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Defend Yourself Against Diet Saboteurs!

Are Your Friends and Family Making You Fat?
  -- By Rebecca Pratt, Staff Writer
There’s one in every crowd— at the office, in your church group, among your closest friends and family. Sometimes they mean well, sometimes they seem a tad malicious, often they have no idea how they’re sabotaging you. But every time you take a step forward to gain dominion over food, they’re at your elbow-- offering you a brownie, some chips, an extra heaping helping of pasta.

SparkPeople member Amy S. has been there with boyfriends, co-workers, and friends. "Either they bring in high cal food and offer it around, or they actually tell me it doesn't matter if I eat high cal stuff, and try to persuade me to do it," she says.

What’s going on? Why does it seem that people close to you go out of their way to sabotage you?

Experts sum it up in one word—Change. Getting fit through diet and exercise creates big changes in your life—changes you welcome. But if your friends and family aren't in the same mode of change, they can be oblivious, jealous, and uncomfortable with your changes. Perhaps:
  1. They feel guilty. You're losing weight and getting in shape. They're not. Tempting you to "fall off the fitness wagon" means you’re "normal" again, and they can feel good about the status quo.
  2. They don’t understand. They’ve never had a weight problem and just don’t realize how hard you’ve worked to get where you are. They think it’s "silly" for you to worry about what you eat.
  3. They miss the old you. That is, the cookies you brought to work, the after-work "happy hours" spent in the company of high-fat potato skins, the luscious desserts you used to indulge in. Maybe you’re spending more time in the gym and have less free time for them. Maybe they’re afraid to lose you.
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Don’t overreact, but don’t give up either! Try these strategies to vanquish your perennial food foes:

Don’t assume the worst. Unless sabotage is blatantly deliberate, give saboteurs the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their motives. If your mother serves you lasagna—your favorite-- perhaps it’s because she equates food with love, not that she wants you fat. At any rate, it doesn’t pay to get defensive.

Just say no. You wouldn’t expect to have a drink forced on you if you were a recovering alcoholic, and you shouldn’t have to submit to having fattening food foisted on you. Tell the food pusher, "No, thanks," and leave it at that. You don't owe an explanation. Nor do you need to feel guilty if you choose to avoid someone who’s not helpful to your cause.

Take it and leave it. Granted, the thought of wasted food is hard for many of us. You don’t have to be a member of the clean plate club. Remember, there are times when discretion is the better part of valor.

Look for patterns. Be on the lookout for situations that trigger your diet downfalls, perhaps with a food journal. It may help you recognize people and events that do you in, allowing you to develop strategies to deal with them. If you know, for example, that there are likely to be donuts by the office coffeemaker, it’ll be much easier to resist them if you have your own healthy but satisfying snack.

Set up your own support system. If you can recruit friends and family to your cause, you may be able to create a valuable support system. Numerous studies show that when your social network supports you, you reap positive results. If that’s not feasible, take a different approach: join a weight-loss group, or avoid friends (at least temporarily) who are a negative influence, maybe even make new friends who share your goals. You’ll get stronger with time, and be able to handle the not-so-supportive folks.

Ask for help. Keep in mind that your weight-loss needs are unique. Don’t expect loved ones to exercise telepathy to know what your needs are. Tell them! Be fair and reasonable, especially with those who share your home. They may be willing to make compromises, at least for shorter periods of time, about what foods are kept and cooked in the house.

Be a grownup. Remember that what you put in your mouth is your responsibility. While others may tempt you, ultimately you’re in charge of your own life. Look at difficult situations as opportunities to flex your newfound control muscles-- and reinforce the idea that you’re not adopting a healthier lifestyle for someone else, but for you.