Nutrition Articles

Defend Yourself Against Diet Saboteurs!

Are Your Friends and Family Making You Fat?

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There’s one in every crowd— at the office, in your church group, among your closest friends and family. Sometimes they mean well, sometimes they seem a tad malicious, often they have no idea how they’re sabotaging you. But every time you take a step forward to gain dominion over food, they’re at your elbow-- offering you a brownie, some chips, an extra heaping helping of pasta.

SparkPeople member Amy S. has been there with boyfriends, co-workers, and friends. "Either they bring in high cal food and offer it around, or they actually tell me it doesn't matter if I eat high cal stuff, and try to persuade me to do it," she says.

What’s going on? Why does it seem that people close to you go out of their way to sabotage you?

Experts sum it up in one word—Change. Getting fit through diet and exercise creates big changes in your life—changes you welcome. But if your friends and family aren't in the same mode of change, they can be oblivious, jealous, and uncomfortable with your changes. Perhaps:
  1. They feel guilty. You're losing weight and getting in shape. They're not. Tempting you to "fall off the fitness wagon" means you’re "normal" again, and they can feel good about the status quo.
  2. They don’t understand. They’ve never had a weight problem and just don’t realize how hard you’ve worked to get where you are. They think it’s "silly" for you to worry about what you eat.
  3. They miss the old you. That is, the cookies you brought to work, the after-work "happy hours" spent in the company of high-fat potato skins, the luscious desserts you used to indulge in. Maybe you’re spending more time in the gym and have less free time for them. Maybe they’re afraid to lose you.
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About The Author

Rebecca Pratt Rebecca Pratt
A freelance writer who contributes to various newspapers and magazines, Becky loves covering ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Member Comments

  • This is my life. Every time I visit any family this happens to me. I've already decided to stay with my kids instead of my parents just so I can avoid the comments and stuff. It was bad enough just being vegetarian but now that I'm really watching what I eat it's going to be worse. It's frustrating when you're 20 pounds overweight and parents worrying about you being too thin. Yes I understand them and I know it's from love, but still. On the bright side, after 20 plus years I've gotten my husband to stop buying me treats and almost have stopped him from buying me food altogether. - 4/21/2016 6:32:47 AM
  • Some good points in the post. I've found it helpful to realize I do not know where other people are coming from or why they're doing what they're doing rather than judging everyone around me for being saboteurs or mean or just clueless. I feel better realizing I don't understand where they're coming from

    - 1/1/2016 1:18:54 PM
  • This is happening to me right now. I'm literally hiding in another room so as not to have treats pushed on me. - 11/7/2015 1:33:23 AM
  • I agree with this article to some extent but I also disagree some. Actual saboteurs do exist. Absolutely. However, I think that people are quick to jump to judgement and place blame on people for being 'food pushers' when they're just being normal. Remember, not everything is about you. When someone brings brownies to work, it's rare that they thought, "I'm going to go to the expense and effort of bringing brownies just so I can ruin Jim's diet." Usually it's more or a run of the mill friendly gesture. As for people offering extra helpings, maybe they're just remembering the things/quantities you used to like and are trying to be accommodating. Your diet is likely at the forefront of your mind...but it's not exactly the most important thing going on in your aunt's life.

