What do you do when friends and family aren't supportive?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
9/4/2008 12:01 PM   :  104 comments

There’s no doubt about it: long term success at changing your habits and your lifestyle is a lot easier when you have the support of the important people in your life. And a lot harder when you have to swim against the tide.

There’s no great mystery here. A “lifestyle” isn’t something we can or do create all by ourselves, unless we’re hermits—it’s more of a joint project that includes our families, our friends, our workmates, and our whole social environment. It’s fair to say that your lifestyle at any given time is really a negotiated, give-and-take arrangement between you, as an individual with personal needs, desires, and interests, and all the “significant others” in your life, who also have their own agendas and needs. Given the fact that we tend to create our voluntary personal relationships with people who share interests, habits, and behaviors similar to our own, it’s not surprising that changing habits and behaviors is a lot easier when it’s a collective project and not just something you’ve decided to do on your own. Otherwise, change—even obviously healthy, productive change--can mean rocking a lot of boats, and that can be pretty difficult to handle, not only for you but for everyone else involved.

And that's just the situation many of us find ourselves in. What do we do about this?


The reality for many of us is that the decision to change our lifestyle—how and what we eat and the role of physical activity, especially—starts out, at least, as an individual decision, motivated by any number of personal concerns: health, fitness, appearance, feeling more comfortable in our own skin, etc. And that inevitably puts us in the position of having to re-negotiate the existing (and usually unspoken) “lifestyle agreement” we have with our various partners, some of whom may not share our new concerns or priorities.

So, what do you do when making the changes you need to make brings you into conflict with important people in your life? Here are some things to think about…

Can you successfully make the lifestyle changes you want to make, even if it means going it alone, without the support of your family, friends, or social network? Does it all boil down to individual determination and will power? Is it just too hard to swim against the tide? Or does it depend on whether you’re a conformist or a “rugged individualist”?

Does anyone owe it to you to change their behavior so it’s easier for you to change yours? We all like to think that, when we set out to make changes that are good for us, anyone who cares about us will jump on the bandwagon and do whatever they can to help out. And when that doesn’t happen, it can be pretty upsetting and disappointing. But remember...there are at least two sides to every story. When you change behaviors and habits that you’ve shared with the people around you for quite a while, they’ve got to figure out what’s going on. Does this mean you don’t approve of their behavior any more? Are you breaking your “deal” with them by changing the rules? If they don’t change too, can you still be friends/spouses, or will you move on to people who do things the way you want to do them? Is there any way you can still spend time together and enjoy it, without feeling like something has come between you? (These may be questions you need to ask yourself, too). Unfortunately, many people find it hard to deal with these kinds of questions directly and in the open–instead, they "act out" in strange ways to find out what the new rules are, see what the limits are and how you react, or non-verbally communicate their own unhappiness with the new situation. To you this may feel like lack of support or even attempted sabotage, but how do you know if that’s what it really is for the other person? And just how much do people who care about you owe it to you to make your changes easier for you to accomplish by making the same changes themselves?

Whose job is it to take the initiative to talk about what’s going on? Fears, insecurities, and wrong assumptions about why people do what they do all flourish in the dark, and tend to evaporate when exposed to the light of honest and open communication. But someone has to start that ball rolling. Is that up to you, as the person who wants to make changes, or to the person who is feeling uncomfortable about what you’re doing?

Can you get enough of the support you need from outside your existing relationships to make up for what you’re not getting there? These days, there are lots of both face-to-face and on-line opportunities to get support for all kinds of personal goals. Do you think participating in groups of this sort can be enough? What do you look for when you’re looking for a support group?

What’s your personal experience? Where do you stand on these questions?



