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What do you do when friends and family aren't supportive?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There’s no doubt about it: long term success at changing your habits and your lifestyle is a lot easier when you have the support of the important people in your life. And a lot harder when you have to swim against the tide.

There’s no great mystery here. A “lifestyle” isn’t something we can or do create all by ourselves, unless we’re hermits—it’s more of a joint project that includes our families, our friends, our workmates, and our whole social environment. It’s fair to say that your lifestyle at any given time is really a negotiated, give-and-take arrangement between you, as an individual with personal needs, desires, and interests, and all the “significant others” in your life, who also have their own agendas and needs. Given the fact that we tend to create our voluntary personal relationships with people who share interests, habits, and behaviors similar to our own, it’s not surprising that changing habits and behaviors is a lot easier when it’s a collective project and not just something you’ve decided to do on your own. Otherwise, change—even obviously healthy, productive change--can mean rocking a lot of boats, and that can be pretty difficult to handle, not only for you but for everyone else involved.

And that's just the situation many of us find ourselves in. What do we do about this?

The reality for many of us is that the decision to change our lifestyle—how and what we eat and the role of physical activity, especially—starts out, at least, as an individual decision, motivated by any number of personal concerns: health, fitness, appearance, feeling more comfortable in our own skin, etc. And that inevitably puts us in the position of having to re-negotiate the existing (and usually unspoken) “lifestyle agreement” we have with our various partners, some of whom may not share our new concerns or priorities.

So, what do you do when making the changes you need to make brings you into conflict with important people in your life? Here are some things to think about…

Can you successfully make the lifestyle changes you want to make, even if it means going it alone, without the support of your family, friends, or social network? Does it all boil down to individual determination and will power? Is it just too hard to swim against the tide? Or does it depend on whether you’re a conformist or a “rugged individualist”?

Does anyone owe it to you to change their behavior so it’s easier for you to change yours? We all like to think that, when we set out to make changes that are good for us, anyone who cares about us will jump on the bandwagon and do whatever they can to help out. And when that doesn’t happen, it can be pretty upsetting and disappointing. But remember...there are at least two sides to every story. When you change behaviors and habits that you’ve shared with the people around you for quite a while, they’ve got to figure out what’s going on. Does this mean you don’t approve of their behavior any more? Are you breaking your “deal” with them by changing the rules? If they don’t change too, can you still be friends/spouses, or will you move on to people who do things the way you want to do them? Is there any way you can still spend time together and enjoy it, without feeling like something has come between you? (These may be questions you need to ask yourself, too). Unfortunately, many people find it hard to deal with these kinds of questions directly and in the open–instead, they "act out" in strange ways to find out what the new rules are, see what the limits are and how you react, or non-verbally communicate their own unhappiness with the new situation. To you this may feel like lack of support or even attempted sabotage, but how do you know if that’s what it really is for the other person? And just how much do people who care about you owe it to you to make your changes easier for you to accomplish by making the same changes themselves?

Whose job is it to take the initiative to talk about what’s going on? Fears, insecurities, and wrong assumptions about why people do what they do all flourish in the dark, and tend to evaporate when exposed to the light of honest and open communication. But someone has to start that ball rolling. Is that up to you, as the person who wants to make changes, or to the person who is feeling uncomfortable about what you’re doing?

Can you get enough of the support you need from outside your existing relationships to make up for what you’re not getting there? These days, there are lots of both face-to-face and on-line opportunities to get support for all kinds of personal goals. Do you think participating in groups of this sort can be enough? What do you look for when you’re looking for a support group?

