One of the things that I frequently hear from clients and colleagues who are new to the fat loss lifestyle is that they experience resistance from others as they make the transformation—commonly known as runs ins with “haters.”
For many adopting the fat loss lifestyle for the first time, we forget that it is not only new to us, but it is new and different for those around us—loved ones, friends and significant others.
Living the fat loss lifestyle (FLL) is not synonymous with going out partying ‘til dawn every weekend, choosing happy hour over workouts or indulging in big dinners and desserts several nights a week. However, for us Americans, unfortunately these events go hand-in-hand with spending quality time, feeling “relaxed” or being social. Food is fun! Exercising not so much (for many). Regardless, there will inevitably be people who simply do not understand your choices, your lifestyle or your need to be “so extreme.” To them, they have not chosen the FLL path (have you noticed that you usually automatically get along great with people who eat and exercise like you do? There is a shared value system there). Many are uneducated about what the FLL is, why it might be so important to you now (especially if it wasn’t before), but most of all, they are worried about what your choice means for them or where it leaves your relationship. On the most basic level, it is about their insecurity over what your choices mean for them. It is not about you, it is about them. However, it is your choice to involve them or not.
I can give you concrete examples from my own past experiences. I had decided to train for my first figure competition and was embarking on my new nutrition and exercise plan. For those who were close to me prior, they knew me as a partier, a carb-lover and always the first to devour a nasty pizza or inhale a bag of candy. And though I was always involved in fitness as an instructor and trainer, I had zero interest in nutrition. I was someone who worked out so that I could eat whatever I wanted. Until I decided to take my fitness to the next level and scale back my ridiculous eating habits, all was good in my relationships—I was counted on by my boyfriend to go out to nasty dinners and late-night pizza and I was counted on by my friends to go out and party.
I remember a specific comment by my boyfriend when I was a few weeks into my contest diet: “What? Does this mean we will never go out to dinner again?” And I remember saying, “No, of course not!” because at the time I had every intention to do the show and then resume my old ways of doing things. However, as we can all attest, once you begin to make changes towards better health, optimal body composition and adopt new habits in the name of fat-loss, it feels good! We realize that the old way of doing things leaves us with the same old results. We don’t want to go back to the old way. With that said, it is important to understand that this shift can be hard on loved ones, friends and significant others who “knew you when.”
Keep in mind this situation is no one’s “fault”—not yours for changing and not theirs for being uncomfortable with that change. There is no blame to be doled out here, it is just about educating, involving, loving and understanding. For a woman whose friends know her as a partier, the choice to skip weekend bar-hopping is not going to be received well—of course not! Your friends miss that about you and they were happy and comfortable with the old way of doing things. That doesn’t mean that you can’t now do what you need to do for you, but you cannot expect for everyone to understand right away, and even getting them to understand in time will take effort and a conscious decision on your part to educate.
You are not the same person doing the same unhealthy things you once did and you are really no longer available for those old, unhealthy interactions anymore. Many friends and loved ones will feel threatened by this. On an unconscious level, many friends and family will see your new, healthy choices as meaning something about their old, unhealthy choices. This is usually not true, we don’t care that they still want to do what they want to do—there is no judgment here. For example, you getting up and hitting the gym early doesn’t mean they need to. Just because you choose to eat a grilled chicken salad at lunch, doesn’t mean they should feel bad about ordering a burger and fries if that’s what they want. Your new choices may bring out an insecurity in them about how they do things and it is common for them to want to criticize what you do to make themselves feel better. The hardest thing for us to do is not take their criticism personally. Instead, try to realize that their reaction to your change is their issue—their need to have you back in the way they knew you or to not feel badly about their own choices.
To that boyfriend who asked me about never going out to dinner again, the answer should have been, “I don’t know, I love eating healthy, but you also need to what you need to do for you. Perhaps we can spend time together in a way that doesn’t involve a nasty meal?” And this is essentially what you can do for your friends and family to alleviate their fears or criticisms. Involve them, educate them and above all, don’t take anything personally. For your girls, make a coffee date or go to a matinee. For your significant other, how about a long hike or seeing a play. You don’t need food and drinks to be social—but it is your responsibility (if you so choose) to teach your loved ones this new social interaction to keep them involved and feeling loved.
Another experience I had early on was with my parents’ simply not understanding competition and assuming I was on steroids if I was doing something so extreme. At first I took this personally, don’t they know I would never take steroids and why don’t they just support me no matter what? Unfortunately, there was a learning curve that I didn’t expect, but found that it was up to me to educate them if I decided that I needed their consent or understanding. What I did was stay positive, try to involve them as much as possible and educate them on how healthy I felt. One powerful tool I used was, any opportunity I had, I told them how excited this whole process made me, how healthy and powerful it made me feel, and how everyone at the gym was rooting for me, which made me feel supported. This positive reinforcement over time helped them see that the process was not too extreme or dangerous and did not have to change my relationship with them. In time, they got on board and are now are my biggest fans because I showed them just how I needed to be supported. My initial resentment that they didn’t automatically get it morphed ultimately into an education on their part and as a result, I feel closer than ever to them. It’s a win for all.
So, to recap, here are some ways to alleviate some of the issues that come up around friends, family and significant others who may hate:
- Explain to them what you are doing, why you are doing it and that is doesn’t mean anything for them—you are doing what you need to do for you and that changes nothing about how much you love them and love spending time with them, only now you will have to do it in a way that is more in line with your fat loss goals
- Don’t take any comments personally—they may say that they are worried about your wellbeing or “are you sure that’s healthy” or “one bite won’t kill you” but realize this is about them trying to justify their own choices and missing the old you. Explain again that you love them, you are still the same person and that if they support you and love you, they should understand your need to follow your fat loss/optimal health path
- Choose to involve them or risk losing them—you always have the choice to educate and involve a friend or loved one who doesn’t get it. It is up to you if you choose to educate them or not, there is no judgment either way. However, be aware that they may feel threatened, hurt or confused about your new choices so without helping them understand, you risk losing them. Do not assume they will automatically get it—they are not where you are. However, you can lovingly choose to involve them in this process—who knows, maybe it will inspire them to join you in the early morning spin class? :)
- If they simply cannot hear it, don’t want to hear it or stubbornly hold onto their old view of your relationship and are not open to growing the relationship in a new direction, then perhaps they are not meant to be along for this ride with you. Once again, you are at a crossroads about what you can choose to do—you can revert back to your old ways to assure their consent, or you can do what you need to do for you and wish them the best. No choice is better than the other, it is just about knowing who you are, what you want and where you want to go, for you.
Anyway, I know sometimes this stuff gets hard to deal with, especially for newbies to the FLL. It sometimes seems like everyone is out to criticize, put in their two cents or bring you down. Realize that ultimately those comments and that attitude is about them. Don’t take it personally. Keep your head up, stay positive, learn to educate others in a kind and patient way and be an example of how exciting and rewarding it can be to live the fat loss lifestyle—and ultimately everyone will get on your team in the end! What do you guys think?? Have your relationships changed since you adopted the FLL? Let me know! Love, jill