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Summer sabotage 'Ready, Steady, Go!'

Dear Ellen, I am so excited about the summertime and the extended time with friends and family, but I am a bit worried about feeling sabotaged by those who do not necessarily have the same health goals as me. How can I prepare?

When you decide to make lifestyle changes, you are sure to find friends and family who are supportive of your specific health goals. However, it will inevitably affect your relationships and may require an uncomfortable transition period and it is normal to expect frustrating or hurtful comments which could sabotage your efforts. A recent study revealed that the main reason loved ones might be especially critical about lifestyle changes is that they are simply projecting their own insecurities. Most sabotage is not malicious and much of it is not even conscious or intentional, but it can represent a considerable obstacle to your momentum unless you recognize it for what it is and strategize to deal with it. Let’s explore…“Ready, Steady, Go!”

Ready? What might a saboteur say or do?

  • Act offended confusing food with love… “You used to love my XYZ…what happened?”
  • Act insulted…”Aw, you’re no fun anymore”
  • Invent special food… “I made it especially for you”
  • Flatter you… “But you look great just how you are, don’t change!”
  • Test your relationship “But you always enjoyed eating X or doing X with me before”
  • Give discouraging news …. “Oh, that doesn’t work, you’ve tried before”
  • Invite you out… “Come on, like old times…we can eat, drink and be merry!”
  • Fear for your health… “Are you sure all that exercise (or food) is good for you, not harmful?!”
  • Offer know-it-all advice… “you must try this special dessert, it is world renowned”
  • Make you an outsider… “We won’t invite you because we know you’re watching your weight”
  • Leave unhealthy food around or eat it in front of you “Help yourself to your favourite, it won’t matter”
  • Volunteer amateur psychoanalysis “Are you sure you are ok with this…do you need help?”

Steady…understand these probable 7 reasons…

  1. Jealousy: Maybe they have tried to lead a healthier lifestyle in the past and have failed. Seeing you succeed makes it even harder.
  2. Misunderstanding: Maybe they just do not understand what you have decided to change and why.
  3. Fear of losing « old » you: Perhaps the simple fear of change threatens the relationship.
  4. Resentful of time: If you are exercising more or taking more time for yourself, for example, you might have less time to watch TV together than before.
  5. Feel inadequate: Perhaps they too wish they could live healthier, but don’t know how.
  6. Lack of confidence: Maybe they just do not trust themselves to change.
  7. Insecurity: Sometimes an insecure person seeks out a similar partner to alleviate his or her own insecurity

Go! How to Deal?

  1. Recognize and identify your supporters and saboteurs! Make a list.
  2. Tap into supporters. If you're getting negative messages at home, work, or from friends, be sure to seek positive support where you know you can.
  3. Explain that you need help. Include others in your vision for a healthy future. Invite their input on how they would like to see you functioning at your best, and ask them if they could support you to move toward this vision.
  4. Show that you have healthy goals and explain how your choices to exercise or make different food choices equals a happier you which will ultimately mean you have more to bring to the relationship.
  5. Reassure by making it clear that even though you're changing your lifestyle, the way you love him/her will stay the same. Highlight some benefits that your improved health, energy and increased confidence might have on your relationship.
  6. Acknowledge with loved ones that things may be different for a while, and maybe a bit awkward during the transition period.
  7. Ask! A loved one will likely stop making comments if you ask them directly. Try “Do you realize you're undermining my success? Is that what you really want to do? Let's talk about it, because I need your help to succeed.” Or “Want to join me?”
  8. Thank friends or family for their thoughtfulness and say that you appreciate the input but you have your own plan, thank you. Show gratitude through lots of “oohs” and “aahs” rather than lots of consumption since they often just need to know you appreciate what they prepare, offer or share.
  9. Be patient. All change takes time and patience can make this transition more pleasant, especially since your saboteurs are likely those you love, and love you, most.

When you feel that loved ones are sabotaging your efforts toward a goal, it helps to stay focused and strategize while understanding that others have their own agendas. Be prepared for a little pushback from those closest to you and realize that often the best thing to do is to brush off their negativity by recognising that if they didn't love you so much, they probably wouldn't care so much about your efforts.