Coping With Sabotage From Family and Friends While Trying to Lose Weight

Today we are talking about coping with sabotage from family and friends, especially when it comes to losing weight.

When people are trying to make change to their habits, when they’re trying to make lifestyle changes to their diet. They often face a lot of resistance from family and friends. This is what I’ve noticed from recent conversations.

In Indian families usually the dynamic is such that you stay with a lot of members and food is cooked in one kitchen. And when you’re trying to make a change, there is often resistance from the other members.

“Why are you trying to do this? Why are you trying to eat differently? It is very inconvenient for everyone else.”

This resistance from other members makes it difficult for the person who’s trying to make a lifestyle change to make those changes. And similarly, when it comes to their friends, the people around are not the best form of support.

We’ll talk about this a little bit. When it comes to family, it’s usually a push from the other side to go back to how you were eating before. How you were doing things earlier.

People say things like:

“Why are you trying to eat different? This is not how we eat. This is not what we are used to doing.”

“You should think about the rest of the family as well. Because food is cooked for everyone. You should not have to eat separately; do things different.”

The second thing is that when people are making slight progress, they’re losing some weight. There are comments like:

“You’re getting too skinny. You’re losing too much weight.”

“You should eat more.”

Although objectively when you look at things, you may not be actually skinny. You may still have a lot of weight to lose.

Instead of being encouraging that you are doing a great job. And being supportive about it. A lot of the times people say things like you’re losing too much weight; you’re getting too skinny. That you should eat more.

That makes it very hard for you to keep up with your weight loss progress.

When it comes to the friends. What I’ve seen usually happen is that friends guilt trip you into feeling, that you’re not being the person you used to be.

You’re not going out with them as often. Or when you do go out with them, you don’t enjoy the food that you used to before.

They make you feel guilty that you don’t make time for them. When events are centred all around food, you don’t want to participate.

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The other thing is. They tend to make jokes or pass funny comments around things like:

“Oh you’re starting a diet. Now you’re a fit guy/girl!”

“You’ll soon have a six pack. Now you’re a movie star.”

Snarky comments which could be light-hearted. But can be difficult to deal with for people who are trying to make a lifestyle change.

All of this sabotages your progress in a way.

Because here you are struggling to incorporate new habits into your life. But at the same time, you don’t have the support system that lets you do it.

And it can get difficult.

Even from personal experience what I have experienced. When I have tried to incorporate new changes in terms of my health and fitness; especially during the beginning part of my journey.

This is something that I had to deal with as well. When I went out with friends, I tried to adhere to my new habits.

They would make it difficult by saying things like:

“One bite won’t hurt.”

Or,

“You can do this. One day of eating is not a problem. It’s just one cheat meal/day. It’s not going to make much of a difference.”

When you keep hearing these things over and over. You feel like you have to choose between going out with friends; hanging out with these people.

Or sticking to your goals.

But it doesn’t always have to be the case. So here I’m going to be talking about a few strategies that you can use.

If I think of it, it’s just one strategy. It’s all centred around conversation.

If you’re able to talk to people about what’s bothering you and what you would rather have in terms of support from them.

And if you can set some healthy boundaries around it. It becomes much easier for you to approach the situation. It also makes it very clear what your expectations are and it’s easier for both parties going forward. So that there is no conflict unnecessarily.

Because if you’re just avoidant about a situation, this is going to keep recurring.

You’re going to feel terrible about it. And if you try to confront them after this pent up frustration builds up over time from hearing their comments over and over.

It’s just going to make them more defensive about it. So the only way to get around this situation is conversation.

This is something that has come up in 1-2 calls in the recent past that I’ve had with different people. They tell me:

“I want to eat well. I want to do these things.

But you know, I stay with my family, so I cannot use the kitchen.”

Or

“I have to go out in the weekend with my friends. And you know, when with friends you cannot eat the way you want.”

It seems to be a very common pattern, but if you are able to address it using these strategies, I think it will be helpful for you.

The first thing that you need to do is whenever something comes up during conversation, which you’re not comfortable talking about. You need to address it then and there.

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If someone is talking about your weight. If someone is talking about the way you’re eating. Someone is pointing out things in your plate and saying what you should be or should not be doing.

You should state it right then and there that:

“You know. Making my weight a point of discussion is something that I’m not comfortable with.”

“If my weight is a topic of discussion, this is not something that I’m okay with. Can we not discuss the kinds of foods or the amount of food that I’m eating?”

So when that comment is being made, you need to make it very clear that you are not comfortable. That it’s not making you feel good.

Only when you are able to do that, will they understand the boundary you have set for yourself. That they should not cross that.

You don’t need to be aggressive about it. All you have to say is:

“I’m not comfortable when you guys bring up my weight in discussions.”

“I’m not comfortable when you are talking about the amount of food that I’m eating or the kinds of food that I’m eating. I would like to not talk about it.”

And try to change the subject to something else. That is all you have to do.

When you do that, it shows them that you would rather not engage in something like that. And if your friends are really caring, understanding. They’d not push it too much.

But you have to be assertive about it.

So that is number one.

The other thing that usually comes up is when people have to visit others in their homes and they’re being served food.

They feel it’s very hard to say no to snacks.

So here, the perspective shift that needs to happen is to understand that people are being hospitable.

It’s just a cultural norm that we are polite to guests. So put yourself in their shoes.

If someone came to your house, you would offer them food. You would offer them things to eat. And you would not be very wary of their specific dietary concerns.