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Comments

  • 54
    My husband is not very supportive, which I just dont allow to negatively influence me. I'm hoping after he see's me being healthly ( and not just another diet) he too will start to pay attention to his health. I remind him heart disease runs in his family, its not just about weight loss. - 9/6/2008   7:02:59 PM
  • 53
    It's kinda hard sometimes when you get aw a little not going to hurt you. A little is what got me this way. I just tell them no thanks and walk away. Sometimes you get that occasional food pusher and they'll bring the food right to you almost like they're going to force feed you. No thanks usually works for me. - 9/6/2008   4:43:51 PM
  • RACHELRB
    52
    No one is sabotaging me, but I don't think I get too much support. My family does not complain that I exercise and eat healthy but they don't encourage me either. At work no one seems to notice at all. I'm in this one for me, so it shouldn't matter but I wouldn't mind an 'atta boy' now and then - 9/6/2008   1:00:32 PM
  • AGOODREID
    51
    My family try to be supportive especially my teenage son. The extended family isn't as supportive but do their best. I think overall everyone just wants to be there for me/us whether we lose weight or gain weight. I think it's worse when someone says "I thought you were on a diet?" It makes you feel like a failure. - 9/6/2008   11:01:47 AM
  • AMBERROBINSON1
    50
    My husband is incarcerated right now, I started this after he was gone. He writes to me that he loves me no matter what but it is not like he is here to give me the daily encouragement that I need. My family consists of small children who are as helpful as they can be, especially my 7 year old. The rest of my family and friends don't really say anything about it. One looked at my plate of turkey and lettuce rollups and said that it was weird. She's my 18 year old step-daughter. She just found out that she is pregnant, so while she is gaining weight I will be loosing it. Also having healthy food around the house will help her as well. Like somebody else said, the Sparks People members are really encouraging and they help a whole lot. - 9/6/2008   12:02:48 AM
  • 49
    Just think how proud of yourself you will be when you show yourself that you can do anything even if the support isn't alway were you think it is or should be. Stay strong alway and you will be smiling in the end and throughout. - 9/5/2008   11:35:08 PM
  • 48
    I have 2 health issues that make it necessary that I eat a healthy diet: hypoglycemia and fibromyalgia. It makes it easier for me to stand up for my new healthier habits. I can't "cheat" because it makes me sick.
    For years, I battled weight gain, but I never really believed that eating fattening or sugary foods would make me sick. I would even joke that I wished it would so that I would stop gaining weight. Now, it's no joke!
    Just after my 39th birthday, I was over 200 lbs. My neck kept swelling up just behind both ears. The doctors did all kinds of tests, but found nothing truly wrong with me. They said it was the fibromyalgia flaring up. The rhuematologist was concerned about my weight and said that if I lost weight my health would improve. It might not help what ever was going on with my neck, but it wouldn't make it get worse. I decided that it was time to diet again.
    In March, I found SP, and it changed my life! I have lost about 40 lbs since January and almost 30 lbs on SP!
    I recently started having problems with hypoglycemia. I think it would be worse if I didn't have SP. Hypoglycemia is related to diabetes and that runs on both sides of my family. SP is helping me understand hypoglycemia and revise my eating habits yet again!
    If you aren't an SparkPeople.com member, start today! I'm glad I did! - 9/5/2008   11:26:48 PM
  • 47
    After seeing my success with a healthier lifestyle, my husband is much more supportive. There are definately times when he tests my new habits, though! A few weeks ago, he was craving a late-night pizza. When I wasn't on board, he got pretty angry. I am so proud of myself for standing my ground that night, and he thanked me the next day for not ordering the pie! Plus, now he's lost about 10 pounds himself! - 9/5/2008   10:48:26 PM
  • 46
    My husband is and always has been supportive. He has gently tried to get me to try to lose some weight over the years - but has always loved me for who I am, not the size of my pants.

    His food needs are not the same but he is really trying to adjust to what I feel comfortable eating. I am trying to be fair and offer him foods that he can eat even if I don't feel I should. So far it seems to be working quite well! I am one lucky lady!