    I think that this suddenly thinking that anyone who offers you a cookie or brownie or whatever is doing it just to sabotage you and then responding as though that is a certain truth is part of why people on diets often lament that their relationships are strained. Again, absolutely sometimes it is because people are jealous and uncomfortable with the changes in your diet and exercise and body. But sometimes, it's because of your behavior. So just take a minute and check in honestly and err on the side of giving people the benefit of the doubt. You are responsible for your own choices and willpower. Practice "No thanks." and "That was/looks delicious but I'm full." - 6/9/2015 12:59:47 PM
  • I still firmly believe in No Thank you, if people are too dense to catch on to a simple
    No then they can be offended as far as I am concerned. You don't let people push you into drinking or stealing why let them push you into an important thing like eating things that are bad for you. - 3/11/2015 2:19:25 AM
  • I still firmly believe in No Thank you, if people are too dense to catch on to a simple
    No then they can be offended as far as I am concerned. You don't let people push you into drinking or stealing why let them push you into an important thing like eating things that are bad for you. - 3/11/2015 2:19:25 AM
  • WHALEHUGGER
    I get this at work a lot. The company does a lot of pizza parties and I keep getting the "A slice or two won't hurt you". I'm not only watching my calories, but also the sodium intake for CHF, so pizza is a big no-no. For the dept Christmas party last year, our manager decided we should get something that I can work with (Panera's usually my go-to place for lower sodium fast food) and more than half of the team was severely honked off. The other members were glad to have something other than pizza. My MIL also sabotages when we go visit. She gripes at me that I need to lose weight and then made cookies, brownies and cake for snacks and was hurt when I declined. Fortunately, my hubby is on board with the weight loss as well. - 9/7/2014 3:18:48 PM
  • CISTRON
    I am still far from my end goal and my spouse doesn't understand how hard it is for me. He supports me one moment and then asks me to make foods for him and the kids that I can't eat. He also complains every time I need to leave for a walk or exercise and has an excuse why I can't leave. Yet just a few months ago he kept telling me to eat better and exercise...
    I know he is a little insecure about my loosing weight and getting fit but I find it frustrating because this is not about him but about me and I am a very loyal person so loosing the weight and getting fit is not going to suddenly cause me to leave him or do something I wouldn't have down when I weighed more. Now a days I make everyone breakfast or dinner and tell them I am off for my walk.... I make sure not to come home for at least an hour so all the food temptations are eaten before I return. - 7/6/2014 1:28:50 PM
  • CISTRON
    I am still far from my end goal and my spouse doesn't understand how hard it is for me. He supports me one moment and then asks me to make foods for him and the kids that I can't eat. He also complains every time I need to leave for a walk or exercise and has an excuse why I can't leave. Yet just a few months ago he kept telling me to eat better and exercise...
    I know he is a little insecure about my loosing weight and getting fit but I find it frustrating because this is not about him but about me and I am a very loyal person so loosing the weight and getting fit is not going to suddenly cause him to leave him or do something I wouldn't have down when I weighed more. Now a days I make everyone breakfast or dinner and tell them I am off for my walk.... I make sure not to come home for at least an hour. If he complains again I remind him he is the one that told me I needed to exercise! - 7/6/2014 1:26:26 PM
  • It is very tough to stick to your program when your better half is telling you that you are too thin. Bringing home goodies that are bad for you. They get very angry when you don't eat them. I always say I will save the goodie for later & put it in the fridge 7 then get rid of it later. - 10/4/2013 9:59:05 AM
  • I find the worst saboteurs are the people who keep saying I have to stop losing weight and I am too thin. Especially when I am being so careful to do this safely and my goal weight is well on the generous side of my healthy weight range. I am tall and I can get away with extra pounds and these people havent seen me naked. Even so I question their motives for making me feel bad about my hard earned and on-going success. - 8/14/2013 10:02:27 AM
  • THATWIFE1
    Would you beleive last week I was at a professional business women's luncheon & when I just quietly put up my hand to let tthe server know I did not want that sinful goooey chocolate dessert, a woman I didn't even know rolled her eyes at me! I certainly would never in any way comment on her choice- so why when we decide to be healthy it's OK for others to bust our chops over it? How did she know I didn't have some kind of allergy or something? - 4/29/2013 4:44:56 PM
  • Great article. It is reassuring to see other people have this problem too. It hurt me very much to see two friends sabotaging my efforts out of competitiveness. Seeing how much this goes on for others too, makes me think it is just human nature.
    My mum was extremely helpful and supportive, and that is the right response from someone who cares about you. - 10/21/2012 12:07:50 PM
  • My wife, bless her heart, offers me foods that I should not eat. I counter this by offering to make her dinner -- which is usually what I'm eating. She kindly turns down the offer. But not going to restaurants is a problem, especially Mexican food (where our friends all go). I have to find ways to be tactful yet firm in my insistence to remain close to my food program. - 9/24/2012 6:44:38 PM
  • I liked this article. It seems like my husband does this alot. I am a diabetic and for years he would bring home a key lime pie my favorite, then say oh yell you can't have this. A little over a year ago he was told he had diabetis, he don't hardly eat vegetables, and it is hard cooking for him . I had him eating pretty good. Then he goes off, he wants potatoes, beans,ect. but he can't eat just a severing . I got tried of fighting with him. He is on meds and his dr. said he is doing good, I try to tell him he could be off the meds if he ate right. Any way now when he has a pain , I look at him and say you haven;'t seen anything yet, wait until you get neuropthy. - 9/8/2012 4:43:46 PM

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