Communicating with Family Members to Gain Support

Without the support of spouse or family, your efforts to live a healthier lifestyle can easily be compromised. Family and social support are crucial so you can focus on what you need to do to succeed.

Your spouse might actually feel threatened by your efforts, especially if they themselves are overweight. To them it means that there’s going to be a change in the relationship and a change in the household. Loved ones may worry that certain activities you used to do together, such as going out to eat, may now be off-limits. It often times brings up personal insecurities. “If I am fat and you go on a diet, you put me in the uncomfortable position of feeling bad about my own weight; deciding to do something about it, which I may not be ready to do; or trying to talk you out of what you are doing.” In addition, it can put a special pressure on the relationship if one is moving forward and being successful and one is stuck in the same place.

* The first step in dealing with diet sabotage is to recognize it. For example, family members might bring bad food into the house or dish out negative (versus positive) reinforcement towards your efforts. Your saboteur may want to guard the status quo, keep you under control, or prevent your leaving to find a new life with your new body.

* Start with an honest conversation with your spouse about the changes and the benefits for both of you. Convey a positive message such as: "Honey, I love you. We have been together 15 years. I am not going anywhere. You are my best friend and I need your help and understanding." (This may or may not be the time to say, "You could afford to drop a few, too.") Another example: "I love you, you love me, and this is a form of self-love. I'm taking care of myself, and I know you want me to do that." As you lose weight, feel better and look better, reassure your spouse that you still love them. Show them and tell them. In the end, however, don’t make their acceptance necessary for your success.

* Reassure your family that you will still do things and go to places you have enjoyed in the past, although perhaps less frequently. To do this successfully, come up with your own game plan ahead of time so you know what you will or won't eat when you're out together.

* Include your spouse in the new plan. Discuss each new step of the plan so they don’t feel left out, especially if you’re meeting with a coach or trainer. Be specific with your family about your weight loss needs. For instance, let them know if being constantly asked how much you've lost will drive you to cheat. Explain your process. If your family teases you about your diet strategies, like weighing portions, explain that you are more successful when you take these measures.

* Focus more on what you can eat instead of what you can't. Offer family members your new, healthy choices, but be comfortable if they choose to eat the old way. Don’t insist that your spouse eats what you eat. Remember that this was your decision, not theirs. Cook separate meals if necessary.

Communication is the #1 reason that any marriage fails, so continuously communicate your fears, concerns, goals and achievements and ask your spouse the same. Good communication and mutual understanding will make it that much easier to stick to your plan. If you've been direct in asking your spouse for help but don't get it, you may need to seek couples' or family counseling. Poor response often suggests something else is going on.