    The rest of my family seems to be really happy that I have lost 42 pounds too! It does help that I don't have to face any sabotage on my food plan. - 9/5/2008   2:00:37 PM
  • CLAYSGAL1
    45
    Today is my first day with SP! I can see that I'll have a lot of support available to me right here. I'm hoping that my friends and family will be supportive, but I'm committed to getting healthy with or without them. - 9/5/2008   1:56:36 PM
  • 44
    It's tough to imagine someone not being supportive of you trying to better yourself. Honestly, I'd look for new friends who WERE supportive! That's who you should surround yourself with anyway! If my spouse was the bump on the log, I'd let him know that I'll be a knockout some day and would rather he keep up! Brutal, huh! - 9/5/2008   1:54:39 PM
  • 43
    My husband and friends are supportive, but I think the problem comes with my own inconsistency. It gives mixed messages to those around me. I say I want to lose weight, then the next thing they know, they see me with a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and crackers. The problem is mine, not theirs. I'm working on it! :-) - 9/5/2008   1:41:08 PM
  • 42
    I compromise on the types of foods I eat, but keep the quantities and frequency where they should be for me. However, because I like food too, I will never be skinny. I intend to stay at my healthy BMI and to get plenty of rest and exercise. I never argue with people about food served or preferred. However, I did tell my very thin vegetarian niece, who brought me a large container of a rice salad that cost $13 per pound, that I thought the price was too high. Have a great day all. - 9/5/2008   12:49:54 PM
  • 41
    Love the quote and the picture. My husband for the most part has not been supportive. Even told me a picture didn;t show how fat I was just last week. I used to be an emotional eater, (from childhood), and he knows this. Not sure if it is on purpose that he is still trying to use this. Now when I get upset, I work out or walk. SP is a great place to get the support. - 9/5/2008   10:47:45 AM
  • 40
    My husband is mostly supportive. He knows I've decided not to eat and watch TV at the same time, so he'll wait for me or we'll have dinner first and then watch TV. If I ask him to grill some meat for us he'll do it too (I refuse to operate our BBQ for some reason). But once I started bying skim milk, he started saying that 1% milk isn't that much worse and why do I need to buy a different kind of milk for myself. Well, I stuck with it and now he gets a gallon of 1% and I get 2 L of skim. Everyone is happy! We also don't drink soda (hubby would have one once in a couple of weeks but it's not tempting to me), we try not to buy chips, and I'm not crazy about icecream while he is... In short, at home everything is great.

    My friends are a little different. Just because I'm not 30 lbs overweight they think that I don't need to watch what I eat or exercise. So I've stopped talking to them about it and got over it. But I do have one very supportive friend and she is back home, in Ukraine. We communicate over the phone and internet, and we share everything and are very supportive of each other.

    I also think that it's up to ME to make changes to MY life and lifestyle, and no, nobody owes me anything (even though it's nice to have support and understanding from others). - 9/5/2008   10:26:55 AM
  • MARGUERITEMTL
    39
    Unfortunately I'm not at the alter of lost weight for the first time. I made great stride multiple times, but my lack of support from family and friends and wanting to please everyone has set me back more than I care to remember. At the verge of reaching my goal it scares me that once the goal is achieved I will let their influence back in again. Since I know I have a problem, I'm seeing a therapist but I'm thinking of joining a therapy group. If there are groups for alcool and drug addictions out there, there has to be groups for food dependant people. I'm currently researching this with my therapist and nutritionist to see what is the best option for me. - 9/5/2008   9:44:36 AM
  • 38
    My husband is supportive of me losing weight with the occasional sabotage. Throughout my whole life I have been able to change my lifestyle numerous times and have people copy me or cheer me on! I would like to think of myself as the family trailblazer! : ) - 9/5/2008   8:04:57 AM
  • 37
    I deal with this to an extent. Up until a couple months ago my mom always seemed to be trying to sabotage my efforts to lose weight. Now that she is also trying to lose weight she understands better. She does sometimes still think she knows everything there is to know about losing weight, etc. I just let a lot of what she says go in one ear & out the other because not everything works for everybody. So although you read somewhere cutting out carbs or eating more dairy helps with weight loss, doesn't necessarily mean it works the same for everyone.

    My husband is supportive, but he is a junk food junkie. Although I do stay away from junk food it's definitely more tempting if it's in the house. I normally don't buy it or I try to buy low far/reduced fat versions if possible.

