Our friends (and family) aren’t doing us any favors

Most of the people around us don’t want us to be unhealthy or miserable.  But there are so many subtle things that the people we love & care about do to make change harder for us.  And often it’s not intentional and it’s extremely rare that it’s malicious (but that does happen).  Most of our family & friends might consider an intervention if we were actually sitting & eating the quantity that the woman below intends to eat.  It’s a pretty cut & dry picture.  But life (and change) is rarely that black & white.

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How do we turn accomplices into friends?

According to Change Anything, “the people around you don’t have to have an agenda to be accomplices.  What makes them accomplices is not having bad intentions, but exerting bad influence.”  It can be as simple as going out with friends who order unhealthy food you love (making that mental hurdle just a little taller).  So what do the authors recommend?

Tactic 1:  Know who’s a friend & who’s an accomplice
Tactic 2:  Redefine “Normal”
Tactic 3:  Hold a Transformation Conversation
Tactic 4:  Add New Friends
Tactic 5:  Distance Yourself from the Unwilling

Some of these things were obvious for me.  Others were a pretty big wake-up call.

Tactic 1:  Know Who’s a Friend & Who’s an Accomplice

Accomplices

Accomplices are anyone who exerts a bad influence over our behavior.  And, there are actually several types of accomplices:

The Obvious:   The people who stand to make money if you fail.  Or people who will lose an excuse for their own bad habits if you succeed.  They can be anyone from waiters & waitresses to people wanting to get rid of extra food at work or even someone who made the meal & attaches their own self-worth to the size of your portion, and last but not least your overweight friends who don’t want to feel ashamed or judged.

The Not So Obvious:  They aren’t vocally encouraging bad behavior, but their existence influences your choices.  In my life this looks like the vast majority of people who work where I do, many of whom are overweight and even morbidly obese.  Their idea of a serving size is much different than mine and yet if I go out to lunch with them, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing what I’m eating to them.  It has also manifested itself as friends who enjoy trying new restaurants frequently.

Hosts:  This was an eye opening category for me.  These are the people hosting events or inviting you over to spend time with them.  These are often the people who will vocally speak up if you don’t follow your normal pattern:  “but you love this and I made it just for you.”  These are the people you worry about disappointing or receiving criticism from.

In considering my own life, there were a number of people who popped up in my mind where I realized “hey, just spending time with these people makes it harder for me to make healthy choices.”  And most of my surprises were on the “Not So Obvious” list.

Friends

These people are the ones we should spend more time with.  They actively & sometimes imperceptibly help keep us on the path to success.  They do this by modeling good choices, speaking up, holding us accountable, offering advice & even cheering us on.  Change Anything puts friends into two categories:  Coaches & Fans.

Coaches:  Coaches help us learn how to exercise & eat in more healthy ways.  They’re there to keep you accountable by using both positive & negative motivation when we need it.  For me, these are the people of TD Nation, especially my coach Larry, and of course Lance.   They are also the people in a small group I joined where I check in daily.

Fans:   These are the people who provide motivation we need to make it through the “dog days” of personal change.  They do this by showing how much they care, being supportive, and cheering us on.  My own biggest fan is my husband.  And then I’ve also got friends at work and in TD Nation who are on their own weight loss journeys who also provide encouragement.

Redo the Math

After taking stock of your accomplices & your friends and evaluating how much time you spend with people in each group, you make make choices with your time differently.  The journey will be easier if you have more friends (coaches & fans) than accomplices.

Tactic 2:  Redefine Normal

I really can’t say it better than the book, so I won’t:

Don’t be fooled by people who bandy around the words “everybody” and “normal” as a means of justifying their own unhealthy behavior.  Instead, call it unhealthy, unwise, or even dangerous — but never call it normal.
Perhaps the best response to a shifting sense of normalcy is to quit making external comparisons in the first place.  Rise above the shared sense of what is common or acceptable.
How do you want to live & feel?  And who you want to be?
When I evaluated my normal and what I wanted to be normal, I came up with the following:
  • Normal is eating like Husband (small portions)
  • Normal is a healthy weight
  • Normal is having energy & feeling great most days
  • Normal is feeling strong & confident

Tactic 3:  Hold a Transformation Conversation

People can’t read our minds.  Sometimes they don’t realize how much influence they have over us.  Sometimes they don’t feel like it’s ok to speak up (especially if we’ve been at an unhealthy weight for a long period of time).  This tactic is all about talking to your accomplices & asking for their help.

I’m a firm believer in not forcing change on other people just because I’m making one.  This goes double for my husband who is a quintessential Ectomorph.  The guy seriously needs his carbs if he’s going to maintain his weight (yes, it’s enviable but he also gets comments fairly frequently about needing a sandwich and that’s pretty shitty too).  It would be completely unfair for me to just get rid of all the carbs in the house or not allow my husband to have food that’s tempting in the house.  But, we were able to come up with a different spot in the pantry to store the stuff he loves (somewhere that’s inconvenient for me to access since he’s taller than me 😉.  Once we talked about how much better I feel when I’m eating healthy and we talked about how his snacking right when we get home from work was a huge temptation, he waits a few minutes till I’m downstairs working out before he grabs his snack.  But he still has his snack.

The people who love you & care about you will be happy to help but sometimes you’ll have to think outside the box to get there.  And you’ll have to be honest about your goals & why you want to reach those goals.

Tactic 4:  Add New Friends

Find those people who share your goal or are interested in offering you support.
Join associations and social networks made up of people who are working on the same problem you’re trying to conquer.

For me, finding TD Nation was a huge step in my journey.  All of a sudden I had over a thousand (now more than 2,000) people who were all working on finding that balance & having a healthier lifestyle.  They were sharing ideas & recipes and there was built-in accountability especially once I found a small group that aligned with my goals & my mental thought patterns.  And (shameless plug), I’d love for you to join the team.  Don’t hesitate to contact me because this “fitness family” is just plain awesome.

Tactic 5:  Distance Yourself from the Unwilling

Again, I won’t try to say it better than Change Anything (if I didn’t mention already, it’s worth the read):

Not everyone you associate with will be willing to transform from accomplice to friend.  Distancing yourself from accomplices who were once good buddies (or maybe even loved ones) involves complicated value trade-offs and can be quite painful.  We offer no other advice other than that you not underestimate the roles fans, coaches, and accomplices play in your life.
There have been situations I’ve read about in the TD Nation group that I seriously don’t envy.  I’ve been fortunate enough that most of the people in my life are very supportive and fell into the “not so obvious” group and after a conversation became great advocates (or at least not accomplices).  But there have been a select few people that we don’t spent as much time with because they consistently eat & serve unhealthy foods so the choices are harder.  In those situations, we often host because then I can control the menu.

What can you expect?

Again, I won’t try to outdo the book:

If you can stop right now & list the friends and accomplices who currently make up your world, and if you then start shifting the math in your favor by transforming & eliminating accomplices — while simultaneously making new friends — you’ll dramatically increase your chances for success.

People with a half dozen active friends (who are playing the role of coach or fan) are almost 40 percent more likely to succeed than those with fewer than a half dozen friends!

 

Does your current list of friends outnumber your accomplices?  Were there any surprises in your evaluation?  What will you do now that you have a new perspective on the people in your life?  Please share  below!

 

Wishing you an All+SUM LIFE,
Sarah

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