Losing weight can be hard enough, but it is even harder when your family is not helping. That person may be deliberately sabotaging you or unintentionally standing in the way of weight loss. Either way, their lack of support creates an extra obstacle to hitting your weight loss goals.
Who are these people? These are a few examples. It could be…
- A spouse who mainly eats foods that are not really conducive to your weight loss – say, meat and potatoes, or pasta-heavy meals – and, often, that you are responsible for cooking.
- Kids who are active and healthy, and who prefer typical kids’ foods, say, PB&J sandwiches, pizza, and potato chips.
- A significant other who often buys fast food or other prepared food – say, sandwiches or wings – and brings the leftovers home.
Asking for Help – Worth a Try
There are some standard strategies for getting them to help you out a bit. These include:
- Explaining why you want to lose weight and why you believe your plan will work.
- Asking about and addressing any concerns they have about your plans, such as if they are worried you will become too thin or that you will no longer love them if you lose weight and they do not.
- Being specific about how they can help, such as eating healthy meals with you sometimes or keeping problem foods out of the house.
If you have asked them to help you out and they refuse, it is time to forge ahead without them. It may be more challenging than you had hoped, but there are ways to make it easier.
Harder and Easier Strategies for Success Amidst Unsupportive Family Members
When dealing with weight loss when household members are unsupportive, these are some approaches that take a lot of effort and may be more exhausted than they are fruitful. We call these the more difficult approaches. Instead, there are some approaches that may get the same or better results, and may take a much lower emotional or physical toll.
Harder: Begging and Pleading
Easier: Setting an Example.
If you have already told them of your plans and asked them for help, and they have already refused, there is no point in continuing to beg and plead with them to change their minds. Instead, you just quietly do your healthy eating thing without worrying about them.
Idea: When you go out for coffee with them, don’t worry about their sugar-laden order. Instead, order a black coffee or another version without syrup, cream, and sugar for yourself.
Harder: Making Multiple Separate Meals
Easier: Making Modifications
An obvious solution if they want you to keep cooking them unhealthy meals is to make their meals plus make yourself a separate meal, but that can quickly become tiresome. The result can be giving up on weight loss entirely in favor of the convenience of just cooking one meal.
Instead, a few changes can let you make a single meal while keeping it healthy. This can work especially well when eating with children. For example, consider traditional spaghetti and meatballs. Swapping lean ground turkey for ground beef, whole-wheat spaghetti for regular, and pasta sauce with less sugar can keep it kid-friendly. Plus, when serving yourself, you can take a little less spaghetti and a little more sauce. It is a healthier dinner that works for everyone and takes no more effort!
Idea: Kids love do-it-yourself-ing, and that can work to your advantage when it comes to dinner time. Taco bars, pasta bars, sandwich bars, and pizza bars all involve setting out ingredients and letting each person put their own meal together. For your own plate, just be sure to add tons of vegetables and focus on high-fiber and high-protein options.
Harder: Going Hungry and Feeling Deprived
Easier: Satisfying Cravings and Hunger
This is a common dilemma that comes up if you are in the position of cooking for your significant other, who wants to eat foods that are not what you would consider to be good for weight loss. Think: steak and potatoes, chicken pot pie, and macaroni and cheese. It would not be that hard if you could sneak in some healthier ingredients, say, swapping pureed butternut squash for cream in the pot pie, but let’s say that nothing but the real thing will do. What then?
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. To a point. That is, it can balance out if you serve yourself a small amount the scrumptious, high-calorie, artery-clogging dish you cooked, but then fill up your plate with healthier foods. For example, that could include a small square of the lasagna that your significant other requested, plus a green salad that you made for yourself. Raw vegetables such as baby carrots or cherry tomatoes, and steamed fresh or frozen vegetables, are options that take almost no effort. It is always possible to cut dessert in half (if you are unwilling to pass it up altogether) and have it with berries or decaf coffee or tea to make it last longer.
Idea: If they want you to keep making steak and potatoes, cook a turnip instead of a potato for yourself so you can cut carbs.
Harder: Resisting Temptation
Easier: Swapping Temptations
Having junk food in the house is a tough one, whether the reason is that someone brings home restaurant leftovers or that there are kids who demand crackers, cookies, and other kid-friendly snack food. It can help to have alternatives to those foods that you can reach for instead. Celery sticks, baby carrots, air-popped popcorn, and blueberries can often do the trick when you have the munchies.
Idea: If they keep ice cream in the freezer, you can keep frozen banana chunks in front of the ice cream so that a healthy frozen treat is visible and accessible.
If you have already tried, and failed, to convince family members to support you, much less to follow your lead in healthy eating, there is no point in keeping up the fight. It might be exhausting and lead to tension in the household.
Instead, compromising may help. You may be able to sneak in healthy modifications, such as using ground turkey instead of ground beef in chili, or pureed turnip for half the mashed potatoes. Casseroles may include brown rice or whole-grain pasta instead of white, low-fat cream soup instead of full-fat cream, and extra spinach, onions, or cauliflower.
In exchange for these healthy concessions, it may foster goodwill to make a concession of your own. For example, going out to eat with them may help them understand that you eating healthier does not mean that you cannot go out with them anymore or that they cannot eat their favorite foods anymore. Almost every restaurant, even fast food ones, has choices that are healthy. While they order their favorites, you might look for lower-calorie choices such as grilled chicken, green salads, a piece of fresh fruit, or plain oatmeal.
Idea: Chicken or shrimp tacos, chicken with broccoli, thin-crust pizza with vegetables, and kids-sized burgers are widely available and are healthy and/or portion-controlled.
Harder: Holding It In
Easier: Letting It Out
If one or members of your household are not being supportive, having someone to vent to can reduce frustration. Do not be discouraged if you need to look outside your home for support. Evidence published in Obesity (Silver Spring) suggests that support from friends and coworkers can be important predictors of weight loss regardless of family support. Building up your support system can be an important part of your weight loss and healthy journey!
Idea: If you are starting to feel like the odd man out when you are eating healthy at home, a healthy-eating buddy may be the answer! Maybe a friend or coworker would be willing to share a healthy snack or lunch with you on a regular basis.
Losing weight can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and that’s not all. When you lose a few extra pounds, energy levels can increase, cholesterol and blood pressure can improve, and clothes fit better. Best of all is that Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) makes weight loss simple!
Lark doesn’t just know which choices can lead to weight loss. Lark coaches you on how to make good choices that can become habits. With small changes that fit right into your lifestyle, you can drop pounds and lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Your personal coach is available 24/7 through your smartphone so you can get expert tips, track meals, activity, and weight loss, earn celebratory badges, and even qualify for a free scale or Fitbit!
The entire program is free to you if your health insurer participates. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark! You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to hitting your weight loss goals and improving health.