08/22/2014 11:54 am ET Updated Oct 22, 2014

The Incredible Power of Your Support System

Cathy Yeulet via Getty Images

We've all heard the saying, "You are what you eat." I have an alternative take on this phrase for you: You are what you surround yourself with. Have you ever stopped to consider how much influence your friends and family have on your attitude and outlook on life? How many times have you justified doing something because those around you are doing it, only to hear your mother or someone else say, "If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" This is obviously an extreme example meant to prove a point, but if you stop to think about it, it's quite a powerful point indeed.

Whenever you want to start a new workout or nutrition regimen, one of the best tips you can follow to ensure your success is to find a buddy. There is definitely an aspect of accountability in having to answer to someone, but I think the more important value of the buddy system comes from the support your buddy provides. If you've ever used this system, you know how great it is when you just want to sleep in and skip your workout, but your buddy is enthusiastic and ready to go (maybe not quite Monica from Friends, though). The attitude of your buddy becomes infectious, and soon enough you're out of bed and lacing up those running shoes. This phenomenon plays out in all aspects of life. The attitudes, values, and actions of those around you have tremendous power to shape your reality. By recognizing this, you can take a look at the people around you and begin to intentionally surround yourself with the people who contribute meaning and positivity to your life.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have gone through quite a few life changes in the last two years. Was it easy? Not even close. And I feel I can only take partial credit for coming out on the other side as well as I have. I absolutely would not be where I am today without the help and constant support of those around me. My wise mom has always been my biggest cheerleader, albeit a cheerleader who isn't afraid to be realistic or call me out when it's necessary. I have an incredible group of friends who stimulate, motivate, and encourage me. Not only are these people great for helping me get through tough times or making my dreams a reality; they are also very inspiring people all on their own. I get to watch my best friend do remarkable things like get a Ph.D. and move to D.C. to change the world of science policy. I have a boyfriend whose knowledge, discipline, and enthusiasm when it comes to fitness and wellness are a constant inspiration to me. I have a wonderful group of friends at work who teach me new things on a regular basis and enable my success in my career. These are just a few of examples of the extraordinary people I have in my life.

Every day, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the people I have around me. And so I highly recommend stopping to take a look at those around you. Do they accept you, or are they constantly pointing out your flaws and trying to change you? Do they support your successes, or do they try to drag you down because they are jealous or envious? Do they make you laugh? Some friends have come and gone over the years, but when I recognize someone who accepts me, inspires me, and makes me laugh with abandon, I make sure to keep them close. I know that these people wouldn't expect me to jump off a bridge for them, but I would do it in a heartbeat to help them, and I know they would do the same for me. Can you say the same about your support system?