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Overcoming Obstacles to Healthy Living: Sabotage

Posted Mar 08 2011 10:26pm

Ever look for support from a loved one, announce you’re turning a corner and going to educate yourself on getting healthy, only to have them bring home a bucket of fried chicken for supper?

Now there are as many people in the world as there are reasons this happens but it does happen, it’s a fact of life and one that you’ll need to get used to if you’re going make it for the long haul. This journey, is all about personal responsibility and it’s up to each of us to make the decisions that best serve our health regardless of what others do around us. It’s hard, but not impossible.

Here’s the best advice I have on handling those saboteurs in our lives and coming out healthier and happier on the other end.

How To Identify It: A bucket of fried chicken might be one clue but this can also be more subtle. Sabotage comes in a number of forms, actively presenting unhealthy options is one thing but there also can be comments slid in here and there about whether you’re keeping up with exercising or people judging your food choices if they know you’re making an effort to eat healthier. Basically, if you’re feeling uncomfortable around someone because you feel judged or criticized, chances are it’s time to have a conversation.

Why It Happens: The short version? People don’t like it when someone changes the rules without asking. We all “fit” in a place in our relationships. We have roles that are negotiated slowly over time. You say this, I respond in a certain way and slowly, the “rules” of the relationship are born. This is why the same person can have such dramatically different relationships with


other people, the negotiation is different.

After years of being one way, people get nervous when they see others change. It’s scary. It also puts pressure on them to change too. That can be even more terrifying. People lash out in an attempt to return things to their normal, no matter how unhealthy that normal was. This is not to excuse the behaviour but as part of the healthier people we’re becoming, we have to re-negotiate relationships and communicate that this isn’t acceptable. Being prepared is half the battle.

I’ve heard everything from a husband worrying his newly thin wife would leave him, to a daughter being worried that her mom wouldn’t have the time for her anymore since she wanted to work out. It’s entirely natural to worry about change. If you’re the one changing the relationship midstream (even though it’s for the better) it’s important to speak to the fears of others, even if they aren’t saying them out loud.

What You Can Do About It: Create the dialogue yourself. Discuss worries, fears and remove the need for sabotaging behaviours from others. Often, people don’t realize they are doing something upsetting to you. Especially when you’re new to eating well or exercising, fresh habits die hard and fast. Emotional upheaval is one of the fastest ways to kill a budding lifestyle change so tackle it head on and early.

I’m won’t go into great detail about the folks that do this out of spite and are simply mean. If you have those type of people around you then I would spend some time examining whether those relationships are truly worthwhile. You can’t change them but you can change your response to them.

Why It’s Important to Overcome: Usually if left unaddressed, one of two things can happen:

Both of these things are avoidable with communication.

Someone else’s behaviour cannot justify us giving up on ourselves. Others only have that power if YOU give it to them.

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