When Friends Do Not Understand

When friends do not understand weight loss

I had a person ask me what to do about the fact that her friends just did not seem to understand her weight loss efforts. She said that they told her things like, “Just live a little,” or “One good meal won’t hurt,” or “You are no fun anymore.”

That hurts. That’s frustrating. That’s annoying.

I had friends react in a variety of ways to my successful weight loss. (Remember that most of my friends at the time had seen me attempt to lose weight a bunch of times already.) While I did not share my weight loss plans with many people at first, once the weight loss became obvious, I got a lot of grief.

Some friends secretly told John that I wasn’t eating enough and that he should do something about it. Other friends tried to get me to taste their culinary creation because I was becoming a boring guest. Still others deliberately sabotaged me by dropping off cookies or a big piece of cake at the house “for a treat.”

At first I got really annoyed with all of them but tried not to show it. I’d tell them no in the very polite “southern” way that we use around here. That sounded something like this: “Thank you soooo much, but I really don’t want any right now. I appreciate you thinking of me though.” (Read that with a slight southern accent and you’ve got the idea.)

As time went on, I gave up on the southern niceties and just told them a curt, “No thanks.” I did not tell them to “Back Off” but that was the implication and they got the message. That stopped a lot of the sabotage and little comments pretty quickly. It also helped me weed out true friends from the not so true ones.

Only you can decide how to handle friends who do not “get” your desire to lose weight and eat a healthy diet. For me, continually saying no eventually sent a clear message to my friends that I was in this for the long haul, that I was finally serious about losing weight, and that no amount of chocolate cake could dissuade me from my diet plan.

I have known people who felt that the best way to handle friends who do not understand is to take each friend aside and give them the “back off” talk. I never felt comfortable doing that, although it would probably have sent the message more quickly than my attempting to be nice.

The bottom line for me was that it was my body, my decisions on what to eat or not eat, and my life. Some friends got it and we stayed friends and some really never understood. I’m sure there were some underlying issues with jealousy or judgment there, but that’s a topic for another post.

What’s your advice for dealing with friends who do not understand? Have you ever seen friends move away from you because of your food choices? Diane

61 thoughts on “When Friends Do Not Understand

  1. Fran@BCDC says:

    It’s very difficult to deal with people who think they know better than you do about your weight loss. In my experience, these are usually people who do not control their own weight and really don’t want to think about it…read this as see You doing it. They are unwilling to do what’s necessary for their own health and well being. It is a very hard thing to be around. Sometimes you not only have to say no to the food, but no to the person. It’s hard to do,but we have to sometimes. Great post, Diane!

  2. jane at Keeping the Pounds off says:

    Thinking back, there are some who stopped calling once I weighed less than they did. There are a few I stopped calling when I realized the whole friendship was over food. There are several I moved away from because I recognized that being around them triggered me to overeat. There are many new friends who encourage me through the tough days and give me the honor of helping them in return. I will take that over a baking buddy, drinking pal or whining committee any day!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Yay for good friends who encourage rather than discourage!

      I had friendships that were largely based on food as well and those were some of the first to feel the “strain” of my healthier lifestyle.

  3. Contemplative Fitness says:

    This is the darkest side of weight loss. Ultimately people will succeed despite their environment, or because of their environment. It’s my opinion that success is much more likely to come to people who don’t have to fight their environment. What is real friendship…?

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      What is real friendship? That’s a hard question to answer Roy. For me, a real friend is one that cares enough to be honest and wants what is best for you rather than what is best for them. That’s part of a good friend in my book.

  4. Marc says:

    Hi Diane – When I married Diana I gave up my bar room buddies. They were just too rough a talking crowd for her to be around. That wasn’t too difficult as all we had in common was alcohol. I’d bet that if I went back to my old haunts, there would probably be one or two old timers that are still regulars. Now that I’m getting close to goal weight, I’m not getting any flake. Instead, I’m getting comments like, I admire your discipline, and lookin’ great Marc! And the occasional…I’m so jealous, but in a good way.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I’m glad you are surrounded by supportive friends Marc – that is a real gift.

      I bet you are right about your old haunts probably having some of those same guys hanging out there.

  5. Shalonda says:

    I’ve been overweight since before Kindergarten. Every time I’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight in my life, I have completely given up whenever the snide comments from “friends” and family started. I could never handle seeing that side of people. I intentionally start gaining weight again so that I could become “invisible” again. Now that I’m 43 and have a handful of illnesses all directly caused by carrying 315 pounds around for a couple of decades, I am more serious than ever about losing weight. I am so tired of being fat. I know I will have to toughen up, grow a thicker skin, and get on with eating what I know is healthy. Some how, some way, I know that if I keep trying, I will get to a healthy weight one day (for the first time in my entire life). Diane’s humble, common sense blog helps me more than she will ever know.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Thank you so much Shalonda!