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WILDKAT781 5/4/2020
extremely good information. I once had a cousin, that when we attended family gatherings, if I had lost weight he would bring me a huge dessert after dinner. I no longer socialize with him. Oh, I will talk to him online and such but never in person Report
1CRAZYDOG 4/20/2020
Well said! Thanks Report
PATRICIAANN46 1/12/2020
Thank You...…….. Report
YMWONG22 12/6/2019
Thank you. Report
thanks Report
Good one! Report
Thanks! Report
Thanks. Report
Great article! Report
SP and the ladies at silver sneakers gym are my supports. Hubby tells other people he is proud of my weight loss, but he is not real happy about all the salads for dinner. I also kicked his butt on hilly hike, couldn't help my own little passive aggression outburdt. Report
I am very happy to have found this website. I have always been in really good shape due to poor body image and thinking I was fat. (my brother gave me this complex as a young girl). I took diet pills and didn't eat a lot when I was in my teens. Now I am much older, married and live in a new country. The move to Australia didn't turn out the way I imagined. I live in an extremely stressful situation and have gained 40 lbs. I have never been so overweight. My husband told me "your fat and ugly and nobody would ever want you". This was and still is incredibly hurtful. He has apologised for saying that but it affected my self esteem and I put on more weight since then which is how I got to where I am now. My situation is complicated so I cant just leave. I am alone in this country, but I am determined to get this weight off and I have already lost 4 lbs. I just started working here which I am hopeful I can make some friends. His family hates me and I live in a war zone as my mother-in-law lives upstairs. I am also a step mother. Need I say any more? Thank you for allowing me to get this out. Report
Although I get over it very quickly, I tend to get VERY ANGRY and verbally lash out when I feel as though I'm being sabotaged! My mother and husband are often the guilty parties. After giving them each a piece of my mind when either one bakes or buys baked goods in HUGE proportions, knowing that I'm trying to shy away from sugar (my biggest weakness ..... as in I'm an addict), I usually become very introspective and realize that neither of them actually bent my elbow to my mouth. My WHOLE extended family is huge .... always has been. Food equaled love growing up ..... so we shared it wholeheartedly! I have been really the only one who has managed to stay somewhat within a healthy range. My husband has never had a weight problem in his life .... and I know he judges everyone else who is obese in a negative way. For whatever reason, these two seem to feel really threatened anytime, I get really close to my goal (I work HARD AT IT), because it seems THAT'S when they almost go out of their way to make it difficult for me. I JUST KEEP REMINDING MYSELF THAT I'M RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT GOES INTO MY MOUTH ..... regardless of how much "LOVE" I must decline. Some days are easier than others .... still I try! Report
SP is my main support. No one else understands a "lifestyle change", "consistency", "dedication", "commitment", "planning and preparing", "counting", "challenges", "portion control", "sacrafice", "scheduled, dedicated exercise time", "occasional treats/indulgences", "meeting goals", "eating until you are satisfied, not gorged", etc.

If I do even attempt to talk about anything regarding this journey, all I get is a bunch of sorry advice from the gorgers. A litany of what "I should do or eat", coming from overweight, unhealthy individuals, including family. When I do rest my fork, particularly at a buffet, then I'm encouraged to gorge myself and criticized for not eating what we are paying for. Many of these people are church friends and family, who have been around when I do receive compliments on how far I've come and how good I look, from other members. So I basically don't share this part of my life with very many people. I prefer to be with like minded people and seek out opportunities to be around them.

When I decided a couple of years ago that I needed to get rid of the negative in my life, this was the first group to go. It's made a difference in my life and since I can't cut all family out, I just bring my own meals at holidays and gatherings. They go out of their way to provide extra tempting sweets, but I control what I will have for a treat each time. And frankly, I've lost interest in most sweets, so If I have one, it is something special to me.

