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Are Your Relationships Fat?

Aug 31, 2007
Successful weight management requires a lifestyle change that includes healthy eating patterns and lots of activity. Making far-reaching changes may be even more challenging if you are involved in relationships that promote or support an unhealthy approach to eating and exercise.

For example, does your best friend agree to go to the gym with you but, once there, grumble and complain the entire time? After an hour with a whiner, who wouldn't avoid the activity again?

Does your mother tell you that you need to lose weight but constantly push fattening food at you when you visit?

Common saboteurs to a healthy lifestyle are the relationships around you. After all, change can be frightening or threatening within a relationship.

Take the spouse or partner who becomes nervous or argumentative when you being to lose weight. This partner may have his/her own weight problems or simply feel more comfortable when you are lacking self-esteem. When one partner begins to actively work on lifestyle issues and loses a few pounds, the saboteur may accept an invitation to a lavish party, or bring home chocolates, or simply insist on restaurants that lack healthy food choices.

Their actions may be entirely unconscious - they may actually believe they are rewarding the dieter for their efforts. Suggesting to your partner that a non-food reward would be more positive and encouraging is important. Clear and effective communication is often the cure for many ripples in fat relationships.

Parents and relatives offer a special dilemma when they have a long-standing history of aiding and abetting various food transgressions: Aunt Millie, who loves to bake dozens of your favorite cookies; Grandpa, who has always secretly smuggled candy bars in past Grandma's watchful eye; the ever-present mother who shows her love by cooking and feeding her brood. The longer the habit or ritual in family life, the harder it is to break.

Also, it is difficult to be assertive when you realize the person is not consciously attempting to harm you. In fact, they often see their actions as loving or affectionate.

The hidden bonus in these often guilt-ridden situations is that they are the perfect ground to practice boundary-setting. Try to see your well-meaning relatives, spouse, parents or siblings as built-in practice participants.

Start with easy boundaries. Do you only see Aunt Millie once or twice a year? Gently tell her you want to visit her and spend time with her, but your tastes have changed and you are not as fond of cookies as you were as a child. If she insists on making them, simply do not eat them! Not even one!

When you notice other people interfering with how or what you eat, look for agendas like guilt, jealousy, fear, control issues, resentment, and loss of socialization. Changing the status quo of a relationship when a great deal of the relationship is built on eating together always stirs up some complicated emotions.

When embarking on a healthier lifestyle, it's important to foresee these issues arising and be prepared to address them. Here are some tips for doing that:

(1) Be clear and direct about what concerns you. Don't let resentments or jealousy grow.

(2) Be curious. Ask questions of your friend, relative or partner. Rather than accuse them of jealousy, try "What's going on here?" or "Tell me what you're thinking."

(3) State your needs without emotion, accusation or blame. Try "It would mean a lot to me if I had your support for what I'm doing" or "If you reserve your judgment about what I eat, it would allow me to make my own choices and learn from them."

Recognizing the negative trends and emotions in a relationship can greatly enhance your odds for success in achieving a healthier life. And a longer, healthier life is always the goal!
About the Author
Pat Barone, CPCC, PCC, earned her title "America's Weight Loss Catalyst" by coaching thousands of clients toward permanent weight loss. Her status as an expert is heightened by her own personal weight loss success. Receive her free newsletter "The Catalyst" by visiting
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