How many times have you tried to keep to your nutrition plan, yet heard remarks from colleagues, friends or family members concerning your food choices?
“Come on, live a little! It’s just one bite!” “You don’t need to be so healthy, it is alright to have a cheat day once in a while!” “Oh you poor thing, how can you enjoy that sort of food?”
A Common Occurrence
The above are a sample of the types of remarks that many clients face. While this is a common occurrence, it is often not something that most actively plan for; I made this mistake myself when I was just starting out.
When I first started my fitness journey, it wasn’t easy as I would be experimenting with different recipes and foods to cook, especially since I had to watch what I ate due to my previous diagnosis of lupus SLE. The truth was, it was really exciting for me learning to cook and prepare my own meals, and doing this as part of the fitness journey and lifestyle.
Despite all this, I always had my elders commenting on the food I was eating on an almost daily basis. Every time a comment was made about how ‘sad’ I must have been to be eating so healthily, I had to go through the whole explanation of how the food was not only tasty, but also beneficial for my health and enabled me to do the things I wanted to do by providing me with energy and moving me towards my goals. This grew to be very tiresome and at its worst, caused plenty of friction in my relationship with my loved ones.
I eventually made it out of that situation by taking active steps to help set up my social support system, but more on that later.
The Biggest Obstacle
The truth is, one of the biggest but least often talked about hurdles in the weight loss journey is having the right social support system in place. In our decade of helping clients on their weight loss journeys, finding the right support system was often the difference between their success and failure.
Let us be real; in order to lose weight, you will need to tax the body physically to cause it to change and adapt. This is already strenuous enough on the body, but without the right support system in place, this can feel ten times harder.
It has been well documented in the research that having friends or family members who are supportive of your healthy eating and exercise goals is important for health and fitness success. In fact, this can be extended beyond the realm of nutrition and fitness to other fields of interest.
Willpower is Limited
To be fair, for weight loss and any sort of healthier eating plan, the guidelines will generally include to steer away from relatively rich food or include some degrees of restriction. For example, the keto diet limits your carbohydrate intake from starchy and sugary sources. This in itself causes some stress to the individual’s mentally.
This is not as commonly known, but willpower is actually a finite resource. Every day, you start with your willpower tank at a certain level. Every decision you make however small, depletes this tank. Some of the trivial stuff, like what you should have for your meals, or which clothes to wear, probably don’t require much willpower, but they can still deplete your tank sizeably if you let them. As you move on through your day and deal with bigger decisions relating to work or family, the tank depletes further.
What happens when your tank hits empty? You end up making terrible decisions. The truth is, for the modern professional, the tank often hits empty before dinner comes round, and the result is often a deviation from any sort of eating and nutritional plan. Given that most in our society today don’t get enough sleep as it is, it would seem most of us have willpower tanks that are already half empty when the day starts.
What makes it even worse is that almost every active decision you make drains this willpower tank, even the ones where you have to choose to explain yourself – as in my example above where I constantly had to explain to my elders as to why my choices in food differed so greatly from what they were used to.
What can you do then to start setting up your environment for success?
Setting Up Your Support System
While there are plenty of tips and tricks for setting up your environment for success (we’ll cover this in future articles), we often suggest starting from the social support system first. This is because the reality for most of our clients, and those that are starting any sort of fitness journey is that they will constantly be grilled and questioned by loved ones, friends and family alike.
Social Support comes in 3 ways:
- Practical – someone that helps you practically (ie. For some clients, it’s a parent helping to watch their child so they can get in that extra exercise time)
- Inspiring – someone that continually encourages you to stick to your plan (ie. For most, this would generally be their romantic partner or closest buddy that helps them stay accountable)
- Emotional – someone that is there to listen to your rantings when you feel discouraged or uncomfortable through this process of change (ie. For most, this would be their closest friend to whom they would be comfortable expressing their frustrations with)
The 3-Step Plan to Setting Up Your Social Support System
Here’s a simple 3 step plan that we have used to help our clients with setting up their emotional support system.
Step 1: Choose who among your closest friends and family would fit in the 3 categories above.
The first thing you need to do is decide who you want in your corner. Often times, this means choosing the people closest to you that are not afraid to tell you the truth and who will keep you accountable to the plan set up. Many times, these individuals you choose can cover multiple areas of support. For example, romantic partners often end up providing good emotional and practical support.
A good tip for this is to ensure that you choose those that you interact with often and keep within your close circle.
Step 2: Take the time to explain to them about the plan you have. Explain to them that this is what you want to achieve for yourself and how it will make you function as a better partner to them in your relationship.
This is often the hardest step, as it requires you to be as clear about your goals and how it will mutually benefit the relationship that you share with your chosen support partners. This does take some active effort to bring your point across, but when done correctly, almost guarantees that the other individual will be right there in your corner, willing and excited to see your own transformation.
This step is hard because sometimes those closest to you can be the most unsupportive, albeit unintentionally. In fact, it is very common for a partner to feel threatened as you change some of the habits in your lifestyle. This is because changing your behaviours also challenges their status quo, and this gives them some degree of discomfort. Throughout this process, it will take an active effort to remind your loved ones that while you’re changing your lifestyle, you’re not changing your feelings for them.
This step ties in very tightly with step 3, and it is often that you will need to go back and forth between step 2 and 3 throughout the process of change.
Step 3: Explain to them how specifically they can support and help you
Once you have overcome step 2, you will need to give them specific instructions on how they support you in your plans to change your lifestyle. When they know exactly what they need to do to help you, it will be easier to work towards it. They will also have a tangible reference point to work with on reconciling their own feelings towards these changes that you are trying to incite in your life.
Your social support system is super important as it is the closest form of support that you will have. With the right environment and support, the weight loss journey can be a seamless one, enriching your life as you go along!
If you have any questions on setting up your social support system, or are looking for help to start your weight loss journey, ask us here or drop them in the comments below.
If you are looking for some help starting off on the right foot with your fitness, click here to check out our friends over at Elevate 360 Fitness, and book in your consultation!