Melissa, a new reader to the site, replied to an email I send all new newsletter subscribers asking them what they’re struggling with right now. Here was her response:
My biggest challenges? Self-doubt, and resistance from friends and family. When conventional, mainstream “health info” has failed me, I’ve only blamed myself. I say things like, “If you don’t have the willpower to get skinny, what does this say about you as a person? What does this say about the rest of your life?” As if I’m inherently unmotivated and lazy.
And then friends will say, “you don’t even have twenty pounds to lose.” While my parents say, “we don’t want you to be sedentary, but we don’t want you getting crazy with all this gluten free stuff. We don’t want this turning into an eating disorder.” As if gaining 30 pounds in college wasn’t disordered eating.
How exactly do we deal with it when others undermine us with their advice and “good intentions?”
I’ve been wanting to write this article for a while because it’s a topic that comes up time and time again with my Total Body Reboot clients. Once you’ve decided to do something great for yourself, everyone and their mom (or usually your own mom) has an opinion about it. And very few people know how to keep their trap shut when it comes to other people’s lives.
If you’re lucky (or if you’ve taken great care in pruning relationships), people in your life will support your efforts unconditionally without injecting their beliefs, concerns, and their own insecurities into the situation via unsolicited advice. But how common is that? In my experience, the majority of people lack decent relational boundaries.
So how do we deal with the naysayers (“Diet number seventeen huh? Good luck with that <snickers>!”), the clueless diminishers (“Why would you want to eat healthier, you look fine?!?”), the underminers (“I saw you’re trying to get healthy so I baked you some cookies! They’re gluten free.”), and the legion of doom and gloom (“If you don’t eat grains your stomach will rot from lack of fiber and you’ll die! And right before you take your last breath you’ll wish you had let me stop you.”)?
The first tactic — which is quite good if I say so myself — is to not inform anyone. This is actually a suggestion rooted in success psychology as well. In fact, not telling people is so important that I made it the only rule of Total Body Reboot (against the obvious financial benefit of having Rebooters tell everyone they know about the program).
If you don’t tell people your new mission, your chances of success go up because of how it impacts your mindset, but also because it doesn’t give firepower to the numbskulls in your life. And you know all too well that if you set up the pins for them, they’ll knock them down. Every. Single. Time.
So foot on the gas, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, lips shut. Try it and you’ll love it.
If you’ve already told people, all hope is not lost. My second recommendation is to start teaching people how to treat you. This is the basics of functional boundaries.
It doesn’t matter who the bad-mouther is: it could be a passerby or your own mother. If you’re an adult it’s time to start balking when people break the rules.
One of the first boundary violations people will open with is unsolicited advice. If you nip it here, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort because most other boundary violations will come through this door if you leave it open.
So, if you’ve already told people your goals and their lips are starting to flap about it in a way you don’t particularly care for, simply say, “This isn’t something I want to discuss.” The good thing about this is there’s nothing to defend. If they keep yapping, you can repeat it again. If they keep yapping after that, you can just turn around and walk away.
If you stick to your guns people will come to realize that you don’t take advice unless you ask for it. And they’ll stop giving it so much, making your life far easier.
If they absolutely can’t control themselves and continue to cross your boundary time and time again, start cutting them out of your life until they get the picture. If you’re not willing to do this to your own family — even your spouse — then you’re not willing to have healthy relationships.
Lastly, it’s important to look at people who you live with because that complicates the issue (and forces you to break rule number one). If you have a husband or wife who isn’t on board with what you’re doing, they can make life difficult without ever giving unsolicited advice or crossing other boundaries. Simply replacing the box of Cheez-Its you just threw away yesterday can be mind-numbingly infuriating.
For people you live with, it’s imperative that you sit down and communicate your goals face to face. It really helps if you’ve already done the work of finding your “big whys” because those carry far more weight than saying, “Look honey, losing 10 pounds means the world to me…” — I’ll finish his response for you: “You’re blocking the game.”
Sitting down and saying, “Look honey, my grandfather died of Diabetes and I’m high risk. I really want to get my blood sugar under control by losing some fat and eating in a way that supports proper hormone function. If I don’t do this now, it could impact the amount of time I’m around for our daughter and that really scares me. Right now, it’s hard for me to say no to Cheez-Its and processed food, so when you buy them a day after I throw them out, it makes it very hard for me to succeed. Is there a way that you can support me on this while still meeting your own needs?”
If at this point he says, “You’re blocking the game,” it might be time to find a new husband. Most of the time, he’ll take note and help you out, even if he doesn’t get completely on board with his own life.
Once the people who seem to be dedicated to ending your journey are either wholly uninformed, placed under control, or have been effectively given a relational restraining order then you’re free to start tackling all of that negative self-talk that’s been running through your head.
Have you had to deal with friends and family making your journey difficult? Tell me about it in the comments, especially if you have any tips!
Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s helped tens of thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and now offers all of his signature programs through a “pay what you want” model.