Nutrition Articles

Defend Yourself Against Diet Saboteurs!

Are Your Friends and Family Making You Fat?

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.

Don’t overreact, but don’t give up either! Try these strategies to vanquish your perennial food foes:

Don’t assume the worst. Unless sabotage is blatantly deliberate, give saboteurs the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their motives. If your mother serves you lasagna—your favorite-- perhaps it’s because she equates food with love, not that she wants you fat. At any rate, it doesn’t pay to get defensive.

Just say no. You wouldn’t expect to have a drink forced on you if you were a recovering alcoholic, and you shouldn’t have to submit to having fattening food foisted on you. Tell the food pusher, "No, thanks," and leave it at that. You don't owe an explanation. Nor do you need to feel guilty if you choose to avoid someone who’s not helpful to your cause.

Take it and leave it. Granted, the thought of wasted food is hard for many of us. You don’t have to be a member of the clean plate club. Remember, there are times when discretion is the better part of valor.

Look for patterns. Be on the lookout for situations that trigger your diet downfalls, perhaps with a food journal. It may help you recognize people and events that do you in, allowing you to develop strategies to deal with them. If you know, for example, that there are likely to be donuts by the office coffeemaker, it’ll be much easier to resist them if you have your own healthy but satisfying snack.

Set up your own support system. If you can recruit friends and family to your cause, you may be able to create a valuable support system. Numerous studies show that when your social network supports you, you reap positive results. If that’s not feasible, take a different approach: join a weight-loss group, or avoid friends (at least temporarily) who are a negative influence, maybe even make new friends who share your goals. You’ll get stronger with time, and be able to handle the not-so-supportive folks.

Ask for help. Keep in mind that your weight-loss needs are unique. Don’t expect loved ones to exercise telepathy to know what your needs are. Tell them! Be fair and reasonable, especially with those who share your home. They may be willing to make compromises, at least for shorter periods of time, about what foods are kept and cooked in the house.

Be a grownup. Remember that what you put in your mouth is your responsibility. While others may tempt you, ultimately you’re in charge of your own life. Look at difficult situations as opportunities to flex your newfound control muscles-- and reinforce the idea that you’re not adopting a healthier lifestyle for someone else, but for you.

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Member Comments

  • Be grown up...nice.
  • I need to do this, and stay away from those people
  • I don't hang with too many people that try to push food/drinks on me except one person but she has good intentions....ha!
  • Boundaries are difficult to set sometimes but this gives me some good pointers.
  • Today, I can create boundaries.
  • My whole office is one sweet landmine. I have learned to bring something that I can eat or drink to each event. I am also learning so much of the time, that what they brought isn't something that I crave anyway so it is easier.

    I had one friend that works out constantly and lives on chicken and romaine lettuce, tell me she hoped I wasn't planning on losing too much more, when the doctor tells me that I have moved down one scale on the obesity ranking, that I am still obese.

    It is interesting......
  • I am getting tired of my friends saying "If I ever have to eat like that I think I'd rather die."
    What's wrong with healthy? What has we let our society do to us if eating high fat, high calorie and low nutrition is the preferred way of life? So confusing.
    "be a grown up" true choosing wisely is my responsibility
    People who make fun of fat people while claiming that they're doing it for the fat person's health. Words can't express how much I hate people like that. Shaming someone for being overweight or unhealthy is not doing anything for that person, in fact it's probably doing more to hurt them. I'm amazed at the umber of people who think fat shaming is helpful. Call me crazy, but I don't think mocking someone as they attempt to jog around the block is the best way to get that person to lose weight.
  • After losing almost 45 pounds (which I've kept off for nearly 4 years now), which I am SUPER proud of, I now have a new issue with people who give me nasty looks if I turn down sweets or bring in my lean meats and leafy greens. I get the "oh your so skinny it doesn't matter, you can eat whatever you want." I want to scream at them I WORKED MY BUTT OFF to get to where I am, and have to keep working to keep it off. I don't want to throw it all away!!
  • 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.
  • 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

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.