Recently I was talking with one of my clients who had fallen off the wagon in the past few weeks. She had worked really hard to get about 40lbs off and was in the best shape of her life.
But over the holidays things began to slip and as we spoke the real truth started to come out.
She was dealing with what I call a “Diet Destroyer”.
What is that you ask? It might be a friend, co-worker, family member or even your spouse who either deliberately or subconsciously starts to sabotage your efforts to be healthy.
Many times it’s so subtle you don’t even know its happening. Perhaps it’s your well meaning co-worker that brings a box of donuts into the office and bring them over to your desk to offer you one before anyone else gets one.
Sometimes is your spouse who knows you love sweets and proceeds to bring home a huge box of chocolates and 2 packages of Oreos “because they love you”.
It doesn’t have to be about food either. Sometimes these saboteurs will try to disrupt your workouts also.
They’ll make comments about you working too hard or when you have a particularly good workout saying: “if you do that again you might get hurt” or belittling your recent personal best 5k time with a comment like “well with all that working out I thought you’d do better”.
And it speaking with the client I came to find out her friend had said to her: “I don’t’ understand why you work out so hard and are trying to lose weight. You’re almost 60 years old you should be taking it easy”.
The client told me the friend that said that to her is about 100lbs overweight and can barely make it up a flight of stairs
So why do they do it?
There are few reasons but there are 3 different types that I have found seem to be the most common.
First there’s the “Don’t Understand” crowd. These are the ones that have never had to deal with a weight problem and don’t realize how difficult it is for someone who does.
They tend to be the “I can eat anything I want and not gain weight” person and figure everyone should be just like them.
Often once you explain things to them they’ll gain an understanding and stop their behavior.
Then there’s the “I liked you the way you were” crowd. Spouses/Significant others tend to fall into this group.
They’re worried that you are looking and feeling so good that they’ll lose you to someone else. Or they feel left out because you’re spending more time at the gym instead of at home with them. I see this one all the time.
I’ve had instances though where the significant others are actively and knowingly sabotaging. I’ve even called some in to meet with me.
Oh for sure they’ll say they support their husband or wife but when I call them out on the things they’ve done… well let’s just say you could hear crickets chirping….
Truthfully this is the toughest group to deal with. First off they are usually someone you love and are close to. Second their fear is so ingrained they can’t and often won’t stop their behavior. If you mention it to them often they’ll get defensive and in the worst cases become even more overt in their behavior.
Finally there are the ones who feel guilty. Simply put you are getting in shape and losing weight and they’re not.
Rather than enjoy your success and ask you how they too can get fit they’ll try to tempt you with food and/or to not workout so they can feel good about their choices to eat crap and sit on the couch all day.
Also by tempting you to fall off the wagon you’ll fit better into their definition of the “normal” person. Aka them.
This is exactly the type of person my client’s friend was.
So what can you do?
For starters you have to realize YOU are the one in control of you.
The diet destroyers can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. You have to make a conscious effort to not get caught up in their behaviors or let it slide track you.
How do you handle these situations? I usually offer 3 options that you can use.
Ignore – This doesn’t mean you have to be rude but to just not let the comments that are made get to you. Simply don’t respond to them. In time many will get the hint that you aren’t going to respond to their comments and stop. And if they try to tempt you with food or avoiding a workout simply say “No thanks” or “I’m busy”.
You don’t need to give long winded explanations or excuses. Eventually most will get the hint. And if they don’t well you should really consider if they truly care about you. In the worst cases you shouldn’t feel guilty about choosing to avoid someone who isn’t on your side.
Acknowledge and Accept – By this I mean when a comment is made to you respond with something like “That’s one way to look at it”. You aren’t being mean or rude heck you’re basically saying I hear you which doesn’t make them wrong. It just means you don’t accept their viewpoint.
This is also good for the situation where someone brings you a “gift” like say that box of donuts or piece of cake. Simply say thank you and set it aside to be gotten rid of later. If they stand there expecting to watch you eat it simply say I’m not hungry right now but I’ll save it for later.
And by that I don’t mean by eating it but by throwing it in the trash. Yes you are wasting food which many of us have been raised to think is a cardinal sin (the old there are starving people in china mentality).
It comes down to a choice waste it or waist it.
Motivate – This can be a tricky one to navigate but if you pull it off it will really make you (and them) feel better. This works often with those that are fall into the guilty group but also can work with the “I liked you as you were crowd.” In both cases these groups are living with fear. I’ll lump it into one fear…fear of failure. They’ve seen you succeed in your fitness journey and fear they too can’t succeed and thus be a failure. Often they’ll silently think of you as a role model or someone they want to be like.
In the case of a spouse they might fear a change in the relationship like you leaving them.
In both cases you can be their partner by offering to work with them and show them how they too can succeed.
You’ll be surprised (shocked even) how many people will take you up on your offer. Keep in mind in many cases these saboteurs are doing what they do because they want to be like you but simply don’t know how.
The bottom line is this. These Diet Destroyers can only succeed if you let them. As mentioned before you are in control of your life and the choices you make. When dealing with them you can try some of the tactics I mention above as well as others that you can think of.
It’s ok to put YOU First!