Foil Your Friendly Diet Foes
7 strategies to help your diet survive temptations from not-so-supportive friends and loved ones
This advice seems particularly pertinent when you consider the findings of a
recent study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
That research found portion sizes have ballooned anywhere from 23% to 60% over
the past 20 years -- not just in fast food places, but in restaurants, packaged
snacks, and even our homes.
4. Keep it quiet
Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical
Center Health System Weight Management Center, also suggests that you not draw
others' attention to your eating.
"When you announce you're on a diet, people automatically urge you to
eat," she tells WebMD. "In situations where people offer you food,
accept it, but remember you're not obligated to eat it all or even most of
5. Learn to handle sabotage
Perhaps touchiest of all is handling those people who seem bent on
sabotaging your efforts
So try turning it around. For example, when your mother pushes her baked
goodies on you, ask for her support instead, Wilson says.
"Say, 'Mom, I know you care about me, and I really need your help. Your
desserts are a barrier. Will you consider supporting me in this way?'"
"If she accepts, thank her," he says. "If she continues to
sabotage, the voice in your head should tell you that you're growing each time
you go through this process. Cultivate a positive belief in yourself, and trust
that you're getting stronger."
Sabotage, Quatrochi says, is just one factor influencing
"compliance," the term professionals use for
"If one factor is working against you, make sure other factors encourage
compliance," he says. "For example, choose exercise activities that are
fun, convenient and not cost-prohibitive."
Fernstrom advises simply ignoring would-be saboteurs.
"This works once you adopt a core belief that you are accountable to
yourself," she says. "Understand that the only behavior you can change
is your own."
6. Draft a survival script
Since it's guaranteed you'll encounter obstacles, experts say it's a good
idea to create a survival "script" for dealing with
less-than-supportive loved ones. Imagine various scenarios, and rehearse your
responses like an aspiring Academy Award winner:
- "No, thank you."
- "Thanks, but I just ate."
- "I appreciate your making these especially for me. I'll take them
home." (And straight to the garbage disposal.)
- "I don't want to ruin our Friday night tradition, but tonight could we
go to Pizza Works instead of Geno's so I can order a salad?"
- "I've failed to keep weight off in the past, but I'm learning new
- "About 300,000 deaths each year are associated with overweight and
obesity. I don't want to be a statistic."
- "I need your support, not your criticism."
- "I haven't lost weight yet, but I feel better and have more energy when
I'm eating right and exercising."
No matter how skilled you become in dealing with your fitness foes, there
are times when you really need someone in your corner. But you shouldn't expect
one person to be your all-purpose supporter. In fact, Wilson advocates looking
for support in six categories:
Setting goals. Connect with someone who can help you explore your
reasons for adopting a fitness plan and set meaningful, specific goals.
Living by example. Not all the fit people you know were always that
way. Identify someone who has become fit to use as a role model.
Bashing barriers. Time, money, and other factors can be barriers to
your fitness plan. A spouse who's unwilling to exercise might agree that the
cost of your joining a health club is worthwhile, and agree to watch the kids
three evenings a week while you attend aerobics class. Your employer might
allow you a more flexible schedule so you can take a yoga class.
Building a supportive environment. Your old playmates and
playgrounds can hold you back. Find a diet or exercise buddy, and agree that if
one of you falters, the other will act as enforcer. Go to a nutrition class.
Join a group.
Dealing with setbacks. Accept relapse as a normal part of a
lifestyle change. Identify someone who will help you get past it. Understand
that it can take from one to three years to make new behaviors a permanent part
of your life.
Celebrating success. Everyone needs a cheering squad. As you reach
interim goals, celebrate with people who will be proud of your progress.