      I just wanted to tell you that when you get serious about your weight loss, not only will you develop a “thick skin” but you will also find it easier and easier to stand up for yourself. After all, it is your health and your life you are fighting for! Never give up.

  6. Jody - Fit at 55 says:

    It always came down to what was right for me Diane – this is tough stuff & actually most of my friends were thinner than me so… but they could also eat.. I just did what I thought was best for me & so be it…

  7. Z @ kickingkilos says:

    I can totally relate. I have ‘experienced’ the very same thing recently.
    My father and father-in-law both think, I eat all bad.
    Infact i had a tummy bug, and that too was ‘due’ to my eating habits. I do not know how to deal with such situations.

    I have a Q for you :
    On your weightloss journey did you ever sabotage? I was doing so well. I had a big fight with the hubs today and had some 500-700 extra cals:(

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I totally sabotaged myself, but not during the final, successful weight loss effort.

      Before that one though, every time I dieted I ended up making choices that were detrimental to my diet. Like you, when I got stressed, I’d forget about healthy eating and eat junk. Other times, I just got tired of trying and fell back into old habits.

      The important thing is not that it happened, but to acknowledge why it happened, and move past it. The worst thing to do is allow a slip-up to completely get you off track!

  8. Janis says:

    This is why I’m a big fan of the “keep your mouth shut” approach to realizing some personal ambition. People will always try to attach themselves to your dreams like barnacles and undo them. It’s a shame to admit it, but very often the biggest obstacles between us and our dreams can be the people around us.

  9. Kaye says:

    I have had this happen to me and it cost me friendships that I thought were solid. Like Dr. J said – it is sad that friend interactions are not more positive.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I was surprised that my successful weight loss had a negative impact on some of my friendships. I never, ever saw it coming.

      I’m sorry this happened to you as well.

  10. Lauren says:

    We don’t talk about this much because who likes to acknowledge that friends can be jealous of our success.

    I too have experienced problems with friends and that was before I lost a substantial amount of weight. They just didn’t get my new way of life. It is sad but I’d rather be where I am than where I was.

  11. Mark Miller says:

    I haven’t had a lot of grief – I wonder if women are more likely to say something to other women then men are?

    My friends were like, “Ok, good.” Then they went on eating the wings and beer I had just turned down.

    • Janis says:

      I think men latch onto one another over different things. I’ve seen guys subtly try to sabotage other guys when they, for example, want to go back to school and get their degree or try for a better job, or contemplate asking someone out.

      • Dave says:

        Obviously guys can be ‘catty’ too, but I think it happens way less. I don’t really think ive been in situation where I can say that any of my friends have tried to secretly sabotage any plans I have. Most of them just don’t care – especially the asking girls out thing. It usually becomes a competition to who can do it the most (and best)

  12. SamanthaJ says:

    It’s a tough topic to talk about because when we do we are saying that our friends are not always supportive.

    I try and not say anything about people’s choices because I know that I do not like people to judge my choices. You know?

  13. Mona says:

    Everyone reacts differently to weight loss and lifestyle changes.

    I had more problems with my own family than my friends. My family seemed to take it personally that I was making changes. I think they felt judged by my decisions even though I tried my best to not make it appear that way.

    I think the best course of action on the dieters part is to stay firm and the best course of action for friends and family is to keep their mouths shut unless someone asks for their opinion. You know?

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I didn’t have a lot of family issues – mine were mainly friends.

      You are not alone in having some issues with family – I’ve seen that more times than I can count. I agree that we just need to stay firm and do what we know is best for us.

  14. Shannon says:

    I have kept my blog and weight loss a secret from my friends and family. I may casually mention it in passing, but I just don’t feel like they’ll understand. I really understand this post, as I feel some friends/family won’t understand or will be angry or judgmental with what I’m trying to accomplish, but that’s not a reflection of my effort, but of their own personal feelings.

    I believe you have to be mentally ready to lose the weight the last time. You have to reach that breaking point and perhaps your friends/family aren’t at that point, so they try and sabotage you, maybe intentionally. In the end though, you need to do what’s best for you and if you’re really ready to lose the weight, you’ll be able to say no, over and over again.