I've maintained this weight for a year now, and the longer I do, the more seriously I'll be taken one day. But no matter that I'm 46 lbs lighter, and I've gone down 3 clothes sizes, have become toned and more fit, my figure has returned, and I exercise regularly, only 1 family member has ever given me a compliment on the changes. Thankfully I don't depend on compliments for self esteem. I am thankful my DH keeps his mouth shut on this topic and doesn't try to tempt my much anymore with our past fav treats. He eats his way and I eat mine. He will eat healthy when I fix food that way, and we've found some tasty healthy meals we both enjoy and cook together. Chef Meg's "Mama's Red Beans and Rice" is one of them, and grilling we can suit ourselves. We have a mutual understanding that works for us. Report
My DH is both supportive and non. I mean, he will eat anything I make, but he also still picks up chips and pepsi for late night munchies. I agree that my need to lose weight and get healthy is MY deal/problem. I do not discuss it in any detail around my kids- there is no need for my kids to start looking at calorie intake, etc. DH will listen if I mention anything about SP in the privacy of our own room, but he never judges, or teases. I think he knows I won't take any crap off him too. I agree that losing weight is something someone has to just want to do. Really really want. We have to own up. Be accountable. Be responsible. We are not fooling anyone, not even ourselves. Want it and own it. Otherwise stop the whining and have that biggie sized order. Best of luck to everyone!!!!!!! Report
My husband is not encouraging at all about my changes in eating patterns. He makes fun of the foods that I cook and eat. Those foods are the foods that work best with my body, and they are normal foods. He constantly interrupts my workouts, even after we've had several discussions about this being selfish on his part. I'm hoping that he starts to understand soon that it's about my health and happiness, instead of as he sees it "taking time away from us."
By being healthier, I will probably live longer and happier. He's just going to have to get with the program or stay a knucklehead. Report
Great article.

Says it well...that my choice to change my life is impacting others.

However, I am one of those who do not believe it is anyone else's responsibility to 'support' me by changing their life for me. If they wish to make similar changes - I refer them to SparkPeople and congratulate them, but I don't expect them to change. Besides, many of my friends do not need to make similar changes - they life active, healthy lives.

Each of us chooses our lifestyle & each of us is responsible for our choices. Sometimes we are a catalyst for change in others, but the work involved in changing is their work & their choice...as my changes are my choice & my work.

