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When You Want to Lose Weight and Your Relationships Are "Fat"

Aug 31, 2007
Change is hard for everyone. It's human nature to want to stay where we are, to protect ourselves and to preserve the status quo. In making deep and permanent lifestyle changes that affect weight, we all encounter lots of "voices."

First, there are the little voices in our heads that say change isn't necessary. Coaches call these voices "gremlins" and some of the things they might say are "I should be loved just as I am," "Why should my weight matter?" or "I'm not as fat (or out-of-shape) as so-n-so."

In addition to these little monkey-talk voices, there may also be some big human voices! These are the people around you who also want to preserve the status quo.

Maybe your husband or wife doesn't want to see you lose weight and then regain it again, like you've done in the past. Perhaps they hate to see the disappointment and sadness you feel when that happens. And they just might like to have chocolate cake in the house at all times, too.

Your best friend might love having a binge-buddy or just someone who likes to eat as much as she does and she fears losing that companionship. I was waiting to be seated at a restaurant recently and there were two women standing in front of me. As the hostess approached, one of them turned to the other and said, "Let's decide right now, are we dieting today or not?" Obviously, whatever they decided, they were more comfortable taking the same approach to lunch rather than following their own needs.

Perhaps your sister likes to control others. She gets her jollies by watching other people pig out. This is a dynamic I've witnessed in a lot of relationships when one person is thin but addicted to dieting and the other person is overweight. One of the ways the thin person stays motivated is to push food on others and (negatively) feel good because she's NOT eating. This is the person who brings elaborate and high caloric dishes to the potluck and then sits in the corner with a few veggies on a plate and can't take her eyes off people eating too much food!

No matter what the relationship might be, if you are trying to change your eating habits, your fitness lifestyle, or simply cut back on certain foods for health reasons, odds are you will encounter some relationship difficulties along with way.

Here are some things to watch out for:

1. Do you throw your efforts away when they aren't met with excitement from friends or family?

I often hear my clients say things like "I was doing fine until Susie showed up with donuts."

Remember, Susie doesn't control the pathway from your hand to your mouth. YOU are in charge of that.

2. Are you attuned to subtle sabotage?

Subtle sabotage often appears just when your weight loss starts to show, usually around the 10 to 15-pound mark. You go shopping with a friend and she suddenly wants to visit the cookie shack. You're at a family dinner and your mother keeps passing dishes of food to you every two minutes. Your wife backs out of a commitment to go to the gym, citing something vague like "I just don't feel like it." Chances are your weight loss is showing.

Be aware. These people may have some personal investment in your being overweight! It's like the potluck diva who never eats; they may feel better about themselves if you are heavier than they are. Or they may be unhappy about their weight and feel powerless to change. Misery loves company!

3. Are you strong enough to eat differently in group situations?

You're having dinner with a group of friends. Everyone is ordering burgers and cheese fries. Are you focused enough to order grilled chicken and veggies? Do you feel too out-of-place?

Group situations will appear at work as well as with family and friends. Be prepared to deal with them. You might start by not following the crowd with a more sympathetic (or higher esteem!) group. Look for subtle saboteurs here too. There may be a coworker who'll chide you "Are you dieting again?" but there's also the friend who doesn't say a word but eyes your plate with a nasty expression on her face.

The bottom line for all relationship issues that surround food and eating is that you are going to encounter them. And you're going to have to deal with them.

As a coach, I help my clients deal with these kinds of issues on a daily basis. I'm often asked, "Will my friendships change?" To this, I say, "Yes, they will ALL change. The good ones will change for the better, the not-so-good ones will go away and you will build new ones that are healthier and more positive."

Think about it. If all you have in common with a friend is that you socialize around eating, do you really have that much in common? Shopaholics encounter this too. If they have a change in income level and can't shop for a while, their shopping buddies disappear! Well, there wasn't a whole of deep connection or support happening anyway.

You may not have a whole lot of control over other people's reaction to your personal change. But you can support yourself fully. Be open and honest about what you're trying to do. Stay motivated no matter what. Never take on negative vibes from anyone else. Keep your goals in mind at all times. In short, be strong!

The longer you work on changing negative habits, the more successful you will be. It's a persistence game. And, as you stay true to your goals over a substantial period of time, others will see that you are serious and either support you or.... go away!

In the long run, what you gain from greater health and fitness far outweighs the benefit of relationships that aren't serving your positive needs and goals in life.
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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