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How to Deal With Diet Saboteurs

When you're trying to lose weight, often your friends and loved ones become the greatest obstacle. Learn how to turn these diet saboteurs into diet supporters.

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"You're doing so great -- you can have one little piece." Or: "C'mon, honey, I like a little meat on my women." Sound familiar? These people, consciously or not, are trying to sabotage your diet.

David L. Katz, MD, MPH, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center and author of The Way to Eat, says sooner or later, you may find yourself in a toxic nutritional environment -- almost all dieters do. Some things that people might say or do to throw you off course:

  • "Fear" for your health. "What's the matter -- you are wasting away. Are you sure you aren't losing too much too fast?" Or: "Are you sure that diet won't raise your cholesterol?"
  • Acting insulted. "You don't like my pot roast all of a sudden? You're too good for my cheesecake?"
  • Mixing up food with love. "You don't come to dinner -- you don't love me anymore."
  • Making you an outsider. Katz says this sometimes happens among co-workers. "You can't eat Mexican because of your diet, so we will see you after we go out."
  • Leaving food around. The big candy dish on the receptionist's desk in an office of dieters. Or: "Here, one doughnut left, want it?" The leftovers from the office party. Or the spouse who keeps dragging half the chips in the store into the house.
  • Creating special food. One husband didn't want to babysit on Overeaters Anonymous night, so made a big dinner each time and told his wife to bring some of her "dieting friends" over.
  • Making up special holiday rules. "It's your birthday -- one piece of cake won't hurt!"
  • Imparting discouraging news. "I am so proud of you for trying this, even though you know that 95% of people fail to keep the weight off." Or: "It's not my business, but don't runners get a lot of injuries?"
  • Volunteering amateur psychoanalysis. "You know, you don't seem to be as funny since you lost weight."

Why People Sabotage

"I have had people try to get someone who has lost a lot of weight to put it all back on!" exclaims Linda Spangle, RN, MA, author of Life is Hard, Food is Easy. "One woman had lost more than 100 pounds, but her husband bought her a size 4X blouse and candy for Christmas."

"He wants the old me back," she told Spangle. She saw it as a control issue and eventually divorced the man for trying to control her so destructively.

"In some instances," Spangle says, "a spouse may have the need to control. A man may think if his wife stays fat she won't be flirting or attracting notice. Sometimes, this spouse will compliment the heavy person. No one else does, so this is a way of keeping control."

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