When I think about my support network and the people I really care about, for the most part Iíd like them to keep doing most of the things theyíre doing. And if I do wish for them to change, what Iím hoping for is for them to be happier or healthier or more supportive.
I think my sister works too hard and would be better off if she cut back to just 40 hours a week and found time for hobbies. It would be nice if Devin could open up more about his feelings so I could get a better picture of his emotional world. And while my best friend is very supportive of me, it would be nice if he stopped commenting on my weight and what Iím eating every single time we get together.
But these are changes that I care about and are based on my own value system. So suppose instead that suddenly my sister decided that what would make her happier is to dye her hair orange? Or suppose Devin comes home one day and announces heís decided to get a tattoo just for fun? Imagine if my best friend announces that heís bought a motorcycle and is going to quit his job and drive across the country?
None of these are changes that I would wish for, and all of them are changes that would require me to re-think my own sense of who these people are, what they want from life, and how their world and my world intersect. Its possible that these changes would truly bring them happiness, even though they fly in the face of my own value system. And it would be really, really hard for me to sit by and not react negatively.
The way I see it, when I decided to lose weight and I eventually became permanently 50 pounds lighter, it wasnít a change that my friends, family and loved ones expected and it wasnít particularly what they would have wished for me. When I changed my eating habits, my exercise behaviors, my weight-management strategies, it affected not just my own life and my own physical image, it altered the reality of many of my relationships.
I no longer use food as a crutch, but I no longer go to restaurants and order calories with abandon. Now that Iím thin, I would rather spend the afternoon going for a run than going to the movies. I am more likely to turn down party invitations since Iíve never felt they were fun for me, and now I donít even have the prospect of junk food to keep me entertained.
My physical body is thinner, my face is altered, I wear smaller, more expensive clothes and I am more assertive about doing things that I want to do, rather than just going along with the crowd.
These changes have all been terrifically healthy for me, and Iím proud of them. But when I think about it, I can understand why my loved ones might not be as enthusiastic. After all, change is scary enough for me. Seeing me change must be disconcerting to them. No wonder any time I feel insecure or express doubt or act hesitantly, I feel their implied criticism, or I sense them questioning my actions. Its not that they donít love me any more, its that they wonder who this Ďnewí Jonathan is, and how its going to affect our relationship.
If you can relate to any of this, is it any wonder that its so hard for us to lose weight and maintain a healthy goal? Is it really surprising that sometimes people say and do things to us that we see as unhelpful or negative? How do we reassure them (and ourselves!) that being thinner and healthier is actually a good thing for our lives together? Most importantly, how do we keep ourselves from avoiding all of this by simply going back to old habits and becoming overweight again?