What I find most intriguing is the fact that the folks who, perhaps, most need to change are the most resistant...& yet are the ones who tell their friends about my positive changes. Hopefully this is a precursor for them making some healthy choices for themselves. Report
I´m so glad for this blog. We just got finished with the Ecuadorian equivalent of Mardi Graw. Much noise, too much junk food, and many people in the house. I must say, though, my husband is very supportive generally, trying to diet along with me, and not offering me much junk food; he does however try to stick whatever it is he´s eating in my mouth, just for a taste. His cousin spent the weekend with us is a gym instructor in a high school...has been trying for years to get us in shape...and both he and his wife commented on the weight (minimal) that I´ve lost. One of my step daughters doesn´t notice, but is trying to cook more healthfully, and we compare notes on excercise statistics; the other continues in her Ecuadorian eating patterns (no veggies, LOTS of rice, and too high a percentage of fried foods). But when we eat at her house once a week I don´t eat the rice, do eat salad if any, and limit the carbs in the soup and fat in the fried foods. Their eating habits are grotesque, and it shows on the bellies of her DH and oldest son.
However, most important is that I know I must loose weight to be healthy for ME, not for anyone else. So be it.
My boyfriend encourages me when I exercise, saying well done and asks what I've been doing. Food-wise, he cooks healthily most of the time, I just manage my portions when serving up as he tends to eat a lot more. He doesn't tempt me when eating things in front of me, mainly because he doesn't like the same snacks or treats that I do so when he does snack, I'm not bothered! Report
It is very hard when there is no support at home, but you have friends here to talk to and who will help. I have been very fortunate to have a great family and a church family cheering me on. I even had one ask me to help her loose weight. Can you imagine that, giving advice? I like to lean on God when I seem to be getting down and feel there is no one supporting me. God will perfect that which concerns me! I believe this whole heartly! Just keep going and reach out to friends. Report
I don't have much support at home, so I come here. This is all the support I need! Report
Isn't it obvious why Spark People is such a popular site? Most of us have no support other than what we receive from this site. Without Spark how many of us would succeed on this journey of bettering ourselves? Report
This is the hardest thing when we are changing and everyone else remains the same. I love this website and want to share it with my friends but they are not interested and wonder where and why how I have so much knowledge on nutrition, exercise and healthy recipes. Report
I can't have a conversation without mentioning SP. People make up silly names to make fun of my obsession with SP, but it is my biggest supporter. I'm like a reformed smoker, and I want everyone to join SP and get into nutrition, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle. But, to each in their own time, I guess. As for me, no matter how much fun they make of me, I've lost 34 pounds and they haven't! So there!! That's a good start for an endomorph who never was successful before! I love SP!! Report
It would be nice to have support but I can still do it without the support from my husband and kids. In fact, I did it just that. Report
The least support I had at first was from my friends at work. One of my friends always makes cakes, pies and brownies for everyone to share. The best thing is that she is very skinny. Being an HR director I am usually direct but tactful. I had a heart to heart with her. Once I explained my goals to her she apologized and does not offer the treats to me anymore. My kids are supportive of my weightloss goals but don't like being subjected to the diet changes themselves. Report
Thank you so much for this blog. And you actually answered your own question about whether the on-line sites really help. I am so happy to have the support of different "friends" who travel this journey with me, the articles, the tools, etc. My son asked me just yesturday why I'm on the computer so much now. I told him that I enjoyed visiting with my Spark Friends. Why? Because, just like he visits with the kids at school about games, videos, itunes, etc. I like to also visit with people who have the same interests as I. He was cool with that. I hope this articles open-ended questions help us to see that each idividual's needs are just that: "INDIVIDUAL" AND we should all realize that and respect it. Report
What does DH stand for? I don't have any support. My daughter lives with me and has terrible habits. One of my reasons for getting healthy is to teach her a new way of life. She tries but has a hard time focusing on anything that she has to put effort into. Report
I've gone to weight management classes for 3 years. They were the support I needed to make this life style change. Along with the support of DH. We work out together and are in agreement about diet issues. He sees how I stick to my eating habits. Now my family knows that I will always bring healthy foods to eat at any gathering. Some of these things are starting to rub off. Just little steps help. Report
I am fortunate that my DH has always been into fitness and eating healthy. He is the reason I changed gyms from an all-woman to a 24 Hour Fitness. He is so proud of me for caring enough about myself to eat right and climb out of bed at 4:30am to take spinning and strength classes.

