Back when I first started changing my lifestyle for the better, I got a lot of resistance from some of my close friends. They teased me, pressured me, and started not including me in group activities like dinners or weekend getaways. They passed it off with comments like "you won't be able to eat anything there" or "I didn't think you'd want to come". Needless to say, I was hurt. At that time, all I was trying to do was make healthier choices by choosing to drink less or not participate in the late-night binge sessions. But that didn't mean I didn't want to be included.
When you start making serious changes to your lifestyle, you may get some pushback from family and friends. Change has a way of doing that to people. It’s natural to want to stay in your comfort zone and when you start making unfamiliar changes, you risk their comfort zone - especially if they’re not ready to go on a similar journey as yourself. On top of putting their comfort zone at risk, you also risk your relationship. If one of you changes more than the other, it can certainly put some tension in the relationship. In some cases, it could be as simple as them subconsciously being worried about losing you. But on the other hand, it has absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with themselves. The question therein lies, how do you handle it when they don’t support your new lifestyle?
In some cases, it may make sense to let the relationship go. But sometimes that’s just silly because a lot of relationships are worth putting in some effort for. And in other cases, when it’s someone embedded into your life, like a family member, you have no choice but to deal with it.
It’s really hard when loved ones aren’t supportive. It can lead you to feel lonely, left out, alienated, frustrated, angry, sad - you name it. When not handled properly or completely ignored, you can compromise all the hard work you’ve already put in to make so many positive changes.
These are some ideas you can do to make your journey a little easier and maybe even give your friendships the fuel they need to support you along the way.
What to Do When People Don’t Support Your Healthy Lifestyle
There are many different ways to approach handling this situation but we find that simple is often the most impactful. Try these tips and let us know what worked for you and what didn't.
Share Your 'Why'
Your 'why' should be something innate and much deeper than just a body goal (even though there’s nothing wrong with having a physical transformational goal as well!). This is the first thing we ask our new clients because when things get tough, your 'why' is going to be what keeps bringing you back. Not only can it help bring your back on track, but it can help bring your friend or family member on board too. Sharing something personal can help them see a little of the real you and help them to recognize that this is something more than another diet fad. When they have your best interest at heart, hearing your reasoning can help them feel like they’re going along the journey with you, even if they’re not making the changes themselves.
Don’t Try to Change Their Minds
It can be really easy to get excited when you start feeling really good and getting closer to your physique goals. And it can be really easy to want to share every little bit of information you’ve learned along the way. You see it all the time on social media. Someone discovers how much they love running so they start posting selfies and paragraphs about how they get in their miles every day, and chatter on and on about all the benefits. Or when someone starts posting all their food and sharing others' posts about “bad” foods that should be avoided at all costs. But everyone already knows that exercise is good for you and whole foods are healthier than processed foods. Instead of trying to change their minds with an influx of lectures and posts, let them see the transformation with their own eyes… when they’re ready to see it.
Continue to Include Them
We all know that changing your lifestyle – changing yourself – for the better is hard. But it’s easy to make it appear rosy in an attempt to make it look so pleasing that your loved one would consider joining you. But making it look too easy can be a turnoff. Instead, let them in on the good and the bad. This way, when they hear you turning down drinks or late-night activities so you can get your 8 hours in, they won’t feel as intimidated and might be more understanding.
Make Meals that Support Both Your Goals
When it comes to someone you have to share meals with, it may be that they just don’t like healthy food and want to keep eating the way they have been. And let’s be honest, not only is it silly to make two with separate meals, but that can lead to a future divide (one you both may already feel threatened by). You can still share meals and have separate goals. Whatever meals you typically have in rotation, look up a healthier version of them, or how to make them healthier than you had previously. It could be as simple as choosing higher quality meat or pasta, or adding more protein to your own plate and choosing to forgo the wine more often than not. Or maybe you make their favorite meal from scratch as something special instead of out of the box as you had in the past. There are so many different ways to share meals that can make both parties happy.
Set Clear Boundaries
When friends and family make comments about your new lifestyle or body, you can first address them by setting clear boundaries. Tell them upfront that you're not ok with them making comments about your body or eating habits in any way. They may have convinced themselves that their comments are compliments so it's important to be clear that pointing out anything about your body isn't helpful to you at this time. If they're unable to follow through with your request, then it may be worth considering the final point below.
Find People that DO Support You
Whether it’s in person or virtually, having that person to talk it through when someone says something hurtful can help your mind process it instead of ruminating and beating yourself up over it. This could mean leaning on a trustworthy friend, joining a meetup with people who have similar interests, or working with a coach (like us!). There are lots of meetups on sites like meetup.com and Facebook. I’ve successfully used both to connect with and make friends with like-minded people.
Let Some People Go
When it’s someone who’s not embedded into your life via family and they’re not only unsupportive but bleeding negativity, then it may be time to cut your losses. When that person continuously makes comments about how you look or how you looked better before, (despite the boundaries you've set), they're not coming from a positive place. As they say, you should surround yourself with people who will challenge you and make you better. If a person leaves you feeling hurt with every passing, then it's time to kindly cut ties or at least limit your time together.
As my friendships were tested, I felt so lonely. I had a hard time letting some go and making the steps I needed to in order to strengthen others. Fifteen years later, though, the ones who stuck around have become my forever friends and I've surrounded myself with new people who challenge me and help me grow as a person even more. I'm much happier now than I ever would have been had I simply continued habits that no longer served me, even though they still served my friendship circle at that time.
People often feel threatened when someone they know starts to better themselves, whether it's through healthy eating, a body transformation, a career change, etc. And it's often because they don't have the guts to do it too, despite knowing they should. It's not always coming from a malicious place, but it's usually not coming from a positive one either. It's ok to try to work it out by sharing your 'why' and setting boundaries. And it's also ok to take a step back from the relationship and surround yourself with new people. Instead of dwelling on them, focus on yourself and the positive changes you're making in your life, and the seriously awesome healthy lifelong habits you're creating.