Support for the weary

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This morning as I was cleaning my kitchen, I had a profound idea. What if all diet books included a chapter on how people can support a person who was making a lifestyle change? Wouldn't that be amazing? Just a short chapter for the family and friends to read. It could even be a little pamphlet that could be removable like the Boy/Cub Scouts do with their child protection pamphlet for parents.

It's one thing to want support from our spouses, friends, relatives. It's another thing for them to provide it. What exactly is support. So many of our supporters end up sabotaging us with the greatest intentions of supporting us. They have their own ideas of what it means to support, but maybe they never struggled with weight, either because they are thin or because they just don't want to yet.

So to say to someone you love, "I need your support," or "you just don't support me." is rather cruel. Instead, there needs to be some information out there about what is really needed.

Here are some of the "supports" I've gotten from well intentioned loved ones.

"You can eat *that*?" With judgemental emphasis on the "that."
"Oh, have a glass of wine, it's good for you."
"You just have to be more ______." active, careful about what you eat, prayerful, determined, whatever it is that they think you are not.

I remember sitting in a Weight Watchers class where they were talking about why you want to lose weight. The women, even the small ones were going on about body image issues that were simply in their heads. And the WW leader was encouraging this. I've learned the hard way that if you come into a program with body image and self esteem issues and use them as a driving force for weight loss, you will still have self esteem and body image issues when you are at goal weight. Part of the journey is finding love for yourself and being OK with who you are as a person. Likewise, our support system can't tear down our self esteem by encouraging body image issues either.

Another WW meeting I went to talked about belief. "Do you believe that you can succeed?" was the question of the day. The conclusion of the talk was that if you don't believe, you will not succeed. That was the last WW meeting I went to. I didn't believe at that point and nothing in that talk encouraged me to believe. I was just told I *had* to believe. I know not all WW meetings are like this. It was just this one leader.

So what does it take to make that leap of faith?

Well, if everyone around you doesn't believe in you and you have your mind on all your past failures, it's hard to take a leap of faith.

If the people around you are questioning your food choices ("You're eating again?" You're eating that?"), the message they send is that they don't believe you are smart enough to make the right choices.

And when they think that they have all the diet answers and "you just need to...", well that's just annoying.

So what can our supporters do?


If I hit a plateau, I might want to just let off some steam and frustration about it. I'm probably expressing that my faith has been shaken and I need someone to help me regain that faith. Maybe I just need to talk through it out loud. These blogs make a great substitute for someone to talk to because they give us the ability to dump our thoughts, think through the matter and know we are not going to have someone respond, "You just need to ________." Don't try to solve my problem. Just let me vent.


If someone else says:
" I know you can do this."
"I believe in you."
"It may take a while, but you will get there. "
"You are doing a great job."
" I can see the difference. "
"I love you."

Those words will gradually start to play in my brain just like the demon words play in my brain. Eventually, those loving, supportive words might even silence the demon words. THAT is the formula for permanent weight loss. That plants a seed of belief that if I nurture, will grow into total belief. We get lots of that kind of support on Spark. emoticon

Last night, my husband said to me, "I can see that you are making small gradual changes that you can succeed at and it's working." Those words meant so much to me. They were so kind and so effective.
My 10 year old son, who struggles with his weight, has decided to change his eating habits. He's making small changes to what he eats. Changes he can feel comfortable with for the rest of his life. Just like his mom. And I am using kind, supportive words with him.

Everyone has someone in their life who wants to support them, but ends up sabotaging them. What suggestions would you give in a chapter about how to support a lifestyle change? Is there something that someone has done for you on this list or in real life that has really helped you?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    This was perfect. I hate brain demons! I have more than my fair share (probably not, but some days it feels like it). I can name them all too! LOL It's not just for weight but for any self-esteem demon banishing activity. having someone say they believe in you... having someone say they love you and know that you can do it... it's THE best feeling in the world and really does make anything possible.

    Thanks for writing this.
    3556 days ago
    Tell him you believe he can do it. Maybe he doesn't believe. So, he won't take the steps he needs to take. Most of us know what we need to do. It's just believing in ourselves enough to get ourselves to try.

    Remember, he probably has a tape full of destructive things going through his head too. emoticon
    3556 days ago
    O. M. G.!!! If I could write a chapter on how to be supportive of people trying to lose weight, this would be it! I would copy and paste this blog entry into a pamphlet form and hand it out to everyone I knew. WOW!!!! That was just so insightful and brilliant. My parents are the classic case you describe. Mom constantly telling me how I need to pray and meditate more, and Dad constantly telling me how I need to exercise more. It is sooooooo annoying! But the truth is, I can be that way too. I've desperately been trying to get my husband on SparkPeople, because he SAYS he's ready to lose weight. But the truth is, he really isn't, or he wouldn't sit down with a whole bag of whatever junk he can find to stuff his face with on a regular basis. I just love him so much and don't want to be a widow, so it's really hard to let go. How do you support someone who says that he wants to lose, but isn't doing a single thing about it?
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3556 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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