Family, friends, and significant others–they’re your support systems, your cheerleaders, and the people you turn to when you need a hug, a laugh, a shoulder to cry on, or a listening ear. They also just might be just the reason why you’re fat. Before you jump to conclusions, that’s not to say you are free from responsibility–after all, it was likely your hand that hit the snooze button instead of getting up to go work out on Monday morning. Still, this inner circle of your closest people could play a small role in your expanding muffin top or bulging belly.
Why Do Others Matter?
We’re led to believe that humans are born with free will and thus each person should be able to act as an individual all the time. In reality, that’s not quite the case. Something happens when a human is thrown in with other humans–also known as society–that causes each other to lose a bit of her identity. Sometimes it’s a loss of courage or a gaining of guilt. Either one affects your path toward progress, and in the case of health, it can mean packing on the fat or being unable to take it off.
It’s important to understand that your friends, family, and significant others are likely not impeding your progress on purpose (and if they are, it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship entirely!). In fact, they may be completely oblivious that they are even playing any role. For example, if you and your closest friend both have 50 pounds to lose, but the two of you spend your best bonding hours over pizzas, chocolate, and wine, losing the weight may feel a bit like losing your best bud. Add in being scared to tell your friend about your fat loss goals for fear that she might take it as a personal attack on her own body image, and there are a lot of obstacles standing in your way before you’ve even had time to map out a fat loss plan.
Before turning into a hermit just to reach your body goals, start by taking a closer look at the company you keep. By identifying the types of people in your life, you can start to understand how each group makes you feel and respond with strategies appropriate for each.
“For a Good Time” Group
Happy hours, birthday parties, weekend getaways, and any celebration is a reason for a gathering of this group. With it comes drinking alcohol, eating out, and a variety of indulging. When you spend time with this group, there are sure to be a lot of laughs and memories. The joy this bunch brings makes it hard to try to put lifestyle change in place. You don’t want to ditch your good times, but you know your body needs a break.
- Change of Scenery: Since most people have health goals of one kind or another, your friends may be feeling just as you do. Talk to the group and see if anyone would be game for swapping out one happy hour a month in exchange for going to a yoga class or taking a group hike. Or instead of spending a weekend on the Vegas Strip, plan a spa getaway where you can still imbibe without the next day hangover. You’ll still get to spend quality time together, but the focus won’t be on overdoing it.
- Fake It: Don’t think your friends will be on board with your new lifestyle? No worries–just keep it a secret. Fill a beer bottle with water and sip on that throughout the night or add a lime on top of a short glass of club soda for the perfect mocktail. Make friends with bartender (i.e., tip well) and let him or her know to keep your virgin night on the down-low.
“Change Is Scary” Group:
If you’ve grown up eating unhealthy foods, and to your family a salad primarily consists of noodles and mayo, your healthy ways could turn you into the black sheep of the family. Your new interest in kale and whole grain pasta will likely mean taking some flack or least seeing some scrunched up noses. However, if your family is really against the idea of the new foods in your life, don’t be surprised if your old fatty favorite foods start making a more regular appearance when you’re around just to entice you.
- Have the Hard Talk: Communication is key. Share the goals you are trying to reach and help your family understand why you feel it is important to achieve them. They may think their teasing is no big deal, but if it’s stressing you out, ask them to stop.
- Make a Meal: To your family, your new food could simply be the fear of the unknown. Health food gets a bad rap for being bland, tasteless, and boring. Volunteer to cook the next meal, and introduce your family to just how tasty eating whole foods can be. Or start small by bringing a dish to the next group gathering. If nothing else you’ll know there is something on the table just for you.
It’s Not Them, It’s You
We could pull out all the people in the world and demonstrate their effects on your life, but what it boils down to is you. If you go for a run while your spouse lays on the couch eating a bag of chips, and you come back feeling guilty for bettering yourself, stop and change your perspective. You’re not only improving yourself in part for him, but the changes you make will likely inspire and motivate him to make healthy changes in his own life.
How others feel toward what you’re doing is sometimes just a figment of your imagination. You may think your loved ones will feel left behind, jealous, or jaded by the changes. That’s normal since the changes you make in your life are a direct reflection of those who are close to you and have lived it with you. However, if they love and care about you, their reactions to your exercise and eating well are probably pretty positive. Ask them and you might be surprised.
What obstacles do your loved ones create for you? Share with us in the comments!