Social gatherings can be difficult for dieters. Family food pushers like the grandmother who wants to care for you or the aunt who wants to be admired for a special recipe can make holidays and other family gatherings tricky. At other social gatherings it may be difficult to find things that fit within your food plan, friends may forget your diet, or acquaintances may not be aware of your goals. Medi-Weightloss Clinics recently commissioned a survey that they believe suggests that “it might be easier to lose weight these days if you live alone in a cave with no spouse, family, friends or colleagues.” As I look at the survey responses, though, I think there may be another interpretation.
The online survey was completed by 325 women between the ages of 25 and 55 who were currently dieting or had dieted in the past. It is unclear how these specific women were recruited or chosen. We are also missing further demographic information that might help us explain the results. When asked if they had ever felt others were not respecting their diet, 66 percent of participants agreed. Those most blamed for not respecting a diet were significant others, friends, and relatives; however, these are the people with whom we are most likely to have frequent interaction and most likely to share a meal. The more time we spend with someone, the more chance there is that person could disappoint us. Respondents were least likely (17 percent) to feel disappointed by their best friends.
The survey only measured the dieter’s assessment of another’s motivations rather than specific statements or actions that might more objectively assess motivation. While the actions of others can sabotage our goals, the sabotage may be entirely unintentional. Most of the time I believe others forget or get caught up in personal motivations rather than intentional sabotage out of jealously, insecurity, or competition. Significant others and friends were also the people participants most wanted as a personal dieting coach, more than a medical professional, even though 70 percent of respondents thought it would be easier if a diet coach was an unbiased health professional rather than someone she knew.
Whether friends and family members are intentional saboteurs or not, it is important for your personal success that you figure out away to manage their influence in your life. If you suspect someone is purposefully trying to interfere with your weight loss and health goals, you will likely need to address it directly with clear and firm statements. The response to clear and firm statements will let you know if the person could become a better support to you or if you need to limit this person’s impact on your life.
Some people you may simply need to avoid in situations that involve food. Others you may find discouraging enough that you need to limit your communication with them. You may need to hide them from your Facebook feed, take fewer phone calls, or schedule get togethers less frequently or in the presence of other more supportive friends. If you are changing how you interact with someone in a significant way, it may be helpful to explain that you are spending time focusing primarily on your health right now, which means that you need to eliminate distractions and spend more time preparing food for yourself and learning to be comfortable with yourself. Such explanations can help minimize the negative reactions and attempts at attention you might otherwise receive from others.
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