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How to Handle Sabotage
Learn how to say "no"
Losing weight is never an easy walk in the park, but when you have to deal with sabotage from others it's more like a hike up Mount Everest. It's difficult enough when you talk your own way out of exercising and into a big piece of cheesecake, but when someone else does it for you, how are you supposed to react?
Recognising sabotage and learning to respond to it effectively are crucial for successful and permanent weight control.
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Are you being sabotaged?
When you first tell people you’re going to lose weight, chances are you get a response something along the lines of: "But you’re great just the way you are!" While that’s kind, and probably well-intended, it would be more helpful for you to hear something like: "Well, I like you however you are, but I’m glad you want to make some changes and take better care of yourself. What can I do to help?" When someone says, instead, that you should "quit worrying about your weight and eat another slice of chocolate mud cake," they are - intentionally or not - sabotaging your goals.
Sabotage can be understood as anything anybody says or does to actively discourage you from achieving your weight-loss goals. A “saboteur” can be anyone – from your spouse, to your mother, to a colleague.
Why people “commit” sabotage
Eat! I made these especially for you
When people sabotage your goals it's usually because they are uncomfortable with the changes you're making and don’t like to have their comfort zone threatened. We all exist in our own comfort zones, where the predictable behaviour of others makes us feel secure. When someone changes, it threatens that comfort zone. Our natural reaction to that threat is to want – consciously or not – to stop the change that caused it, and the result is sabotage. When people want us to be "just the way we were" they tend to say things like:
Sabotage can also stem from a lack of knowledge, a lack of empathy or simple jealousy at your determination to improve your body and health.
Why you shouldn't listen
Don't listen to the cheesecake... or anyone who says you have to eat it
If sabotage has been making you think things like "Maybe they’re right. Why should they have to change what they do? I’m the one with the problem," or "It’s not fair to put my needs before theirs," or "I don’t want them to be upset with me," then you need to challenge your thoughts.
Think about it - if you choose to eat a carrot stick instead of a chocolate chip biscuit, how does that burden anyone? And perhaps those around you could also do with some healthy changes anyway.
Understandably, you don't want to upset anyone too much. Dealing with sabotage isn't always easy or comfortable, and you may look for reasons to avoid the problem. You may be hesitant to speak up for yourself because of your own uncertainty, or fear that you will displease others. But remember that if you easily concede to discouragement from your goals you won’t reach them.
On another level, each time you say "yes", when you mean "no", you might create a passive anger within yourself. That passive anger boomerangs in the form of guilt and depression. When you are angry, depressed, or feeling guilty, your resolve and ability to maintain new lifestyle changes is significantly compromised.
Turning sabotage into support
Explain to others why their support is important to you
Losing weight and changing your lifestyle is difficult; you need all the support you can get. So when you encounter sabotage, resolve to make friends, not enemies. It’s better not to flare up and battle every time sabotage rears its ugly head. Battles and hostile confrontation create stress, and stress makes it difficult to lose weight, both psychologically and physiologically. Instead of knee-jerk reactions, explain to the saboteur why you need to avoid certain foods and situations right now. You don’t need to shove good eating habits down anyone’s throat, so to speak, but actually sitting down and explaining to a person why you are serious about losing weight can be very effective.
If others are still resistant to your change of lifestyle, then educate them as to why healthy eating and exercise is good for everyone. At all times be assertive, but not aggressive or obnoxious. And if you refuse food, make sure people understand you are not rejecting them personally! You are just rejecting their offer of food.
If, after all your efforts, you still can't get the support you want, be firm in your own resolve. You are not the problem. The problem is the need in others to maintain the status quo or control.
Five effective ways to respond to sabotage
Sabotage can come from anywhere at any time. Here are some of our best tips for handling sabotage in various situations:
If you’re at the office make sure you are prepared for the onslaught of available confectionery, mid-morning treats, and vending machines by filling up before you go to work. If you eat a good breakfast, you are less likely to succumb to oversized muffins and calorie-loaded chocolate! You can also keep healthy, low-fat snacks in your bag, briefcase, or drawer to thwart temptation.
If you’re cornered by one of those over-bearing types who absolutely insists on shoving another plateful of deep-fried spring rolls down your throat, or dishes you up a mountain of dessert without even asking if you want any, then say “no” decisively. There are hundreds of ways you can say no: "No, I’m full, thanks," "No, the doctor says I have to watch my cholesterol," "No thanks, it’s too late for me to eat sugar, I won’t sleep," "No thanks, if I eat another morsel, I will throw up on the tablecloth!" If saying no just doesn’t work, and the food is still plunked down in front of you, be strong in your resolve; leave the food there and don’t eat it. You might feel a bit rude, but let’s face it, a person who simply refuses to listen to you is ruder!
If your spouse is showing “support” (yeah right) by stocking the fridge with your favourite beer, cheesecake, pizza and ice cream and then eating them in front of you, don’t explode! Explain why a healthy weight and lifestyle are important to you now. Who knows, he or she may decide to join you. At the least you can ask him or her to respect your decisions. If talking really doesn’t work, stick to your resolve and remove yourself from the situation, if you can.
If you have the kind of “helpful” friend who is constantly barraging you with pointless criticism, simplistic solutions for weight loss, and nosy questions about your food plan, try saying something like: "Actually, my approach to weight loss is working out well for me at the moment, but thanks anyway." That ought to get the “butt out!” point across, without sounding too harsh.
If you want to say "yes" because the fries just smell soooo good, or because someone is waving plates of tasty treats under your eyes, or because you don’t want to upset whoever made the triple-chocolate-cream layer cake, have your refusals ready. Say "No" even if you aren’t thinking it. For example:
Sabotage from anyone is painful and difficult, and it's particularly tough when it comes from those who you expect to be loving and supportive. When others sabotage you, remember that the problem lies with them and not you. Stay strong in your resolve and say "no" - your health and waistline may depend upon it!
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Last updated: November 14th, 2007
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