It’s hard to understand why our friends or family members, who are supposed to want the best for us, might actually try to work against our weight loss efforts. Most of the time, they’re unconscious of it, or at least minimally conscious of their motives.
“You only live once!” Do any of you have that “fun” friend who encourages you to indulge in alcohol, desserts or other behaviors that go against your healthy lifestyle? This can arise out of envy, because it can be discouraging to see someone else working to obtain the goals they might want to achieve as well. It can also arise out of fear that if you change the activities that they’re used to doing with you, you might not have anything in common anymore. If they have some similar goals but are having trouble sticking with their plans, try inviting them out on a hike or inviting them over for one of the best healthy recipes you’ve found. Encourage them to share the journey with you.
If they have no interest in changing their habits, but you value the relationship, try switching some of the places you go. Try going out for coffee or live music, where it’s not so obvious if you choose to sip club soda or tea. If they try to get you to order something that’s not on your plan, either offer to share it with them, or remind them with a smile that you’re cutting back on sugar so you’ll skip it, but they should feel free to order whatever they’d like.
“But you’ve always been this way…” Sometimes partners and friends resist any changes in you because they’re afraid of what the changes will bring – will you still want to be with them? Will your new lifestyle have any room in it for them? The best way to deal with this is to include them in your efforts, and to make sure you emphasize that you value the relationship, and look forward to being healthier so you can be an even better partner/friend to them.
“Just because you’re on this health kick doesn’t mean we all have to change!” This is a favorite message often implied by extended family who insist on buying the potato chips you loved as a kid and cooking those creamy casseroles or fried chicken they’re famous for. In this case, the path of least resistance is usually the path to family harmony. When you visit, buy your own food to eat most of the time, and eat smaller amounts of the unhealthy main dishes. Assure your aunt that she’s still a fabulous cook, but that you really couldn’t eat any more. Get up early to exercise to reduce interruptions. Most importantly, don’t let the stress of family gatherings lead you to giving up your healthy habits.
The best way to avoid these situations is to be up front about your goals and to ask nicely for their support. A collaborative approach almost always works better than an antagonistic one. You might feel angry and reactive about the lack of support from the people who love you, but try to remember that it usually comes from their own insecurity, and that reassurance about how important they are to you will often go a long way towards gaining their support.
One of the best ways to assure success in reaching your goals is to let everyone around you know what you are working on, so an e-mail sent to friends and family outlining your goals and asking for support is a great way to let everyone feel included and let them know how to help. A good friend of mine does this regularly and in a brilliant move, includes a request that her loved ones reciprocate – that is, to let her know what our goals are and how she can support us in reaching them.
Above all, remember that you are in control. Changing your lifestyle and habits is a challenge, and there will always be roadblocks. If you see these roadblocks as an opportunity to solidify your values and goals, they can actually strengthen your resolve and make you a stronger, healthier you.
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