Are your friends holding you back?

When it comes to setting goals and aiming for improvements in any aspect of one’s life it is often necessary to make some sacrifices. That is, to replace certain bad behaviours with new more positive behaviours. So, not so much a sacrifice as a change of priorities.

Unfortunately, not everyone in your life will buy-in to your journey. There will be various reasons for this and in this blog I intend to cover a few of those reasons and why people might react negatively to your attempts rather than embracing your commitment to improvement.

Family support makes all the difference

In 2006 Jeong-Ok Yun and Ki-Nam Kim performed a study to analyse the importance of family support in relation to diet therapies for diabetics (1).  Unsurprisingly the participants who received the most support from their family showed the highest adherence and had the best blood glucose control.

Here’s an excerpt from the study:

Particularly patients with chronic diseases are very dependent on their family members and are influenced by their attitudes, (Jeong et al., 1985; Kan 1988), and thus family support has been reported to significantly influence the short-term or long-term recovery of patients with chronic diseases (Kaplan et al., 1977)

No surprise the areas where family members were the least helpful were when it came to reducing sugary foods, increasing fibrous foods and eating out. In other words a large portion of the subjects’ family liked junk foods and weren’t prepared to support the need for meals in line with the specific therapy.

The scowling co-workers

Of course, you may not be a diabetic or suffering from chronic disease but you are, no doubt, on a journey of your own. Whether that journey be weight loss, body composition or sports performance related you know that things get more complicated if your friends and family don’t understand your priorities.

We’ve all been in that situation, probably daily, where your co-workers comment on your packed lunch. You’ve gone to the trouble of preparing yourself a nice and simple spinach and avocado salad with tinned tuna and coconut rice (maybe not THAT but you get the picture) and you get snide remark and condescending looks.

“Oooh, THAT looks healthy”. Like, suddenly it’s weird to eat food which makes you feel good.

Of course, your colleagues are tucking into a bland sandwich, a sausage roll and packet of crisps from the local bakers or a slice of cold pizza. They know what they’re eating isn’t healthy and what you are is and they’re intimidated. That’s right, it’s the classic mentality of the bully, attack what you fear.

What you need to realise is that each time you walk in to the office looking leaner, fitter, healthier than you have in a long time and more than any of them ever will, it’s a stark reminder of how crap their own health is.

You, this beacon of restraint and motivation, are the reason these people feel like crap every day.

Of course, you’re not but they can’t blame themselves can they?

If it’s just co-workers, there’s not a lot you can do about it unless you change your job. So, unfortunately you have to ignore it. But, the good news is that you can leave these people at the office and take out your frustration on the leg press machine that evening, safe in the knowledge that you and them aren’t so different, with the only contrast being that you have the mental fortitude to improve your situation.

"You, this beacon of restraint and motivation, are the reason these people feel like crap every day".

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But what of friends and family?

What if this is coming from close friends or, worse still, family members?

What if your wife or husband is experiencing the same feelings as those co-workers and they are intimidated by your new found levels of awesomeness? If they aren’t being supportive there’s every chance that they are subconsciously trying to sabotage your goals because they are scared that you’ll no longer find them attractive and will start to look elsewhere for a new lover with ripped abs to match yours.

In this instance communication is the key. You will need to have a discussion about things. You may need to reassure them that you are doing this for you and that your health and fitness is an important priority in your life. Ask them to support you or, better still, ask them to join you and then they can share in your journey. If they can’t do either, ask them to accept it and agree for it to not come between you. Many couples refrain from discussing politics or religion; maybe you should refrain from discussing your food choices and training schedule.

As for friends, if your existing social circle don’t understand your need to eat well and train hard they’ll struggle to identify with your new found priorities.

The chances are that you will naturally start to build a new social circle anyway. You’ll start hanging out more and more with your gym buddies, your cycle team, your running club or whatever it is you’re involved with.

The best piece of advice seems obvious but you may be surprised how many people over look it. Talk, like you would with your partner. Tell your friends how important this is to you and how much you enjoy your new life.

The friends who matter will understand and will support you regardless, even if you no longer want to go out partying until sun-up with them every weekend. They’ll still be there for you because they’re a true friend and love and loyalty is more powerful than petty emotions like fear or jealousy.

The friends who don’t get it probably aren’t that close anyway, these are likely to be the toxic people who have been holding you back for too long and promoting the negative cycle of behaviours which got you into a position whereby you need to ‘do something about it’ in the first place.

Don’t stress about it, a lot of this will take care of itself. As you grow into your new life, you will naturally gravitate towards those people who either share your interests or those who understand its importance to you.

Real life isn’t like Facebook. You can’t just go through your friend list and delete a bunch of people because they keep sharing Britain First posts. But you can keep enough distance from certain individuals until they eventually find someone else to leech onto.

It doesn’t make you a bad person that you prioritise your health and your friends don’t. But it does mean that you might have bad friends if they don’t accept it.


  1. Relationships of family support, diet therapy practice and blood glucose control in typeII diabetic patients, Jeong-Ok Yun and Ki-Nam Kim