I don't talk about it to my non-Spark friends; I have motivated on person at work to exercise more often and eat more healthy foods just by example. Others tell me to be satisfied with who I am and not try to improve only to find out they were secretly dieting anyway. I am so happy to have SparkPeople where we can discuss these issues among people who are working towards the same goals and don't tire of such discussions. WooHoo. Report
Wow, seems a lot of people have to deal with the added challenge of unsupportive people.I have learned not to expect any support from my partner in my attempt at a healthier lifestyle so therefore when the sabotaging happens I just let it roll off me and go on.I am a hyper individual and have to to take medicine to keep me from bouncing off the walls and when I exercise I get even more hyper medicine or not,so I can understand her getting upset at that. However I don't let her interfere with my eating habits anymore nor will I stop my workouts. Maybe one day she will try to join me on the journey of a healthier lifestyle. Report
I have lost 24 pounds since Sept 05 and it has been so hard. My oldest daughter is very supportive, but I think that the other 4 children suk the life out of me. My husband cooks greasy stuff and brings home donuts. I have 10 more pounds to go and I know that I can do it, but support would be nice. Report
This is what I have learned here on Sparkpeople since I started here.
All you have to do is want to change - You got to want to change your lifestyle- no one can want to do it for you - and then you go from there. You have to acquire the desire to change, to get healthier, slimmer, more fit, more active, more lively, more vibrant, more of everything . . . get the idea? Nothing and no one is worth overeating over. You have to begin to love yourself more than anyone or anything else on this earth. In the long run, you are all you have and all that matters. No matter where you are in your life with your weight and eating, you can begin to turn things around for yourself right now. But you got to want to.... Report
My parents are very supportive..my mom tells me all the time how proud she is of me..and how great I look. My husband on the other hand is anything but..he actaully told me that he thought I was losing the weight so that I could find a new man..He tries to sabotage my eating all the time..he cooks everything in oil and butter. I have learned that I am doing this for me...and that I am only accountable to me for my success or failure. Report
I have my daughter as support but she is only 7, and I have my Mom and my Aunt but pretty much everyone else doesn't understand the need. My aunt had gastric bypass and had some very wonderful results, but that isn't for me. I have come to realize I have to be here for myself, I have to do this for myself. No other person can be my sole source of motivation. I have to do that for myself. Finances don't allow my hubby to eat out like he used to so I am cooking more and control what goes into my mouth. If he likes it fine if not, he can throw in a pizza. I have my spark friends and my spark teams they offer plenty of support. Report
My kids are my support and of course my loving husband and family, but they are my main reason for doing it besides for myself, I want to be healthy for my future grand kids, to be able to keep up with them, and have a long life with the love of my life, no one could ever take that from me, even if tomorrow they all decided to try and sabotage me, it would be too late I already have it made in my mind Im doing it for good and getting it done. Report
My hd loves junk too much. He can be a sobatoger not sure if he means to be?? Probably is trying to show love thur food. But of course there are other ways to show love. My mother is very support and my older son is. He is forever telling me pick it up. Is he kidding?? My faith carries me and my spark friends especially my Beck Diet Solutions team along with Living with diabetics friends. Report
I am blessed to have a husband who is supportive, but others in my family, namely my mother, can be a little harsh at times. I am sure she means well, but she will ask what I made for dinner and if she even thinks it is the least bit fattening, she will make a snide comment. Sometimes it hurts, but I know in my heart that she means well and I just keep moving along. Report
My family always asking what I ate today and what I did at the gym. I also have a great friend at work who always keep me up. {Miles} She's always pick no me about my SP ! Report
I've always done it on my own. DH likes the change in my appearance, but doesn't necessarily want to join me or otherwise be involved. Since it's just the two of us, and I do the grocery shopping and cooking, I can control my diet (and his) to a large extent. With the current economy, the problem of going out to dinner whenever he wants isn't such a problem anymore. When he does manage to smuggle cookies, ice cream, etc into the house, and asks me if I want some, I've learned to say no. In fact, any time he offers me ANY food, I automatically say no. I can always say yes later, if it falls in line with my diet plan.

