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Nutrition Articles  ›  Pitfalls and Plateaus

Defend Yourself Against Diet Saboteurs!

Are Your Friends and Family Making You Fat?

-- By Rebecca Pratt, Staff Writer
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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

  • 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
  • JWOOLMAN
    One approach to saboteurs might help if the food is something that you can eat but not in the portions they want you to eat, or not at that particular time: Always be prepared to pack up part of it for later or the next day, when it can fit into your eating plans. Carry zip lock bags, a cooler lunch bag, etc. That can be handy in restaurants/fast food joints also, basically bringing your own doggie bags. Then you can eat some of the food and enjoy it but still stick to your own schedule. Eat slowly and be discrete about bagging the rest before you start, and most people probably won't even notice. You also might have some success by not making it a weight loss or maintenance thing but something else - just say you have to eat according to a certain schedule or in limited amounts at a time for health reasons. That's quite true. You can even say you have to control your blood sugar, which is also universally true even if you won't go into a coma from the donut. Claim that a doctor told you so. (Just don't mention that you read it in an article by an M.D., easy to find.) It's like when you were a kid and could get out of doing some dumb stuff by saying your dad won't let you do it, people accept "the doctor said I have to do this". I tell people I'm allergic to perfume even though technically it's an intolerance, because otherwise they think I don't like the way they smell rather than not enjoying the two-day headaches and dizziness etc. Sometimes you have to adjust your language to help people understand and keep them from bugging you about it. - 6/19/2012 5:48:20 PM
  • JBARBER1953
    I manage well for all inent and purposes except when my husband has to be in the hospital, and that's quite frequently!!! We were just there for 9 days this past week. Being confined to his room this long and trying to be economical I eat his leftovers from his tray (which are NOT necessarily nutritous). I tend to get the munchies also. I know it's no excuse but I really have problems along this line. (I'm sure the stress and exhaustion contributes to the ordeal also.
    TRUTH is I can ONLY blame myself. I start out with healthy snakes, protein bars, shakes etc but after a couple days supply is gone. - 5/31/2012 8:10:51 PM
  • I have the fortune( or misfortune) of dating a feeder and that feeder has a mother who is also a feeder. Between all of this I have gained 15lbs since starting the relationship. I'm kind of nervous to put my foot down, especially when we are at the in-laws for Sunday dinner. Does anyone have any idea what I can do? - 5/15/2012 3:20:06 PM
  • I am soooo MAD. I bought a bunch of hamburgers, chicken, and little steaks to eat for the week. My friend and her boyfriend were grilling out and said that they would grill it up for me so it would taste better and I could freeze it for the week. I bought 93% lean beef and chicken breast with no fat and was telling him it how much it cost for meat with so little fat. I just went in to get one of the burgers and he has drenched (I don't mean coated or poured a little on but DRENCHED) everything in olive oil. When I confronted him, he denied it and said he just put a little on the grill. I showed him my plate where I had warmed a burger up and about 4 TBSP yes tablespoons came out. He then said he had to put a little oil on them because they were sticking to the grill. Now I have to eat this because it really was all of my grocery money for the week and all of my food. I mean the burgers are SOAKED in olive oil. They are now saying that they heard olive oil is good for you and thought that they were doing me a favor. What makes me the most mad is that he has grilled over here many times and has NEVER used oil on the meat before. They act like I am the bad guy for not being grateful that he cooked it up for me. - 5/14/2012 12:24:14 PM
  • I'm doing really well at work. I just don't take a warm, sweet decendant donut when the boss brings them(every friday). I have plenty of healty alternatives in my lunch bag(that helps abundantly). The problem I have is at home. I don't buy junk food or sugar filled drinks, but my teenages find a way to get it. I don't want any of that stuff, but my weakness is ICE CREAM. It gets me everytime. I try to keep ingredients in the house for fruit smoothies at all times. This helps my control the need for ICE CREAM!!!!!! - 9/15/2011 3:28:52 PM
  • A few years ago I commented on this same article with if after a couple nice refusals, take the food, set it aside then dump it in the trash.

    Now I can add another tool for repeat offenders. The made up allergy ("I get a bad allergic reaction it makes me swell up" - kind true huh?) or blame it on the doctor (I'd love to but my doctor doesn't want me to have that). Some how putting an external motivation or authority on it slows the running of the bulls better.

    This is your gas tank! Are your a second hand clunker or the jazzy race car - a pit stop does not mean getting bad...um, fuel. - 8/11/2011 5:30:16 PM
  • WEIGHTLOSER1913
    My mother does this. She lost 50 pounds on Nutrisystem then gained it all back in less than a year. So now that I'm losing she will order pizza and suggest going out to eat all the time. I know she does it intentionally. - 8/11/2011 1:41:24 PM