Many of my clients tell me that the minute they begin a new healthy eating regime, friends begin to sabotage their efforts by saying things like, “You don’t need to lose weight,” or “Don’t you miss pizza?” Whether it’s your best friend, co-worker, sister or even your mom, anytime one person in a close relationship changes her eating habits, it’s bound to create some friction. because eating together is one of the ways we bond with the people we’re closest to. If peer pressure has caused you to cave in and chuck your goals in the past, here’s my advice about how to cope:
Don’t get sucked into an argument
You may feel as though you’re not getting the support you need, which can put you on the defensive, but your friend’s reaction is probably rooted in her own issues, which means she may actually need your support. When someone close to you makes a change, it forces you to examine your own habits. If that’s uncomfortable for your friend, because she’s not ready to change, she may be pushing back on you without even realizing it.
Ask for a heart to heart and be honest about how you feel
Confronting a friend is never comfortable, but sometimes it’s the only way to work through issues and move forward. Rather than accusing your friend of being unsupportive, ask how she feels about your new plan. Putting it on the table may help her sort out her feelings or realize why she hasn’t become your biggest cheerleader.
Suggest ways of spending time together that don’t involve eating
Your healthy changes may mean no more happy hours or sharing buckets of popcorn at the movies, but mixing things up can be a great way to liven up your social life. I’ve seen many friendships thrive after transitioning from burger and beer nights to activities like indoor rock climbing. Schedule all the things you’ve talked about doing, from art classes to starting a non-traditional book club.
Give your friend concrete examples of how she can be there for you
Even if it's as simple as needing someone to listen to you when you have a rough day, let your friend know how she can be there to support you. Make a pact not to give each other any more gifts of food (many of my clients are in the habit of consoling each other with cupcakes or chocolate) and keep the dialogue open. If you’re in it for the long haul – for both your friendship and your healthy lifestyle – you can figure it out together along the way, as long as you keep the lines of communication open.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.