Friends and family: How to deal with diet saboteurs

Don't let those closest to you unravel your weight-loss plan. Stay on course in any situation with this advice.

Often, the people you spend the most time with — your family, friends and co-workers — may create high-risk eating situations for you. This could be an intentional attempt to undermine your weight-loss effort from a jealous friend or sibling, or it could be unintentional because many people don't understand how difficult it is to eat healthy on a consistent, ongoing basis. To stay focused on your goals, you need to know how to manage negative influences in your social circles. Review these scenarios and make a plan for the next challenge a potential saboteur presents.

Scenario: Your spouse surprises you by bringing home your favorite dessert.

Your response: Stay cool. Thank your spouse for thinking of you, and then remind your loved one that you are adopting healthier eating habits and don't need any food treats right now. Ask that the dessert be put somewhere you won't see it. If you can work it into your meal plan, divide the treat into multiple portions. If this scenario happens more than once, throw away the food treats — and be sure to tell your spouse that inedible gifts, like flowers, are the appropriate surprises for you.

Scenario: Friends expect you to continue with the group's eating traditions, such as beer and appetizers after work, junk food while watching sporting events together or regular stops at your favorite ice-cream shop.

Your response: Take the lead in scheduling nonfood activities, such as a game of badminton or bocce ball. Invite your friends to your house so that you can serve some of your favorite healthy foods. Ask for their help as you lose weight, and make it clear that your decision to change eating habits is not meant as a criticism of them. Let them know that you value their friendship and that their support for your healthy lifestyle changes is very important to you.

Scenario: Your family refuses to eat the new, healthier meals you're preparing.

Your response: First, take it slow. Don't change the whole menu overnight. As you introduce new foods, remind your family how important it is for all of you to take better care of yourselves. Healthy eating is more than weight management; it can improve the energy level and quality of life for everyone. Tell your family that you're managing your weight in part for them, so you can be a healthier, happier person. Invite them to suggest some healthy foods or recipes to try.

Scenario: Your best friend surprises you with a birthday party, complete with a table of tempting treats.

Your response: Express your amazement and pleasure at the thoughtful gesture. Comment on the visual appeal of some of the foods (you're giving praise without taking a bite). Slowly sip a glass of water with a lemon slice. Then, before visiting the food table, decide what and how much you're going to eat. Keep portions small, nibble slowly and occupy yourself with something else — chatting with friends, introducing people who don't know one another or getting groups together to take photos. Finally, congratulate yourself on managing a high-risk situation! After the event is over, talk to your best friend about ways to truly support you.

Your turn! Think of how your support people can help you in your journey: Can they provide emotional support by simply letting you vent or offering encouragement? Or can they provide practical support and go for a walk with you? Talk to your friends and family and ask for their help. Then identify your most-challenging scenarios with family and friends. Think through your best responses and strategies, and store them for future use. We can all benefit from support in our weight-loss journeys.

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