It’s the same. When you go to someone’s house, they offer you similar things.

Here are few things that you need to take into consideration. When you’re going to someone’s place, you will be offered food. It is a part of the cultural norm to eat something over there.

So first thing you need to do is plan ahead of time. I did a recent episode on this on the podcast as well.

You need to adjust to accommodate.

You need to plan ahead of time for this event so that you’re able to go in there with space in your diet for some food.

And once you’re done with that. Once that cultural exchange is taken care of, you can always say that:

“I’m full. I can’t eat anything else because I already had a heavy lunch. I’ll just take that small thing over there.”

Then you eat that slowly.

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Problem arises when you try to say things like: “I’m on a diet.”

That is when the conversation diverts from you feeling full to questions like:

“Why are you on a diet? Why are you trying to do this? Are you trying to lose weight?”

You yourself have now shifted the conversation to your weight; to your style of eating.

And this brings up topics that you don’t want to talk about.

In order to avoid that,

#1: plan ahead of time, so that when you are going to such a place, you already have space in your diet to accommodate for light snacking.

And once you’re done, all you have to say is:

“I’m full. But thank you so much! The food is really good and I’ll just take a small amount.”

Then eat slowly so that you don’t have to sit there with an empty plate.

So 2 main things.

When conversations bring up topics you’re not comfortable with, you need to address it right there. And set your healthy boundaries.

And when you are going to someone’s house and you’re being served food. Make space for it beforehand.

At the same time, try to not make it about a diet or about your weight. You should avoid bringing conversations to that topic.

The final thing that I have here is talking with family.

Because family is who you always are surrounded with. And you have to go back to them.

Especially if you live in a joint family situation it can be a lot of people. And in that case, before you even embark on a process of trying to lose weight, you need to sit down with them; the stakeholders.

The members of the family who you would think would not be very comfortable with you making all these changes. You need to sit with them and you need to tell them that you are trying to do this new thing.

That you have set these new goals for yourself. And state the reasons why you’re doing this.

It could be because your doctor has found some medical anomalies. It’s because your health markers are down. If these things are happening, you need to talk about it saying:

“These things are going on in my body. My doctor says I need to lose weight and I’m trying to do this.”

“And I want to reach this goal over the next few months. For that reason, I will not be able to eat the way that I have been so far.”

“I really appreciate the love and support you provide. I’m really grateful for it.”

“It’s not about you. It’s not that I don’t like the food. It’s not that I don’t want to eat. But I can’t do it because I want my health markers to improve. I want my weight to go down.”

“And for these reasons, I have to take these specific steps.”

“In order for that to happen, I will not be able to eat like I have been eating. And I’d really like for you guys to support me in the process. Because it’s very hard for me to make these changes on my own.”

“And if you are there to support me, to back me up. To do things like help me when I’m having cravings. Or when I’m feeling like snacking, if you’re there to remind me of my goals. It will be a huge, huge support.”

If you’re able to have this open heart-to-heart conversation with your family members. I’m very sure that they will be understanding.

The way to approach any conversation when these things come up is to not get defensive about it. Because more than anything, today’s topic is not directly about fixing your diet or nutrition.

That’s a very straightforward thing to do.

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It’s usually dealing with your environment, dealing with the people around you, which a lot of people struggle with.

In this specific case, when such topics come up. The first thing you need to do is accept the other person’s point of view.

If someone’s telling you:

“I’m concerned about your way of eating. I’m concerned that you’re eating too less. You’re getting too skinny.”

You need to first accept that point of view by saying:

“Yes, you are correct. I am eating less and I am losing weight.”

But after you acknowledge and accept that, you have to reframe:

“I am eating less because that is what my doctor has advised me to do.”

So don’t get defensive. When they say you’re eating less, don’t try to get defensive and say:

“I’m not eating less! I’m eating this many calories. This is what my body requirements are!”

As soon as you get defensive, you put up a barrier between you and the other person. It becomes a conflict.

So accept their statement, acknowledge it. Acknowledge their concern. This is for a family member. You don’t have to do this for friends.

For friends all you have to do is set healthy boundaries saying that:

“I’m not comfortable talking about my weight, talking about my diet. Can we talk about something else?”

But with family, accept. Acknowledge. Then reframe.

Say that:

“This is because my doctor has told me to do so. Because this is what is good for my health in the long run.”

“And I would really like it if you supported me in this process.”

If you’re able to do this. If you’re able to communicate effectively in a clear and cooperative manner without causing any conflict. You will be able to handle the situation.

There is nothing else that you need to do. There is no other magic bullet to resolve this problem.

It is all about conversation.

It’s about making sure that you’re getting your thoughts across about what you want to do. And making sure that you’re able to create that sort of cooperative support system from the people around you.

The people around you don’t share the same goals as you.

And concerns often come from a place of love and care. Rather than antagonism.

They don’t hate you. That’s not why they’re doing that. They don’t want to sabotage your progress.

They want the best for you. But they don’t always know what is the best for you. Just from their limited knowledge, from their limited experience, they’re trying to help you as much as they can.

And you being understanding of that. While at the same time, being able to educate them about why you are doing something without being very defensive about it.

That’s the way to go.

If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.

It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.

If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.

Ajitesh Gogoi is an online fitness coach and the founder of Workday Physique™. His mission is to empower busy executives to achieve their weight loss goals. And transform them into their most confident selves.
Ajitesh Gogoi

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