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Foil Your Friendly Diet Foes

7 strategies to help your diet survive temptations from not-so-supportive friends and loved ones

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Sabotage, Quatrochi says, is just one factor influencing "compliance," the term professionals use for "stick-to-itiveness."

"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 strategies."
  • "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.

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Reviewed on November 17, 2003

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