The support of friends aids weight loss

Three men at bar after workA decision to make a change to a healthier lifestyle can often be confounded by the actions of those we love and care about. What can we do to stay ‘on track’?

Various Scenarios

Consider the following situations of actual events (names have been changed to protect privacy):

Nicky, is 29yrs old and with the support of her partner Peter (32yrs) sought professional help for weight loss. Within six months she had lost 20kg in weight and was looking and feeling great.

Nicky’s confidence soared. She began dressing more fashionably, attending exercise classes and was drawing compliments from her work mates. Nicky even talked about taking up the painting classes she had abandoned five years earlier.

Peter, who had been so supportive of her efforts in the beginning, began bringing home chocolate and pastry treats. Nicky noticed her progress stalling.

John is 54yrs old and recently suffered a heart attack. His drinking mates were sympathetic when they visited him in hospital.

They cracked jokes about how Bruce would have to give up his fish and chips and beer. Bruce lost weight all right; he joined a gym and felt 10 years younger, but couldn’t get over the changes in his mates. They seemed less understanding when he ordered red wine instead of his normal jog of beer and refused the bar foods at the working men’s club.

Gemma is an obese nine-year old whose parents were thrilled that she had lost 23 percent of body weight over the last year while maintaining a normal growth rate. She had come fifth in the cross-country at school. They can’t understand why Gemma’s grand-parents insist on treating Gemma with sweets, takeaways and ice-creams and are undermining Gemma’s progress when she stays during the school holidays.

Why does sabotage occur?

When making life changes, it is important to recognise the effects that this may have on others. Here are a few examples:

A sign of love.

In his book the Five Love Languages  Dr Gary Chapman explains how people like to express their love through : the giving of time, the giving of gifts, through acts of service, physical touch and affirmations. Your partner, friends and family members are used to treating you in a certain way; buying you treats, baking your favourite cake and desserts are their ways of showing their love. Your desire for a healthier lifestyle and rejection of these lifelong treats may be misinterpreted as rejection of their love.

Others may feel the pressure of change

The changes that you make may bring subtle pressure to bear on others to make changes too. They may be happy as they are or unable to make changes at this time.


There is also the possibility that those close to you may be jealous of your new zest for life and be frightened that being more confident now you may be attracted to another partner.

Customs and traditions

The way that foods are prepared and family traditions regarding celebrations such as birthdays and Christmas are passed down through the generations (along with the associated health problems). When you decide to embark on a lifestyle change you may be seen as rejecting a value system that has been in the family for years. Such traditions may also have ethnic and religious significance.


Your friends may perceive healthier alternatives, such as a wine verses beer or takeaway foods such as souvlakis verses fish and chips as being more expensive. This may put pressure on them when it is their turn to pay.

Gaining support from others

If you are encountering opposition to the changes that you are making you may find the following tips are helpful:

  • Reassure loved ones and close friends that you need their love and support and that you are still you, just endeavouring to live a more healthy existence, which may also benefit future generations.
  • Offer suggestions of other food treats or ways in which people can show their love for you. Such as buying you fitness equipment such as a Swiss ball or hoolah hoop, a pampering pack, a voucher for new hair cut or new clothes.
  • In the case of children, reassure grandparents that their grandchild is not missing out and instead celebrate their newfound health with treats which reinforce their efforts e.g.toiletries, books, gear to keep them moving such as a ball, roller blades, tennis racket, a skate board, a Hackey sac®, Frizbee® new togs etc.
  • Re-educate your family and friends by example. Invite them for healthier meals and if visiting friends or attending parties, offer to contribute a course or dish prepared with for example with less fat and sugar than normal. E.g. instead of taking cheese, pate, creamy dip and crackers try instead a platter with cut up raw vegetables with seafood, humus and bread.  You may be surprised at how popular it is.
  • Be wary of sabotaging yourself through negative thinking. Eat sensibly, set realistic goals and be proud of your positive achievements.
  • For more information read some of Lea’s other articles on motivation: Building resilience; Making changes, Avoid self sabotage and Peer pressure

If you would like to have a nutritional assessment or discuss the process of change then do contact us today.


About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


Leave a Reply

Also in Motivation View all »

Would you like to subscribe to our fantastic FREE monthly newsletter?

Each month we'll keep you up-to-date with the latest nutritional articles and healthy recipes from You are free to opt out at any time, but we think you'll enjoy what we've got in-store for you.

Plus as a bonus offer — subscribe today and receive FREE weight loss tips for two weeks! Learn how a number of foods, many one would consider 'healthy', may in fact be slowing your progress.


Yes please, it sounds great! (and it's FREE after all).



No thanks, I'm not interested (or I'm already a subscriber and really enjoying these fantastic newsletters!).