    My friends for the most part have been very supportive, but since most of them are in or have been in the same boat I'm in they understand how much of a struggle losing weight can be. - 9/5/2008   8:03:29 AM
  • 36
    This is a big issue with me. I just recently changed my diet by seeing a MD that thinks of natural ways instead of Rx. I was desperate to work on my BP & thyroid without Rx. he chose for me a diet which says no grains and no dairy- lots of fruits & vegetables and moderate protein & nuts.
    He put me on Armour thyroid which is more natural. I feel 100% better. It was hard at first, but my BP is 116/85 now when it was 145+/100 and going up.
    I do exercise, but not crazy at it. I exercised before the diet. Now I want to tell you that I stray when I am stressed- just recently my son was in a car accident- he is ok, but his car isn't. I strayed, but I am back and feeling better already. Anyway, my husband had a fit about the diet. He will not give up bread or dairy. I can only take so much stress and I fall a part with my diet. I have realized that changes like this can affect relationships. He is overweight and this diet threatens him. I have decided that I am worth the fight. i want to get healthy. I need to get healthy and if it works for me than I am going to continue. I have to come first. I do have support through SP, but family members are not as supportive. - 9/5/2008   7:49:17 AM
  • 35
    My husband is supportive. I'm thankful for that. He wasn't always so supportive and that definitely made things more difficult from grocery shopping to watching the kids. - 9/5/2008   7:44:03 AM
  • 34
    Unfortunately I can't say that my family or friends are supportive.Now I see my parents once a week and though they DO really care about me and my health,thay can't help me every day when I need them.My friends are either on fancy 100-calories-per-day diets or they eat whatever junk they want,so SP is my only support now. - 9/5/2008   7:16:58 AM
  • IMAGIN8
    33
    My husband is fantastically supportive but I find social situations difficult. My colleagues like eating out at lunch, and I often have to bow out because it's tough to find good food at restaurants. When I go out with friends, it's usually to a beer garden and it's REALLY tough to get good food there. Not impossible, but it's very obvious, like I'm making some kind of statement. I'd like to be able to socialize without feeling my food choices are a very loud and noisy companion. Maybe people will get used to it in time and just stop remarking on it, but for now it's hard for me and I tend to try to not socialize because of it. - 9/5/2008   3:26:37 AM
  • 32
    Thanks for this article. I get my support from my family and friends. - 9/5/2008   3:18:16 AM
  • MISSAROSA1
    31
    I say forget anybody who chooses not to support you! I don't care if I have support or not! I am doing this for my own preservation. People will come and they will go. But you have to be your own coach 100% of the time. Sure, support is good, but it is not the only motivator in my life! I am. - 9/5/2008   1:29:25 AM
  • 30
    my husband is supportive..... its me who needs to committ more!! - 9/5/2008   1:09:38 AM
  • 29
    I have the suport of my family and friends. A little grudgingly at times, but its there! My hubby is a meat and potatoes guy, my daughter is 14 and has energy of a hummingbird on speed! But they will try some stuff I cook up. Daughter loves veggies, so thats good. I've been at this now for almost a year and have lost about 25 lbs. I like this coming off slowly, as it is easier to keep off that way, since I am adopting a new lifestyle in the process. - 9/5/2008   12:30:05 AM
  • 28
    Like some of the others who've commented, I live alone, which is good (no one to complain about any changes I make) and bad (no one to care what I do, good or bad). SP is great because they are like a mirror; I see my actions and choices clearly without anyone being judgemental. I have to go it alone otherwise. - 9/4/2008   11:33:56 PM
  • 27
    I am very fortunate with support and encouragement from my family and friends. I will be going to San Antonio next month and the friend I am staying with has already called to ask me what I eat so she can stock up. I told her lots of fruit, veggies and normal food just in smaller doses. I am very lucky with my family and friends. Everyone should have a strong support system. - 9/4/2008   11:29:50 PM
  • 26
    Thanks for sharing. I have to go and think about this. - 9/4/2008   10:48:02 PM
  • 25
    Not everyone in my life supports my decision to lose weight. I have the full support of my family and co-workers and that's what matters the most. It's the majority of my friends who don't support me -- It's disappointing and deep down, it hurts. What I've discovered though is that my friends who don't support me are all overweight/obese (some even have major health problems). They don't seem to understand that their health problems are a direct result from them being overweight.

