Friend or 'Frenemy?'
To maintain a long-term friendship and your new, healthy habits Perhaps your weight loss has your pal feeling envious or resentful, or she's worried about how she'll fit into your new lifestyle. Whatever the cause, her lack of support can leave you feeling confused, frustrated and tempted to go back to your old ways just to keep the peace.
Resist the pressure to change back. Unfortunately, women tend to bond over dissatisfaction with their bodies. If your friend feels left out because you've made improvements, it may cause her to act in ways that undermine your efforts. This could mean pressuring you to hit the all-you-can-eat buffet instead of the gym, laying a guilt trip on you or giving you the cold shoulder. Whatever the case, stand your ground. "As women, we're trained to take care of other people," says Lela Zaphiropoulos, A.C.S.W., a psychotherapist and faculty member of The Women's Therapy Centre Institute in New York City. "But it's important to take care of yourself and your needs as well."
- Cultivate a noncaloric common ground. Many people use food as an excuse to get together, when what they really want is simply to spend time with one another. "Try to expand the range of options and ways to connect," Zaphiropoulos advises. For example, instead of catching up over a pile of hot wings at happy hour, sign up for a yoga class or go to the movies together.
- Decide whether to talk about it or let it go. Letting your friend know how her behavior is affecting you might actually strengthen the relationship. But be warned: "Sharing your feelings could be seen as a criticism by the other person," says Jan Yager, Ph.D., author of When Friendship Hurts: How to Deal With Friends Who Betray, Abandon, or Wound You (Fireside, 2002). "If you're going to confront the friend, you have to be ready to lose the friendship." If you decide to let the situation blow over, make sure you really are capable of letting go of the problem so you're not left stewing over it. After all, adds Yager, "you don't want to hurt [yourself] just to make your friend feel better."
- If all else fails, take a break. Remember, it takes time to adjust. "You may need to take a vacation from the friendship," Yager says. "Sometimes just having time away from each other can help." This doesn't mean you have to cut off all lines of communication; try being less available for a week or two, then reassess how you feel.
"The relationship could end up having a greater amount of openness and honesty," Zaphiropoulos says. But even if your friendship doesn't survive your weight loss, at least you'll have learned who your true friends are without sacrificing your own well-being.
3 tips for confronting a weight-loss saboteur
1. Call, don't write. Talk to your friend in person, or over the phone. E-mail lends itself to miscommunication, which could exacerbate the situation.
2. Do a dry run. In front of an uninvolved third party whose judgment you trust, rehearse what you plan to say. Keep in mind that this conversation isn't a license to gossip about your friend -- it's about talking openly and honestly to gain perspective so that you can sustain the friendship.
3. Focus on the positive. Remember why you chose this person as a friend. That will help you approach the problem from a less aggressive, more productive standpoint.