As for non-supportive (toxic) friends - I don't hang around them anymore. As a basically nice, accomodating person, it's too easy for me to go along with the group, or even just one person, to my detriment. I've found that just avoiding the people who don't have my best interests in mind, works best of all. Think about it - isn't a friend supposed to be someone who cares about you? Too many of my "friends" were people who just couldn't stand being alone and wanted a "partner in crime" for their bad health habits. Not my idea of friendship. I'm better off alone, or finding new friends who share my desire for good health. Report
Sometimes I feel like I'm in a boat and that boat is sinking,I have taken off weight before and then I got hit with Menopause,an underactive Thyroid problem and I quit smoking in 2004 so what happened I put the 90lbs that I lost back on and it came with company.Support I have 4 grown kids a hubby and hardly any support and they could all stand to lose some weight.I know I should be able to walk out my door and either take a walk or go to the exercise room we have here at our complex.Why is it so hard for me to get moving is it because no one else cares or is it plain laziness?Sometimes I think it's easier just to stay fat and sit in front of my comp,and I know it isn't me but I just can't muscle up the energy to walk out the door...Could someone please tell me what to do..... Report
I have a sometimes non-support person in the family, but I have learned to stay strong in the face of "would you like????....." and to say NO! Report
I am glad I read this one... its nice to know I'm not alone with lack of husbandly support! He focuses the food choices on what he likes to eat and cost. I get a lot of flack if I purchase whole grain bread for instance since it is a couple bucks more, especially if I try to encourage the 11 and 5 yr olds in the house to eat it with me.. he'll say.. they won't eat that.. right in front of the girls. So he sabotages their willingness to try new things!!!
However he is not completely impossible! He is one of those Fred Flinstone kind of guys that has to have ideas on his own. For example he insists on using Hamburger Helper or a similar product for dinner which he makes at least 3 times a week.. which I hate! In the past couple months when I have had to make dinner, I've avoided using the product or if there wasn't much else to make I would cut out half of the meat and try to sneak in some veggies or extra noodles in addition to some veggies on the side. Now when he makes it he will do half the meat since he saw how that saves money- its a start but not for the same reason!
Anyway, we all have our struggles and its good to see how others make their way. I know that I have to stay focused on my goals and this time do my best to stick with the plan despite visible the lack of support. I know that as my body changes, he will realize this isn't a bad thing. And as for spending money on foods that he is not used to eating he gets over it as long as it isn't wasted and sometimes he will even try some for himself so I think he can adapt, he just doesn't like to admit it. Report
I guess I am really lucky. My husband, adult children and friends have all been very supportive. Report
I guess I never expected it to be anyone else's "job" to help me with my problems--I'm pretty solitary. And when my friends are supportive (rare; they're more likely to get a bit green) I don't quite trust it.

I don't talk much about what I'm doing, and certainly try not to boast or preach (this time around, I'm 'old enough to know better', having had all too many others preach their favorite new 'fad' or discovery at me in my lifetime--no one so enthusiastic as a 'convert'). I'm trying to make my life show what I am accomplishing, rather than explaining it.

I've a few friends who try to sabotage my efforts (one invited me to a homemade English tea as my birthday celebration--ALL cream, sugar, butter) and that's really hard, because she knows my struggles. Interesting battle to balance gratitude (it was a lot of work for her), the least-bad choices, and trying to remember it was just one day, one meal. But the next time we went shopping and she headed for the plus sizes, and I didn't, I think she began to see a bit more clearly what I was about. I still value her friendship a lot, but I dodge her cooking. Report
Really good article. I would say I do get support for my efforts, although I think its hard for them to be really enthusiastic because I've gone down this road sooooo many times, they probably think this is just another short-run effort. I'm sure, as in the past, once they see my continued committment, they'll be more outward about their support, comments and compliments. Report
I have to say that my husband and kids are very supportive...I'm actually surprised that only one person had a snide remark, that being a person I'm friends with (who lost twice as much as I have ). The comment was a snip about the time it has taken me to lose the 29 lbs I've lost thus far. I'm doing WW and it does go a little slower, but steady nonetheless. "The way I'm losing so slowly is stupid." The only stupid thing is that dumb comment. My guess is that her green monster is activated because no one comments on her loss anymore and she's a little upset about the "loss" of attention to her. Report
As I have grown older I find myself not needing to have "that a girl" comments from others so much. I DO give them to myself however. I would love for my husband to join in for he needs to lose a lot of weight but he is the kind of guy that likes to get the idea himself (hummm!) . I hope that as he sees the difference in me both weight wise (lost 15 so far) and energy wise (off the chart since I joined SP), the "idea" will come to him and he will join in. He hates the way he looks and feels- hummmmm. (-: Report
My family is non-supportive, but neither do I feel supported by the contacts I've made in Sparkspeople. They aren't regular daily friendship partners that I'm seeking, women who are similar to myself. They are just tangential, occasional correspondences. I believe I can and still hope to find a buddy here however. It can get more difficult with age. Report
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