    Thanks for the insightful post! Love it!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Thank you Shannon. I agree that although weight loss is about healthy choices a HUGE component of weight loss is mental. We have to be mentally ready to change our lives or else it will be very difficult to succeed for the long term.

      You are smart to realize that their attitude is not so much toward you but a true reflection of feelings they do not know how to handle, or are not ready to handle.

  15. Linda says:

    This is a very helpful post Diane! For the most part now, people are starting to understand that I am taking my health seriously. One friend in particular though is a bit tough to deal with but I just let it go and figure it is not for me to figure out why. I just keep going forward with my plan! 🙂

  16. Christine says:

    My mom is the one who gives me the most trouble when I lose weight. She always makes negative comments about my weight loss. I use to think I had to be fat because she was fat. How messed up is that? Not anymore, I’m on my own journey to health and fitness now no matter the comments I get.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      It is especially difficult when it is a family member. I’m sorry that she makes comments that are not supportive but very glad that you are strong enough to keep moving forward with, or without, her support. I hope you have other people in your life who support your efforts!

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I am fortunate enough to have great friends and co-workers that support my healthy eating habits at work. In fact, one does my salad boot camp with me 🙂 We did have a co-worker ask us to order out a few times and after we politely declined each time, she quit asking. If someone gets upset about a friend’s healthy eating, it is more about his/her own insecurities.

  18. Lori says:

    I think generally people have no clue about how rude it is when they do things like that. Unless they are jealous and do it on purpose, most people don’t adjust to you changing for a while. Especially if you go on and off the diet wagon.

    You most definitely have to be clear, though, or it drags on too long and resentments can build.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I think you are probably right Lori – a lot of people do not really think about how someone else may take something they say. I agree that we have to be clear about what we expect from our friends in order to help the relationship stay strong.

  19. Kim says:

    I’m watching (from a distance) my sister experience that type of thing. In the past, it was her husband but now he is on board and trying to lose weight, too so that helps!!!
    I’ve experienced similar things with working out – many of my friends don’t understand why I make it such a priority – I just try to get them to join me.

  20. Meghan Rich says:

    I love your blog. You always hit the nail on the head perfectly. Last weekend I went on a girls trip to park city, Utah with other moms in my neighborhood. 2 of us are very health conscious and the rest are not. Me and my friend woke up at 6:30 am and did a beautiful 6 mile run in the mountains, then we met up with the girls for breakfast. My friend ordered fruit and I got one scrambled egg and wheat toast, the other girls got French toast and pancakes.., (which is fine, I have had those things and don’t really care what others are eating). Anyways, immediately after we ordered the other girls began to pick on us for our healthy choices,”why would u want to wake up so early on vacation” “you r not going to eat more than that?!!!” And the comments went on and on…. I would never say to my girlfriends, hey don’t eat all that French toast, that’s why u r overweight…. Because I want my friends to know I love them no matter what they look like or do so I guess I was taken aback when we were criticized for being healthy… (Sorry for the long rant, but this post hit home after last weekend) amazing trip though. Still had a wonderful time.

    • Janis says:

      And by acting like that, they are making sure that any heavy people who were sitting at that table thinking to themselves, “I wish I could get it together and get healthy like that,” would keep their thoughts to themselves … and get the message that if they ever dared to act on them, they would get shunned in the same way. Once someone gets caught up in that culture, they are essentially handed an ultimatum: stay fat, or we’re not your friends anymore. 🙁 It takes a lot of nerve to move ahead in the face of all that.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I have been in very similar situations like that Meghan. Friends who struggle with their weight criticize what I eat when I would never do the same back.

      Congratulations on getting up early, taking a run, and staying strong even when your friends were not supporting you!

      Janis also has a good point about the vocal ones making sure that anyone else at the table not support you.

  21. Vivian Rowe says:

    This is a very interesting article. I’m just lucky that all my friends support my weight loss plans. They know how important it is to me so even if some of them don’t have any plans to lose weight, they respect me.

  22. Tanvee says:

    Hi Diane,
    this is something I’m still trying to figure out how to handle, I’m not used to telling them to back off, especially people older than me so for now I just ignore them but sometimes they do manage to make me very angry/upset

  23. Cari (Bariatric After Life) says:

    Hi Diane: After reading this post, I was struck by the similarities between those who lose weight after weight loss surgery and those who lose weight without weight loss surgery. The reactions from people to both weight loss methods are pretty much identical! And, while I’m sure most people are simply reflecting societal conditioning (which is to show concern to another person’s changing condition), I believe there is more than a little “selfishness” or “jealousy” in their behaviors.

    Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that anyone who is concerned for us is “bad,” — mostly, I think they are ignorant of their own intentions. They don’t really know what is motivating their behaviors and they THINK (believe) that they are somehow “helping us” by encouraging us to “live a little” (splurge, whatever) because…well…maybe they, themselves, are doing it (splurging)…to their own detriment. We all know misery loves company!

    Think about it: Our society has myopia about weight — there is never a perfect weight for anyone (ever notice that?) I guess we all wear “Fat Goggles,” because celebrities are either too fat or too thin (except, evidently, Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow) – but even they are criticized for their diet and exercise rigidity (Read: routines).

    With a constant barrage of media fixation and disinformation about weight, it’s no wonder people think they are “helping us” when they “offer us” something that they find comforting; chances are, they don’t feel good about their own choices, DON’T feel comfortable, and are a little envious that we seem to feel both.

    Perhaps there’s a little, “You’re making me look fat…” in their brains? Why wouldn’t there be? After all, it’s only human. Until you live life soundly on the healthy side of the fence, it’s easy to be blind to the truth.

    From my perspective, I’ve learned to no longer look at a thin person and say, “You’ve never had a weight problem; you don’t know what it’s like to be fat; I’m sure you can eat whatever you want and not gain a pound.”

    I’ve also learned that, when a “skinny” person says they are having trouble gaining or keeping weight on, it’s not okay to respond, “Gee, I wish I had *your* problem,” because, you see…all of us have some sort of battle with our health. We all have to work for balance. We all have to make healthy choices, commit to eating well, and decide to be active — consistently.

    No matter how you slice it — you gain easily, you lose easily, you can’t gain easily, you lose too easily — good health isn’t free, takes effort and focus…and is often complicated by “well-meaning, ignorant, envious, compassionate” people…

    I’m so glad you wrote this because it reinforces a message that I’ve been trying to share with the WLS community: It’s not the surgery, it’s the weight.

    I think our response is perfect because it implements a solid, healthy boundary. We we say “No thank you,” it’s a great way to tell ourself and others that we do appreciate the considerate offer and are gratefully choosing NOT to partake.

    Weight loss and weight management are tough enough without having to “fend off” the “help” of others; thanks for reminding me that we share this common battle front 😉

  24. Clifton says:

    Hi. A hubby can be a hindrance, too! I know, because I’m that husband. I do need to lose a few pounds, but I have had a hard time giving up certain things and the only exercise I get is a day or 2 on the treadmill or I take a walk. Fortunately for me (depends on your point of view!), my wife is one determined lady! Over the past few months, through diet and exercise she has lost 25 pounds. She is putting me to shame, so I have started cutting down on some of my “comfort” food and vow to exercise more. Thanks for the insight.

  25. julie says:

    I get a surprising amount of this, still. From my boyfriend, who is still learning that it is NOT a good idea to get between me and my gym, but is still constantly surprised that I am not changing my Saturday morning plans because he likes to laze around. Laze away, I’m going to farmers market and gym, I’ll see you at noon. Also friends who knew me before (or didn’t), who want to argue with me about what I should be eating. I find it interesting that my friend who gives me the most grief for not going out to pizza and Asian buffet with him, thinks that adding an avocado to the meal makes it a diet, and that yoga is really great exercise. (I like yoga and avocado, but neither are fat burning- at least not directly). I do get snappy eventually and will tell people that I don’t want to get fat again. Harsh, but as I’ve learned from my mother (who also gives me grief now for not sharing dessert with her, though she has bugged me about my weight and eating all my life), being direct and harsh is sometimes the only thing that works. I’m not stopping anybody from eating or not exercising, but don’t give me a hard time for not joining you.

  26. Sarah says:

    My latest struggle is not so much my friends but my co-workers. We have a culture of eating lunch together in the breakroom and regularly bringing in donuts, desserts or leftovers to share. Fortunately, I have the willpower to say no, and they notice that I’m trying to eat healthier. The issue is how I feel judged (whether it is real or perceived) when I do have a bite of the cupcake or a piece of pizza instead of a salad for lunch. I constantly feel the need to explain myself. “Oh, but I’m having a salad for dinner tonight” or “I just really need this one soda today for the caffeine, but am adjusting my calories for it”. Does anyone else find themselves doing this? I don’t know how to get myself to stop. In theory, yes, these are all my decisions and no one’s business, but in reality, I still feel the need to justify every bite.

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