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Sabotaging Friends

“Come on, just have a piece of cake.” Or “you’re only going eat a salad? What… are you on a diet?” Sound familiar?

Earlier this week during a training session, one of our clients described how her friends were critiquing her healthier choices when dining out. She is brand new to exercise, and for the first time, is taking steps to change her habits. Her workout partner then described her experience at a hockey game when she went to order water and a perfect stranger tried to convince her to have a beer.

If you are trying to lose weight, and become healthier, you’re probably already familiar with diet saboteurs: people, possibly a friend, co-worker, spouse or even a stranger, who try to derail you from your plan. Sometimes they are well meaning- such your mother who has always shown love by making delicious meals for you. Sometimes they are a bit guilty or jealous- such as the friend who would really like to lose a few pounds herself and would rather you carry a bit of extra weight as well. Sometimes they are unprepared for the change- such as the friend who knows you as (and thinks he needs you to be) his beer drinking, pizza eating buddy. And sometimes, they have absolutely no idea why they are trying to sabotage your weight loss efforts.

Changing your lifestyle habits it just that- change. You may be ready to embrace and make the change, but your friends and family may not be. And often, it’s the people closest to you who are the ones who are the least supportive.

Here’s the thing: it has nothing to do with you. People, by nature, fear change, even positive change. It’s often the people closest to you who are the most afraid that you will change, and that their relationship with you will change. It’s uncomfortable, and people who feel threatened will fight back.

I’d love to say that all your relationships will endure through your transformation. But truthfully, some relationships will survive, and some will not. Some relationships are really worth fighting for, and some are not.

The best way to turn your friends and family from saboteurs to supporters is to make them feel safe, and to ask for their help.

Schedule a time to talk with your friend or loved one. Mention that you have something important you’d like to discuss so they are prepared to listen with minimal distractions. During the conversation, do not accuse them of being unsupportive or a bad friend. It’s important to understand their feelings, as they are most likely not trying to be malicious. Explain how you feel, why you are making the changes to your lifestyle. Finally, and most importantly, show your loved ones how they can help you. Perhaps you can ask for them to be your workout partner, or help you come up with healthy meal options.

You may say things like “I’m really frustrated with this extra weight. I want to feel better, and I could really use your help” or “I love you, and you’ve always been there for me. It’s really important to me to improve your health, and to do that I need your help.”
When you’re making significant lifestyle changes, be prepared that some people, even your closest loved ones, may not be completely supportive of the change. Be open with them, and ask for help. Communication is the best way to enlist support from your family and friends.

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