Sticking to a weight-loss plan is hard enough without the onslaught of night out invites and homemade treats from your loved ones. Intentionally or not, your friends, family and co-workers can have a huge impact on your weight loss, because they have the power to influence everything from your diet and fitness regime to your self-esteem. This can be a great if they’re cheering you on, but the danger arises when this influence is applied adversely.

The problem may be that your friends don’t want you to lose weight, you're in change mode (and excited to be there), but your friends and family aren't. Even if your friends are fully supportive of your goals, your weight loss probably isn't the first thought when they host a dinner party or order another round of drinks at the bar. In most cases, your friends and family aren’t maliciously trying to undermine your diet, but their actions are unconsciously doing so by trying to keep the dynamics the way it is. This problem tends to manifest itself in several ways:

The first is a form of bullying. Because social occasions with friends often revolve around temptations (food and alcohol), a positive change in behaviour for one member of the group can highlight the extravagant behaviour of the rest, and it can be easier to joke at the expense of someone else rather than to confront that they might need to lose weight or change their behaviors themselves. You will often have at least one friend saying things like "You're no fun anymore" or "What's the big deal about one scope of ice cream. Didn't you work out today?"; and in a moment of weakness, this kind of peer pressure can really derail your weight loss efforts, as for many, the teasing you back to normal sabotage is often easier. It’s all too easy to chalk this up as friendly banter, but banter can be harmful. When your friends are mocking you for ordering a salad at the steakhouse or struggling to do your first sit-up, they’re bullying you.

The second, slightly less obvious way in which your friends can ruin your diet is misplaced encouragement. This is where your friends, seemingly with their hearts in the right place, belittle your lifestyle choices by insisting that having dessert won’t hurt you, and if it starts a binge that ends in weight gain, unfortunately, that's secretly okay with those friends like. They may also try telling you with unwavering certainty that you need to do a certain diet or exercise, like running even when you hate it or you won’t stand a chance. The problem is that these friends would rather weigh in with their own opinions of they know best and be “problem-solvers”, rather than be supportive good listeners.

Finally, there is just pure-and-simple apathy. It’s unlikely that your friends will consciously aim to sabotage your efforts, but the bottom line is that people don’t like change and will usually do anything to maintain the status quo. As well, others who've never had a weight problem can't understand why you don't go back to eating normally once that you've lost weight (even when you haven’t reached your goal yet); as they feel they’ve suffered enough with all the changes, and they want this to be over.

So if you find that your friends are teasing you for the rabbit food on your plate, or for cutting down on the wine and treats, it’s important that you understand their motives. Once you realise that this behaviour says more about them than it does you, you’ll be able to look at ways to move past it, and not let them disrupt your goals.

One way to address the situation is to be upfront with your friends. When you're feeling calm, tell your friends you'd like their support. To explain what you mean, give them examples of recent behavior that wasn't helpful or was hurtful. Then spell out what you want them to do differently, like offering to stay in more to spend time together, going out to places that offer healthier menus, stop forcing food on you when you have already declined, etc. This conversation may be uncomfortable but your honesty will hopefully make them rethink their actions.

In some cases there are some downright brutal diet saboteurs who will work to undermine you no matter what. They may pressure you to eat the way they do in order to remain part of a group, by not-so-subtly implying that you're no friend if you don't. You may have to avoid them for a while or find less toxic friends.

In the end, you have to do what is best for you and your goals. You’re not always going to see eye to eye with your friends on everything, if they are otherwise good friends, maybe you have other shared interests. There's more to life than food and workouts, so just look elsewhere for support in your weight loss goals, otherwise you may need to re-evaluate the relationship.


”Not feeling accepted can be a symptom of not accepting yourself. Don’t seek the attention of others. Find your own approval.”

~Jerry Corsten