Ask the expert: How should I deal with diet saboteurs?

Are friends or family members tempting you with unhealthy food choices? Before you risk ruining your diet, here’s how to deal with these saboteurs

Ask the expert: How should I deal with diet saboteurs?

Source: Best Health Magazine, October 2011

Q: I am the heavy one in a family of skinny women. I’ve made a commitment to lose weight. But my sisters tempt me with my favourites, and even tease me. How can I deal with this?

You have three choices when dealing with skinny saboteurs, depending on your own situation: Confront, avoid or ignore. Success with these methods will depend on the motivation that is underlying your sisters’ behaviour, and how committed you are to eating right.

Confront positively

If their teasing is meant to be funny, and is based on their misunderstanding of how difficult the struggle with food and weight is for you, speak to them’in person (email rarely achieves the desired outcome). Tell them what your goals are and how much you need their support, and explain how weight loss and healthy eating matter to your physical and psychological well-being. Don’t bite their heads off (you don’t need the empty calories). Instead, enrol them on your support team. Ask if they will be your accountability buddies; if they agree, contact them daily or weekly with your goals and achievements. Once the ‘slim sisters’ are part of your team, they will be motivated to help you succeed, and the teasing should change to cheering.

Avoid mindfully

If your sisters honestly don’t realize how difficult their ‘tempting’ is making your life, you’ll just have to be careful of going to family gatherings that involve food. I know that’s easier said than done, but’you could arrive after dinner, having already eaten a healthy meal at home. Or you could host more events where you determine the menu and have more control over the guest list.

Neither of the first two methods will work if there are deep-rooted psychological factors: Sometimes siblings envy or resent each other, and are deliberately cruel when ‘teasing.’ If this is the case, and confrontation has failed, you may need to reduce or even eliminate contact with your sisters as long as they continue to impede your progress. I see this as a temporary avoidance phase, but a critical one in your journey.

Ignore confidently

If you are already established in your healthy lifestyle, then what was initially a psychological challenge’What should I eat? Can I say no to a big piece of chocolate cake? Am I appreciative of this healthy body, and can I treat it with loving kindness?’is now simply the way you live (I make healthy eating choices. I enjoy a reasonable portion of chocolate cake now and then. I celebrate my healthy bod, chubby thighs and all). If you are at this point, you can more easily ignore your sisters’ behaviour. You are now committed to healthy food, and enjoying the energy, self-esteem and confidence that come with your everyday choices. The ‘sister strikes’ will have less impact. What used to pierce you now bounces off, and if it still hurts a little, you don’t automatically use food to find comfort.

In the end, only you can determine your relationship with food. And eating well is the best revenge.

Psychologist Cheryl Fraser, Ph.D., is a sex and relationships therapist. Cheryl teaches how to improve relationships on her CD Become Passion.