Created: 27 April 2013 | Written by Dr. Wilson for Citrus County Chronicle
The people around you are important to your physical well-being. Your relationships with friends and family members significantly affect your weight, and healthy interactions with the people around you can give you powerful support and motivation when you are trying to lose weight.
Studies by Harvard researchers and others found that if one person is obese, chances are greater that a friend or family member is also obese. Having four obese friends or family members doubles the probability that you will also be overweight. This suggests that social networks spread obesity, perhaps by encouraging each other’s bad habits and by increasing acceptance of being overweight.
The converse is also true. When one person loses weight, friends and family members also shed pounds, even when they are thousands of miles away. The perception that exercise and good eating habits are important to a friend or sibling makes you take them more seriously yourself. Family members and friends tend to educate each other, share information, and offer encouragement and support.
Most people are happy to see a loved one losing weight and becoming healthier. There are situations, however, where you may encounter resistance to your efforts. Forty-three percent of people responding to a poll by Sparkspeople.com reported that family members or friends had tried to sabotage their weight loss.
Resistance can take many forms, from friends urging you to indulge yourself in forbidden treats, to family members accusing you of spoiling their pleasure by refusing to eat certain foods. Most people will respect you when you make it clear that you are serious about losing weight and that it is important to you.
Sometimes, a spouse or companion has deep-seated feelings that are expressed as anger, resentment, blame, or attempts to undermine your self-esteem. Changes in your lifestyle inevitably bring about changes in your relationships. When you start going to the gym regularly, you spend less time watching TV with your spouse or friends. A partner may feel threatened as you begin to feel more confident and better about your appearance, and fear that you will no longer find him or her attractive. Your success may make another person more aware of, and more frustrated by, his or her own failures. Your partner might not like the changes in your daily routine, and long for a return to the “old days.”
Signs of resistance include disparaging comments and accusations, and attempts to interfere with your weight loss efforts. Your spouse may pick up fast food for dinner on the way home from work, knowing that you should not eat it. Another tactic is to bring home your favorite junk foods and eat them in front of you. In extreme cases, a partner may even gain weight as you lose, by consciously or unconsciously overindulging.
You cannot force another person to change his or her attitude. The only attitude you can change is your own. Be patient with friends and family, and try to understand the deeper reasons for their behavior. Do not let them undermine your efforts to lose weight, and try to be a positive influence. Explain why weight loss is important for you, and that you are doing it for your health. Make it clear that you love and respect them as much as ever.
Sometimes your success and pride in your newfound knowledge makes you impatient with others, and causes you to subconsciously look down on them. Remember that it takes time for people to change, and reflect on your own battle before you finally took those first decisive steps.
Make compromises to accommodate your friends and family. Sample small portions of holiday foods, and make up for the extra calories by exercising or eating less the next day. If your friends insist on dining in a burger joint, keep them company with a cup of coffee or a salad, and eat a healthier meal later. Or use a calorie counter to choose one of the less fattening items on the menu, and eat less the rest of the day. Try to find physical activities that you and your partner can enjoy together. Go to the movies, but do not buy popcorn. Remember that you are making your own choices.
Control your friends, do not let them control you!