As a Health Coach, I help people to lose weight, improve their health, and work on other wellness strategies. One of the biggest epiphanies I have had as a coach is to find out that when individuals begin to successfully lose large amounts of excess weight, it does not always bode well for their personal relationships. It was in fact shocking for me to hear from women in particular, that their boyfriends and spouses, and sometimes close friends and family members, would begin to sabotage the process, trying to tempt them with special treats or deter them from exercise. One has to wonder, why?
The first reason is pretty obvious. When you finally begin to lose weight in a meaningful way, you are clearly showcasing to the world that you are in charge of your life and you are empowered to make yourself look better and feel better. This can make those around you who are not in a similar mindset, feel very, very threatened. “Why can’t I do this too,” they may be asking themselves. When you begin to gain control of your eating and make time to exercise on a regular basis, you are also suggesting that you are worth it. For many people, making their health or even their looks a priority is a very difficult journey to navigate. They may even call it selfish, because they only know how to sacrifice for others, and not for themselves. The selfish excuse is also a great way to avoid tackling a personal lifestyle change.
Your weight loss can also suggest a desire to improve professionally and personally. Quite often, dramatic weight loss can also help someone to focus on achieving other goals, even changing your social circumstance. So your friends and family may feel very threatened, assuming erroneously that you want to remove them from your life, especially if they are overweight. This one is a bit dicey, because you may indeed need to curtail all the unhealthy food and drinking celebrations that intertwine with your relationships. You may want to go for a walk, or take a class with someone, rather than go to the bar scene or to a fast food restaurant. You may no longer want that box of chocolates or those surprise cupcakes you often receive. You probably no longer want love expressed with food, and so many of the people in your life may only know how to express love through food gifts.
The biggest issue seems to be the actual physical transformation. When you begin to look smaller (and your self-esteem improves) you are unwittingly making others who don’t want to take the weight loss journey feel unhappy and frankly……fat. Your husband or boyfriend (or wife or girlfriend) may feel like your next step is to move on, especially if they are overweight or obese. That insecurity can really instigate some very mean or confounding behaviors. They may become critical, judgmental, and even downright unkind. And they may accuse you of those very behaviors, simply because you want to be healthier and improve your body. I have written extensively about this phenomenon in my books, and I have also encountered it quite frequently in my private practice. New research from North Carolina State University and the University of Texas at Austin, confirms this “dark side’ to weight loss, especially when a partner, friend, or family members are not on board with your lifestyle change success. The researchers in the study confirm that a fair amount of negativity can creep into your relationships when you successfully drop pounds.
The researchers (and I) do not want these realities to dissuade people from losing weight and becoming healthier. It should simply be comforting to know that this turn of events is not unusual in the dieting world, and sometimes forewarned is forearmed. One of the things you may need to be working on, as you shed weight, are the responses and dialogues you may need to have with loved ones. you need to be armed with language that clearly states your position about the need to lose weight and be a “healthier person who feels better about yourself,” while still expressing your love for them, and making no judgment about their personal choices. You will also need strategies to help prod them gently into making life less about food and more about health, when interacting with you personally. And sometimes you will have to be direct and precise in stating how important this journey is, and how they need to support you, for self-preservation. Because you have chosen a new health standard for yourself. And they need to get with the program, or solve their own insecurities.
Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch? Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103. Catch her guest appearances on local and national news and talk shows, and check out her website. Follow her blogs.
Published On: November 09, 2013