We all know that person, heck, we may have even BEEN that person. You know the one – you’ve just made up your mind to clean up your food, get back onto the regular exercise and cut down on drinking, when that one friend pipes up with a comment like “Oh come on, have a piece of this cupcake – just one bite is not going to kill you!” or “not drinking makes you so much less fun!”. It’s also the friend who knows you’re trying to be healthy, but shows up with treats like sugar/gluten-filled cookies and cake to try to tempt you off the wagon, or waves candy in front of you when you’ve cut out sugar, knowing it’s your biggest weakness.
You would think that friends would be the first people to encourage you when you’re trying to do something that is good for yourself, right? I mean if they’re really your friend, surely they would care about your health and well being and be supportive of your goals, rather than trying to sabotage them. But sadly, this is often not the case. It often tends to be strangers, co-workers or your coach who will cheer you on far more than your close friends, which has always struck me as bizarre.
Why would your friends or family NOT want to see you lose weight and get healthier? It is often confusing to me, but at the same time, there are some reasons that make sense when we pause to think about them.
Here are a few:
They’re afraid of being left behind
Often, that friend may not be so happy about you embarking on a new health regime because they themselves are not ready to do the same. They are afraid that if you transform into the shiny, glorious new YOU they will be left behind and no longer have their buddy with whom they are able to commiserate about having that muffin top, bloated tummy, bad complexion etc. They will no longer have those things in common with you. Not to mention the fact that they will no longer be able to toss back the margaritas and dessert with their buddy.
It is far easier to feel comfortable about unhealthy choices when we are making them WITH someone else. It somehow assuages the guilt to have a “partner in crime”.
So this person is left with 2 choices – join in with the health transformation (which involves some self-discipline and hard work) or tempt you to abandon your goals so they get their buddy back. This is usually the easiest option, sadly.
This is similar to the above. You are starting to transform before your friends’ eyes. You’re noticeably slimmer, your skin is glowing, you’re killing it in your WODs. In the meantime your friend sees all this happening whilst they themselves are lugging around a pudgy tummy, they’re uncomfortable to be seen in a bathing suit and their energy is sluggish. Of course they’re going to feel pangs of jealousy. Suddenly you are getting the attention whilst they fade into the background. That has got to be hard to see.
Again, they can either jump on board with you and enjoy the same benefits, or lure you off your path and get you back to where they still are.
Sometimes you having the discipline and will power to get healthy is tough for other people to see because it highlights how little they are doing for their own health. They see you eating grassfed meat and vegetables for dinner while they’re shoving pizza down their throats and it makes them feel bad about their own choices. Simply seeing your actions and behavior can trigger someone to reevaluate their own choices. For some, this would be enough to be inspired to do the same, healthwise, but for others it’s too hard to think about making such changes, so it’s easier to mock your choices in the hopes that it will make them feel better about themselves.
I’ve had people range from being openly admiring, to being downright hostile about my choices, for example. Thankfully I don’t take it seriously because I know where that emotion is coming from.
Admitting they may have been wrong
For some people, seeing you change your ideas about food and you getting healthier, threatens their life-long held views about nutrition. Admitting they may have been eating sub-optimally, or worse, that they have been feeding their kids sub-optimally (especially people who think they’re healthy), can be very hard. It is often easier to dogmatically hold on to their way of thinking rather than face this fact. I used to have pretty set ideas about nutrition myself until I started reading and researching more intensely. At this point I was (thankfully) ready and willing, to diametrically shift a lot of my pre-held ideas in order to get healthier, but this wasn’t easy. I had to admit that all my years of advocating eating a low-fat, whole-grain-filled diet was, in fact, not good for the body, and this took putting my pride aside and admitting that I had been wrong. As a result of putting aside that pride, however, my health is now excellent, I feel better than I did in my twenties, and I am (even pregnant) at my ideal body composition. Sadly, for some people, even these amazing benefits are not enough to admit being wrong.
So, the next time you are embarking on a transformation in your personal health and you are faced with a friend like this, understand that their motivations often don’t come from a malicious place, but rather one of fear and insecurity. Gently remind them that you making these choices does not need to threaten your relationship with them.
And certainly don’t be that friend! By all means, eat however you want. It doesn’t bother Sham or me in any way how you choose to nourish your bodies – those choices don’t end up affecting our health, thighs or tummies – but please try to be supportive of other peoples’ efforts. We have seen people transform themselves right before our eyes, and these people should be encouraged and supported in their efforts. Be the encouraging friend who cheers others on when they decide to do a Whole 30, make it a whole week without sugar, or when someone manages to cut down on booze and finally lose that paunch. Those people deserve your support.