The Family Saboteur – A Dieter’s Strategy For Success
Change is hard. Change becomes harder when you’re friends and family sabotage your efforts to make lifestyle changes, intentionally or not.
When people get threatened, they usually fight back. Lifestyle changes like joining a gym, participating in a weight loss support group, medical weight loss interventions, and radical food choices all cause our family and friends to fight against our good intentions. Often, our spouses, family, and friends subconsciously use these emotions and make statements such as:
I love you the way you are.
I want the old you back.
You’re fine. You don’t really need to do this.
Are you sure this is healthy for you?
Are you too good now to eat my [insert favorite dessert here]?
This is changing the way you are and I don’t like it.
Ever heard these before? Let’s be honest. Of course, you have. These are all forms of sabotage. Most of you who struggle with making positive lifestyle changes have either heard some form of this sabotage or are presently in a relationship where this level of sabotage is occurring.
Why We Sabotage
The Need to Control – This is probably the most common form of sabotage I experience with clients. Their spouses, although initially supportive, may start to notice some changes.
You are spending time away from your spouse at the gym and it causes arguments.
You are establishing relationships that are foreign to your spouse and jealousy arises.
You are excited to talk about all the new experiences and your spouse insults you because they feel left out.
You start to lose weight, get stronger, and look different but your spouse says you don’t need to do this because they love you just the way you are.
You change your eating habits and your spouse feels very uncomfortable because they subconsciously feel bad about themselves, but are unwilling or unready to change.
These are all forms of control in one way or the other. Your spouse is trying to talk you out of the positive changes you are so desperately trying to make.
I’ve even known couples who’s spouses intentionally sabotaged and encouraged destructive behavior because they were afraid others would start to find their spouse attractive if they lost weight. I’ve seen this from both men and women. It’s the ultimate form of a destructive self-image and spousal sabotage.
How to Stop the Sabotage
Stop ostracizing obesity. Just because society in general is shallow and is critical of obesity doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about it. Being overweight doesn’t make you a bad person. Going on an eating binge doesn’t make you a bad person. Talk about these issues openly and get them off your chest.
Your spouse and family should be some of the most trusted people you have in your life. Be honest and upfront with them about your feelings and be clear in what changes you would like to make. This will help reduce the feelings of inadequacy and may reduce being threatened by your lifestyle changes.
If your spouse is feeling threatened, reassure them that you love them and you aren’t going anywhere. Explain to them that you need their help and understanding to help you get healthier. This is more of an inclusive approach than an exclusive approach if your spouse feels like an outsider. It may get them to help you and perhaps give them courage to drop a few pounds themselves.
To your friends or co-workers who are critical, emphasize that you feel that losing weight will help you be a better mother, father, and employee. Emphasize the importance of enlisting their support to help you get healthier.
The more open you are about what you are doing the greater the chance of success you will have.
When You Feel Trapped
For some, the relentless pursuit of sabotage just will not go away. It might be time to make some very tough decisions about your relationship. I do not condone divorce or relationship separations. My Church Pastor once designed a sermon about marriage and divorce where he said, “There are no irreconcilable marriages, only couples unwilling to reconcile.” I can’t begin to describe the truth to this statement.
Don’t Give Up
Work through your concerns and educate yourself fully about your vision and your lifestyle changes. Being able to inform your loved ones of the benefits of what you are doing will make a difference if you stay consistent. Eventually, the threats diminish when your spouse or family realize you really aren’t going anywhere and you’re still the same old person, just a lot thinner and a lot healthier.
When the day comes and you’re questioning everything, DO NOTHING! Stay the course even if all you can do is just show up to the gym. More often than not, just the routine of getting to the gym is enough to get you to do something. Don’t forget what is at stake. Remember it’s a journey and not a race. You and your loved ones should enjoy the process.