Do your friends want you to be fat?

I’ve noticed through the years that people experience resistance from friends and family when trying to lose weight and get in shape. Even though we will live longer, feel and look better, be less likely to have disease, we don’t necessarily get support from those around us.

Just this morning I met with a new client who said that her friend suggested that she could have cheat food and that it was OK.   I asked her if her friend was in the type of shape that she wanted to be in.  She said no (I knew that would be the answer.).  I hear this so often that I already know the dynamics of the situation.

In this example, an out-of-shape friend is convincing her less out-of-shape friend that having those cheat foods is Ok even though she knows that her friend is trying to lose weight.  The psychology behind this is that the friend feels guilty about her eating habits.  It puts a spotlight on the fact that she’s not eating healthy when someone else around her is eating healthy. This leads to her discomfort hence her insistence that her friend eat the unhealthy food.

Sometimes it could be intentional sabotage.  Although I think most of the time  it’s an subconscious reaction.  There’s a discrepancy between what she’s eating and what her friend is eating which in comparison makes her choices look bad.  If her friend is eating just as unhealthy as her, she can consider this normal so it doesn’t seem bad. And you know what they say, misery loves company.

I have clients who are gradually losing weight but are still obese according to the BMI charts.  I’ve seen people who according to the charts are 50 lbs away from being a healthy weight.  They have friends and family members who tell them they are getting too skinny!  Yes, even though the height/weight charts indicate that they are obese and at a higher risk of disease, their family or friends tell them otherwise.  I think there are two dynamics at play here.  The first one is the one I mentioned above.  The second one is that people are so use to seeing us as overweight that it starts to seem normal.  When they see the person’s body and especially the face getting smaller, it doesn’t look like them anymore.

If they see you getting smaller, in comparison they may seem bigger.  It’s like standing next to a tall person and feeling short.  They may feel more overweight if you are a healthier weight.

Another example is a friend telling you that you are exercising too much.  I had a client tell me that her boyfriend told her that she’s working out too much (she’s only exercising 4X per week).  As is the case with friends who criticize our food choices, her boyfriend was questioning her exercise choices.  I asked about his exercise and it’s not a surprise that he doesn’t exercise at all.  So in comparison to her, he will seem even more inactive which could cause guilt or discomfort about his lack of exercise.

One other thing, I have had several women tell me that they felt their boyfriends/husbands wanted them to stay overweight.  When I asked why they thought this they said that they thought it was because of the fear of her looking to good to other guys!  I’m sure this goes the other way around too, I just happened to talk to women about this.  If you feel this way in a relationship, I would recommend that you discuss this with your partner so it doesn’t stand in your way.

People look to their peers to decide what to do. Even if their peers have the same or less knowledge on the subject. When you starting to make healthier choices, you may not feel strong enough to say no or may have doubts that you are actually too skinny in spite of objective data to the contrary.

Stand strong with your new choices and say no when people are “food bullies” or who are criticizing your exercise habits (I consider a food bully to be someone who pressures you to eat something that you don’t want to eat and that you know isn’t good for you.).

Look to objective data not to your friend or family’s opinion about your weight or fitness.  Be aware of their potential conscious or subconscious motives. Ask yourself if you want to be like them as far as health.  Who you follow is who you will become.

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