How Other People Affect Your Eating

Most of us don’t live in isolation. The people closest to you usually know all about your struggles with weight and eating, and can have a profound effect on your Normal Eating journey.

When you’re coming from the diet world, you’re coming from a world in which it’s assumed that you don’t have the self-control or judgment to manage your eating on your own. At one time or another, you may even have recruited friends and family to help you stick to your diet and monitor what you eat.

But in Normal Eating, taking full responsibility for your eating choices is crucial. Normal Eating teaches you to trust yourself – teaches you that you can trust yourself. So when you stop dieting and make the shift to Normal Eating, the "helpful" interjections from family and friends to not eat this or that are no longer welcome – and in fact, interfere with your progress.

The people close to you can sidetrack your efforts in more subtle ways, as well. Whenever someone changes – even when the change is positive – there will be some resistance to the change from those close to the person.

Resistance to Change – Any Change

A shared problem – such as a shared struggle with weight – is the basis of many friendships. Remove the problem, and suddenly the relationship is threatened. What do you talk about now? If you lose weight, will it make the the other person feel bad about herself or himself?

Simply the shift in long-established roles can destabilize a relationship. You’d think that becoming a stronger more self-confident person could only help your relationships, but it can cause unexpected tensions. When one person changes, habitual ways of interacting no longer work. That threatens the relationship until a new equilibrium can be reached.

A normal weight friend may be used to seeing you as nonthreatening around the opposite sex, and suddenly you’re a competitor. Or a friendship may have been based on helping the fat friend who can never quite solve the problem. Then you suddenly solve the problem. What then? So the people close to you will frequently try to prevent you from changing.

It’s not because they are mean or bad or don’t want the best for you. It’s a natural resistance to what is initially perceived as a threat to the relationship. And in a way it is, because to continue forward, your relationship will have to shift.

You move the relationship into its new, healthier mode by setting healthy boundaries – and by recognizing that resistance to change is natural and nothing to fear. In the vast majority of situations, people will come around.

Something to Try…

The first situation I described – friends and family monitoring what you eat – is the easier situation to deal with, which is not to say it’s easy! What you need to do may be difficult, but at least it’s clear.

You need to explain to friends and family that you’ve had some realizations. A permanent solution to your struggles with eating and weight involves taking full responsibility for your own eating. Explain that the best way they can help you is to never comment on what you eat, and trust you to work it out for yourself. This kind of self assertion can be hard, but it’s essential.

The second situation – the subtle social pressures that work against personal change – is a more difficult challenge. Emotions can run deep on both sides. Your most potent weapon is awareness.

Notice when someone who loves you responds to your weight loss by trying to get you to eat. Perhaps they are suddenly worried about your getting "too thin" (when you know, objectively, this is not the case). Or maybe they are suddenly presenting you with special treats that you just "have to" try.

In particular, be on the alert for feelings of guilt. Is someone making you feel guilty about doing what you need to do to take care of yourself?

With awareness, you can create some distance from the emotions of the situation. Never feel guilty for self-care or making your own eating choices – this is not only your right, but one of your fundamental responsibilities in life. Just as you have the right to eat something, you have the right not to eat something. You are never obligated to eat what’s put in front of you just to protect someone else’s feelings – never. You need to know this in your heart.

Are you wobbly about your rights and responsibilities? Check out the chapter on Healthy Boundaries in Normal Eating for Normal Weight.

Please post your thoughts and experiences!

One thought on “How Other People Affect Your Eating

  1. I can understand how someone could possibly influence your eating habits. Just smelling food can make it hard for some people to resist. Thanks for the post.

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