I recently interviewed a psychologist (for once it was not for my own issues) about people in our lives who sabotage our goals.
To emphasize the effect others have on us, she told me we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time.
I thought about this the other day and realized, “I am totally screwed.” (Okay, not really, but I could make better choices in some instances.)
I bring this up because many women write to me, both via email and through my Facebook Ageless After 50 Women group page about people in their lives who don’t support their weight loss or fitness efforts.
“How can this be?” I thought. Shouldn’t our loved ones support us in any effort we make to better ourselves?
Turns out: not always. In fact, the people closest to us are often the first ones to undermine us when we try to change.
It’s my strongest argument for finding a private island and leaving the rest of the world to fend for itself.
The scenario I hear the most is when the loved one brings home high-calorie “treats,” as a way of pampering his beloved spouse, for example, even though said spouse has made it clear she wants these cream-filled pastries kept out of the house.
It’s hard enough staying on track without someone waving a doughnut with sprinkles under your nose.
I find this very disturbing for a number of reasons…
For one, it’s passive aggressive. If you tell someone, “I really dislike it when you poke me in the arm with a fork,” and that person insists on poking you in the arm with a fork, there’s more to their act than what you see on the surface.
I’m no psychologist, but you’re likely bringing up guilty feelings in the other person, especially if their own diet could use a little tweaking. On some level they know they should also be following your lead and eating something green and leafy instead of opening another sleeve of Fig Newtons.
They may also feel threatened by your new and improved self.
In fact, a weight-loss specialist once told me approximately 10% of his patients who lost a large amount of weight (100 lbs. or so) ended up divorced.
Divorce! Sounds insane when it’s about a loved one striving to be healthier. You’d think both people would be on the same team, but it’s not always the case.
In essence, this dramatic weight loss changes the dynamics of the relationship. If that person becomes more active, feels better and begins making new friends and generally enjoying life more (which undoubtedly happens), it can make a less-than-secure partner feeling down and out.
Even research shows people around us can greatly influence our weight.
A 2007 study involving over 12,000 people showed a person’s risk of becoming obese increased by 57% if their friends were obese. An overweight spouse jacked up obesity risk by 37% for the other person as well.
Apart from divorcing your spouse and ditching all your overweight friends, what can you do?
You can take back your control, especially now that you’re aware of the inherent dangers. Here are expert tips on ways to cope:
1. The well-meaning spouse
Okay, let’s assume your significant other honestly means well. They’ve grown accustomed to “pizza night” every Friday accompanied by copious amounts of adult beverages every weekday evening. Now they’re upset that you’ve taken away some of this fun and are constantly trying to turn you back to the dark side.
Your move: Your best approach is a direct one. Sit down with your SO and explain the importance of getting healthier — even walking this journey together. Ask the other person if they realize their actions are undermining your success. Then talk it out. If it continues, consider seeking outside counseling.
2. The “insulted” family member
People who tell you they prepared something “especially for you” may look sad and dejected when you turn down their food offering. They want to guilt you into eating something you’d rather not by making it a personal affront when it’s not.
Your move: If they insist, take a bite or two and give them tons of verbal kudos, compliment their cooking expertise up and down, ooh and aah and make whatever food noises are required, then claim you’re simply stuffed and could not eat another bite. “But seriously, Aunt Jane, you’d win a blue ribbon for these raviolis in any state of the union.”
3. The YOLO friend
You know this one, the “you only live once!” friend who constantly tries to derail your good choices with not-so-subtle insults such as, “You still eating all that kale? Ugh. I don’t know how you do it.” They then bite into a fat-laden cheeseburger, all the while looking at you with sad, fake empathy.
Your move: Try to ignore the attitude and simply ask for their support. Tell them it’s hard for you and you’d appreciate if they’d respect your wishes instead of making fun. If they insist, either look for new friends or limit time with these saboteurs to non-food related activities.
4. Your know-it-all coworker
This one’s one of the worst, in my opinion. This person insists your dietary approach is “all wrong” because a new study from BS University in Slobovia. They then cite research based on the fat-burning effects of goat urine or some other gross thing. This may actually work in your favor since you’ll lose your appetite just listening to it.
Cut them off and say you have your own plan, thank you. Then change the subject.
5. The cult classic
Whether it’s veganism, Paleo or another new National Enquirer trending food plan, you’ll not only have to listen to the sheep who blindly follow trends but you’ll also read about it every time you open your browser.
Your move: Your best ally is time, since these fad diets typically fade out fairly quickly. Just wait for research that contradicts the alleged “benefits” of the Diet Of the Month, nod when someone starts to spout off about them and keep on your merry way. Or feel free to use one of my counter attacks, “I heard you get really constipated on that regimen. Is it true?”
Do you or did you have to deal with an unsupportive family member or friend? Let me know in the comments section below… along with how you handled it or how you will handle it in the future.
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By the way, have you taken my 7-Day Ageless Body Challenge yet? It’s seven days of workout designed to help you meet your fitness goals. If not, sign up HERE!
Got questions? Send ’em to me at Linda@LindaMelone.com and I’ll get back to you.
Your Ageless Body Coach,