bad choices. 

Relationship between trainer and client

A good relationship with your trainer makes it easier to do what he/she recommends. It’s always easier working with people you like. Being involved in the decision-making process, and not having the plan dictated to you, also helps.

Trust in trainer

If you don’t trust your trainer, why would you train with them? Be honest with yourself, do you believe your trainer is knowledgeable, capable, reliable and interested in getting you the results you want? Studies show that trust in your health care provider (and working with health care providers that deliberately build trust), is positively related to adherence to lifestyle changes.

Communication between trainer and client

There’s a strong link between communication, encouragement, involvement and adherence. What that means in the context of training, if you and your trainer communicate well and if he encourages you to look after yourself and not just rely on him entirely, and when there is a  mutual understanding of responsibilities and involvement, adherence (and therefore results) are improved.

Personal Factors 

  • Busy schedule
  • Health
  • Unwillingness
  • Smoking
  • Extreme weather conditions (hot/cold/rainy season)
  • Side effect/Feeling better or worse
  • Cost 
  • Eating out/Social gatherings
  • Depression
  • Stress

Busy Schedule

Being busy can make it difficult to stick to a healthy lifestyle. You can overcome that by finding a diet plan that suits you, and by committing to exercise either before or after the day catches you. Usually before is best. To paraphrase Jocko Willink, every day there is important stuff to do for the day. So do the stuff that’s important to your life before your day starts.


Being healthy improves exercise adherence. Being unhealthy limits exercise and healthy choices. How you perceive yourself is more important than the objective analysis of your health! Your opinion of yourself is critical. If you perceive yourself to be healthy or unhealthy, that’s the way you behave. So from the first step you take in a health-ward direction, you are healthier than you were, and you’re improving your adherence to a healthy lifestyle by adhering to a healthy lifestyle. The more you do it, the more momentum you build, the healthier you get.


If you don’t consider adopting a healthy lifestyle necessary if you think you can get by without it, or if you’re not willing to invest the energy it’ll take to get you the result you want, you won’t do it. 


In a study conducted in Finland showed non-smokers and ex-smokers made healthier food choices. Smoking doesn’t help you eat less, it leads you to eat worse. 

Extreme weather conditions (hot/cold/rainy season)

Extremely hot, cold or rainy influences whether or not you exercise. Bottom line is, the weather doesn’t care about how you feel about it, so why should you care about the weather? Just train.

Side effect/Feeling better or worse 

Side effects of exercise could include discomfort, stiffness, hunger, you have to carry a lot of stuff around and your favourite training shoes start to stink. The upside is that it often leads to improved health, more confidence, and more sex. Tell me it’s not worth the side effects.


You get what you pay for. If the cost is too high for a quality trainer, you may be better off finding a cheaper alternative (like online training) rather than working with a cheaper personal trainer. Eating clean is expensive too. Money is options, and the more you improve your education and socio-economic status, the more options open up for you.

Eating out/Social gatherings

Eating out, whether at restaurants, getting takeaways or at gathering where inappropriate food is offered make it more difficult to stick to dietary recommendations. Being healthy doesn’t mean cutting restaurants, takeaways and social gatherings out, it means being prepared for it, and planning a cheat meal around any expected events.


As per this study, “Depressed patients experience pessimism, cognitive impairments, and withdrawal from social support, all of which can diminish both the willingness and ability to follow treatment regimens.” Being depressed, feeling hopeless, and withdrawing from support leads to demotivation, apathy and non-adherence to exercise and diet. Exercise releases endorphins, and it’s not even a question any more if exercise has a huge impact on depression. When you’re feeling down, that’s the most important time to exercise. 


Stress is another emotional experience that can affect healthy decisions. Making unhealthy choices for the sake of time, lack of thought or as a coping mechanism doesn’t improve performance, it hurts it. Especially when stressed, it’s important to be mindful of what you are eating, how you are exercising, and whether you are getting enough sleep.

Key Takeaways:

  • Family and social support are important. Your communication, relationship and trust in your trainer are most important. Invest in the best trainer you can find.
  • Manage your beliefs around your health and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. If you believe you are healthy, and that a healthy lifestyle is worth it, you’ll be more like to stick to it.
  • Plan social events/takeaways etc around your diet, schedule it as a cheat meal and avoid takeaways otherwise.
  • Train. When the weather is good, and you’re feeling relaxed, and you aren’t too stiff or sore to train then train. If the weather is crap, train. When you’re getting stiff and sore after training, keep training, your body needs it. Train when you’re feeling depressed, stressed or angry. The days you least feel like it is the days that count the most.
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