    It's odd, but that's my biggest motivation to lose weight... I don't want to end up overweight, depressed and having health problems like they do. I want to live my life to it's fullest. - 9/4/2008   10:15:29 PM
  • 24
    My husband has been very supportive throughout my weight loss journey..In fact, he has encouraged me when I get down on myself. I think he has figured out that HE reaps the benefits when I am loosing and feeling good about myself!!! He has also lost about 40 lbs along with me. He is up and on his bike before I get up sometimes. We are both on a trek to get healthy and fit. Life is good!!! - 9/4/2008   10:02:27 PM
  • 23
    I have a husband who likes to sabotage my dieting. When I started Sprarkpeople diet in April, he would offer me seconds on things he knew I liked. I would start with small changes and tell him No thanks nicely. He got the hint and now he watches what he eats. I didn't tell him anything but that I was just cutting portions sizes. We had been grilling most of our meats for a few years now and so it wasn't that hard. He has cut his portions sizes as he doesn't want to fell left out and has dropped more weight than me which is somewhat hard for me to take at times that he can lose so much faster. But men's metabolisms are much greater than womens. But he is much more conscious of it now too and I'm glad. When we eat out he will say "well your going to ruin your calorie count" and usually he will stop me from eating so much with his comments now. So sometimes when you don't have support you have to stick to your guns and just do it for you and noone else. I went into this for ME and not him. And if you have to prepare a separate meal then do it. Keep the things you like to eat separate and/or cut your portion sizes. Great article!!! - 9/4/2008   9:45:09 PM
  • 22
    My family is so very supportive, but my friends who were on board and actually trying to lose weight when I began have stopped being so wonderful about it and have almost been ugly. One of them even commented "I thought you would have fallen off the wagon by now" ... I haven't spoken to her since. I have spent a lot of time insulating myself from people who didn't have my best interests at heart only to be hurt again. Que sera sera... - 9/4/2008   9:40:45 PM
  • 21
    When I first told my husband that I wanted to lose weight, he became very defensive. I assured him that this way *my* choice and that I would do the "working around" our plans (food, activities, whatnot). He quickly changed his tune and help me with portions (he has a degree in Culinary Arts; big boon!). He and I have worked through my weight loss challenges together and he is my biggest advocate.

    I have always felt that "I gained the weight myself so I'll lose it myself," but his support has been tremendous. - 9/4/2008   9:13:38 PM
  • 20
    Don't give up. At first I had no support from my family and friends. After they started to see my lose weight, they wanted to know how I was doing it. It was then that I told them about Spark People. Do this for yourself! Don't worry about what everyone else is doing. - 9/4/2008   8:32:22 PM
  • 19
    I am a single parent of two college age (children) young men. I have been doing this for about 8 weeks with no support. Trying to cook one thing for myself and something else for them. But my oldest has suddenly decided he wants to try this "Sparks stuff". It really make things easier to be able to prepare food and grocery shop this way for us all eating the same way. - 9/4/2008   8:25:58 PM
  • 18
    I don't have the support of family or friends. They will all spout off about what they eat or don't eat while scarfing down a whole pizza. They can talk the talk but don't seem to be able to walk the talk. I am dealing with my weight loss on my own. - 9/4/2008   7:56:58 PM
  • 17
    I have talked about wanting to lose some weight for a long time. I joined SP in May, and started measuring my food, choosing brown rice over white rice, making sure I had lots of vegetables, etc. He realized I was "serious" this time, and he has supported me. I try to make sure he has enough to eat that he won't feel deprived. When we have meat, he gets a lot more than I do, and he loves meat, so he's happy. He is actually getting more active, too--losing weight, walking more. My program is working for both of us. - 9/4/2008   6:16:28 PM
  • 16
    It is difficult when changing to a healthier lifestyle. Friends and family are not obligated to change what they eat and do because I have decided to revamp my life. It is up to me to decide if I will relax my goal or hang firm. I must strengthen my self discipline or refrain for a period of time until I am strong enough to say "no" to things that will raise my dietary counts higher than healthy and/or say "no" when it is a committed day to exercise. I am finding my friends love me enough that they are working with me. - 9/4/2008   6:01:29 PM
  • RENEE1BRYAN
    15
    When I decided to start loosing weight my husband says well I'm not, I don't want to starve so don't include me. I was upset. When I cook he sill gets what he wants and I just cut back on my portions. I think I am over weight because I don't eat right, like today it is already 4:06pm and I have not eaten anything, I know that isn't good but that is my problem. - 9/4/2008   5:07:40 PM
  • 14
    My DH likes the way I am beginning to look, but being a heavy guy himself, he continues to eat as much as he wants even though I tell him I want him to be healthy too. We eat out many times a month, and if we are away he wants to do buffets. I try very hard to stick to veggies and fruit and some salad, but even those sometimes are not cooked healthily. I am so happy I found SparkPeople. - 9/4/2008   4:25:29 PM
  • 13
    My husband and I are a great example of this article. I tend to adopt more healthy lifestyles when my husband is gone (he's a soldier so absences are pretty common) and then when he comes back he constantly pushes for sugary, high fat, high calorie foods and alcoholic drinks. I actually gained 35 lbs last time he came back! Now I'm committed again to losing all that weight now that he's leaving again! - 9/4/2008   2:08:55 PM
  • 12
    I have the support from my family most of the time, but SP and my personal trainer also give me the motivation. Of course, I couldn't get this far without my doctor. She has been great. She has been even better now that I can't use the weight loss pills I was on before. A major complication set in so I have not been able to use them. It wasn't that I was dependent on the Phentermine, but I could tell when I didn't take the little white pill. Now I find that I lean on the gym membership more and more and need to relearn to eat. - 9/4/2008   2:06:33 PM
  • 11
    i have the support of my family but not many friends and my friends are very important to me...so that's been hard. i've been working on teaching them about healthy choices and a lifestyle change and that's helped a bit - they are of the "love your body no matter what" camp and i don't 'disagree' but i am much more of the mind that i need to be healthy. over time they've started to understand that i'm not trying to change myself i'm trying to be a healthier me....but sp is my #1 support at this point. - 9/4/2008   2:04:30 PM
  • 10
    I guess I have to say I'm opposite: I'm the individualist type who thought she didn't "need" support (until SP came into my life of course!)

