Coping with 'non-supporters'

Are your friends and family making you fat?

That question was a bit harsh but it got your attention. Often those close to you can actually make it very difficult to stick to healthy eating habits. This is often unintentional, but regardless of intention it poses a tough challenge. This blog post is about how to enjoy these relationships, without throwing your good habits going out the window.

Often it is those who are closest to you that make it the hardest for you to lose weight or eat healthily. They may make comments that knock your confidence or question your ability to make the lifestyle changes you want to. They may create tempting situations that make it impossible for you to be well behaved. Or they might simply show their love for you by showering you with decadent treats. 

Who are “Non-supporters”?

These are people in your life who intentionally or unintentionally do or say things that make it hard for you to continue your healthy lifestyle choices.

Examples of Non-Supporters

Non-supporters can act in a variety of ways. Many forms of non-supporting are extremely subtle. These are just a few examples. If you rack your brain I am sure you can come up with a few of your own.

  • Certain living situations can make healthy eating very hard. E.g. You serve your family a healthy meal “Yuck! There is no way we are eating this rabbit food”

  •  Some people will make direct weight-related comments. E.g. “C’mon honey, I like your curvy bits”

  •  Others can make comments that make you fear for your health or question what you are trying to achieve. E.g. “Careful you don’t waste away. Are you sure you aren’t losing too much?”

  • Some relationships revolve around food-related activities. Unfortunately this can mean you may be excluded from events because of your ‘diet’.

  • Often people can act personally insulted that you don’t eat what they are offering. E.g. “Are you too good for my cheesecake now?”

  •  A work colleague will always bring in baking and leave it around to tempt you.

  •  Some people directly disregard what you are trying to do. E.g. “Just take it, you can start the diet on Monday”

  •  Your partner likes to treat you by bringing home ice-cream or chocolate after work.

The first step to dealing with Non-supporters is to think about why they may be acting this way. There can be a number of reasons why people don’t want you to lose weight. If you can identify why someone may be feeling this way it can help you respond in the most appropriate way.

Reasons for non-supporting

  • Those who are overweight themselves may feel threatened. Are you the larger one of your friends, which makes the others feel better about their own weight?

  • Partners may be insecure that if you lose weight you may find them less desirable or even find someone else

  •  Co-workers or friends can be competitive

  • Others that are also trying to lose weight may be jealous that you are making changes and they aren’t

  • Loved ones often feel it is their role to make you accept your size as it is

Once you have identified what you think the reasons for non-supporting are think of what you can say or do to ease their concerns. For example, if you believe your partner is feeling insecure you could make an extra effort to communicate how much you love him/her or start planning a future trip or night out together for when you have achieved some of your goals.

How to respond to Non-supporters

There are a number of ways to deal with Non-supporters, on a wide spectrum of bravery. 

  • Least Brave: Tell a simple white lie or defer the situation. E.g. “No thanks, I just ate before I came” or “Not right now thanks”

  • Most Brave: Assertively explain why you are saying No. E.g. “None for me thanks. I’m trying to lose weight and I’ve been doing really well so far”

The most helpful thing is to have a generic response you can give automatically if you are faced with a non-supporting situation off-guard. Come up with a statement that you feel comfortable saying and practice saying it a few times.

How Non-Supporters can help

The last step in dealing with Non-supporters is to find ways to allow them to help you on your journey. It will help you to have more support and it will make them feel better for being a part of your changes. Here are some suggestions for how they can help:

  • Get on board with healthy eating too

  • Try not to eat unhealthy foods in front of you

  • Plan a fun activity/treat for when your goals are achieved

  • Offer to join in with physical activity

  • Give flowers, not food

  • Try not to plan social events around food (instead go to a concert or the beach, get pedicures or enrol in an evening course together)

  • Store tempting foods out of sight (or agree not to buy them at all)

  • Experiment with new healthy recipes

We hope that this has made you think about how the people who you spend time with affect your lifestyle. If you can think of particular people that fit into the Non-supporter category come up with a plan for how to respond to non-supporting situations and ideas for how they can help you in your journey. Most people are happy to help when they know how. And if you have any that continue to be challenging despite your best efforts, some space may be required.