Developing a strong support system is an essential component for reaching many of your life goals. Your partner, family, friends and peers all form and influence the dynamics of your social network. Some may offer instrumental, informational and emotional support, while others may unintentionally distract or deter you from conquering your goals. The latter can be a difficult situation to navigate since we all heavily depend on the support of those closest to us, especially as it pertains to living a healthy lifestyle.
In this post, we will explore possible reasons behind the lack of support as well as how to circumvent these difficulties during your fitness or weight loss journey.
Most of us can attest to the fact that in all relationships – whether it be professional, familial or platonic – communication is essential. Your wellness journey is a process that may influence some of these dynamics as a result of the lifestyle changes you incorporate along the way to adopting a healthier lifestyle.
Be specific when communicating personal needs to your support system. Clearly explain how they can encourage and nurture you throughout the process.
Be transparent with each member of your support system and share the “why” behind your decision to make positive lifestyle changes towards becoming a healthier you.
Be open and honest about your struggles.
Be vocal about your end goals and how you plan to achieve them.
Do it alone…initially.
One very important component of our social support network includes family. Although many of us strive to create an ideal ‘fit family,’ it can be difficult to get everyone on board initially. For example, if you receive some pushback from your spouse or kids, try to cook separate meals for yourself until they become more comfortable with and supportive of your healthy lifestyle changes.
Explain why certain food choices are healthier and how they impact the body. For instance, describe how the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables (vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients) help you grow “big and strong” or how overindulging in sweets can make you feel exhausted and feeble. This allows your children to connect what they eat to how they feel. Then, gradually incorporate healthier meal options for the whole family and serve less portions of their favorite “unhealthy” foods.
If your significant other has yet to express interest in accompanying you on your fitness journey, it’s OKAY!
Be careful not to make him/her feel bad for not changing their lifestyle, too, as this could cause some friction. Furthermore, social support does not necessarily imply adopting a fitness journey by adhering to a similar workout plan or consuming the same healthy meals as you – there are many other ways your partner can provide positive reinforcement along the way. Eventually, your partner will get on board. Once they begin to see behavioral modifications and results, he/she will become a proud witness in your story to becoming the best version of yourself.
*For more information and tips to incorporate the entire family into your healthy lifestyle, check out this blog post.
Don’t take it personal.
This may be a hard pill to swallow, but there are some individuals who will not necessarily back us every step of the way during our fitness journeys. More often than not, these reasons have nothing to do with us. Your healthy lifestyle may bring out feelings of insecurity or guilt from these persons, and in turn, these feelings may be projected onto you. This could surface in the form of sabotaging your efforts by bringing unhealthy foods around you in the home, refusing to accompany you in your healthy eating efforts, criticizing you for eating healthy or engaging in regular physical activity, etc.
In all likelihood, the lack of support we are receiving from our social network may actually be perceived and misconstrued by…us. Perhaps your friends or family members do not know how to properly articulate or demonstrate the verbal and behavioral support you need, and therefore restrain from or withhold offering any feedback at all. Your loved ones may also need time to adjust to your new lifestyle, especially if they expect you join them regularly for happy hour or go see a movie instead of attending your scheduled gym time.
And then, there are those dear family members who express their love with food. This is why it is so important to be direct and precise when expressing your desire to be supported.
Generate a positive mindset.
Center your focus on creating a meaningful health journey by setting goals such as improving heart health, healthy aging, disease prevention, etc. that help promote an overall positive sense of well-being. Numbers on the scale are helpful in measuring our progress. However, your size/weight is not the only indicator of good health and can actually contribute to destructive thoughts if your progress is not advancing how you had expected or hoped it would.
Celebrate each victory.
Avoided those fresh donuts at the office? Lasted an extra five minutes on the elliptical? Only ate half of that large pizza when you normally (and really wanted to) eat the entire pie all by yourself? These are all major strides towards achieving a successful and healthy lifestyle! Progress is progress – no matter how big or small the step may be.
People are generally motivated in two ways: extrinsically and intrinsically. Extrinsic motivation comes from an external source, such has getting down to a specific size in time for a high school reunion. Intrinsic motivation stems from within. For instance, your motivation for getting fit depends on your inner ambition and provides a sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction. These individuals tend to focus on improvement in mood, self-esteem and energy. By drawing more from your innermost self, you have a greater chance of achieving lasting, long-term results.
What are some ways you stay strong against peer pressure in your weight loss journey?