    My fiance is extremely supportive even though we are completely opposite when eating (I'm a vegetarian, he's... a carnivorian? lol In other words, he spurns veggies like I do meat).

    I guess this just leads me to conclude that you need a balance of individualism and a support circle from either your family, friends, or SP.

    Thank goodness for SP! - 9/4/2008   2:03:41 PM
  • 9
    My DH ignored by lifestyle changes until I'd lost 40 pounds. He expressed his concern about losing me to another. Once I had him convinced that was not my goal, he began to support me. Now if I say I can't eat something because it involves white bread, butter, or sugar, he accepts without questioning. He actually bought a loaf of whole wheat bread instead of his usual white. He cooked vegetables the other night without seasoning so I could have some too. He really likes the new me, the way I dress and feel to him.

    I did lose my best friend of 10 years because of my new lifestyle. We spent time together each weekend, actually travelled together at least a week out of every year. Our hobbies were sedementary. We loved to eat lots of rich foods. I haven't seen her for months, we do exchange emails on occasion. I have yet to tell her about SP. I was hoping for the right moment rather than making her feel as if she has to change in order to continue our friendship. I will continue to work on that relationship, it's worth it.
    - 9/4/2008   1:36:55 PM
  • JANPHAMILTON
    8
    As a personality, I find I tend to do most things on my own, including losing weight. I live alone and so that's kinda how it has to be. When I'm with my friends and family though, they all try to fit into my new lifestyle. This also includes my recently going vegetarian, and I haven't had a single negative comment. - 9/4/2008   1:08:56 PM
  • JAZZERCISEGENIE
    7
    I have no support except sparkpeople. My husband likes the new me but gets mad when I don't want to eat out, get pizza or get frosties.
    My daughters think I am mentally unbalanced because of what I eat and that I exercise alot. They are all overweight and have no desire to loose weight. - 9/4/2008   1:02:51 PM
  • 6
    Giant? PCOS does mean low carb will work better. Maybe you should do some googling and you'll find that PCOS makes you insulin resistant which requires low carb. Support your wife and hopefully she'll support you in return! - 9/4/2008   12:54:53 PM
  • BALOFS
    5
    I don't have much support at this time other than the SparkPeople community, but as I continue loosing weight my husband has been noticing and finally told me he was impressed. My friends are starting to ask too... Maybe soon I can get some of them to join me!!! :^) - 9/4/2008   12:47:41 PM

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