A very good friend of mine has lost 50 pounds. He eats healthy and follows an intermittent fasting plan. He runs 5k every couple of days, blending in a 1-mile run/2-mile walk on alternate days, and does plyometrics at home.
Partly that's because health and fitness can play a major role in success. Cardiovascular exercise improves memory and cognitive skills. Exercise improves your mood. Exercise is an effective tool for managing stress and anxiety. Side benefits like greater perseverance, resilience, determination, and mental toughness are just as important.
And if that's not enough, my friend looks better. He feels better. And as a result of his weight loss and improved fitness, his doctor has taken him off cholesterol and pre-diabetes medications.
What's more, he's kept up his exercise routine -- and kept the weight off. Which makes him something of a unicorn: According to a number of studies, "Long-term weight loss happens to only the smallest minority of people."
Losing weight is hard... but keeping the weight off is even harder. Why?
According to research, the people around you make it really tough.
"Altered weight management behaviors (particularly healthy eating) can threaten others' face," the researchers say, which in non researcher-speak means other people tend to criticize those actively trying to lose weight.
Other research shows that two-thirds of women aged 25 to 55 who have dieted or are trying to lose weight say those closest to them--including spouses and friends--actually undermine their attempts.
For example, here are things I overheard people say to other people just in the last week or so:
- "Really: What difference will a few pounds make?"
- "It used to be fun to go out to lunch with you."
- You shouldn't diet at home; you're sending the wrong message to your kids."
And the most common one of all:
- You're just going to gain it all back."
According to researchers, the last comment is particularly prevalent. "People experience a 'lean stigma' after losing weight," they write, "such as receiving snide remarks about healthy eating habits or having people tell them that they're going to gain all of the weight back."
So if other people make it hard for you to stick to your diet and exercise plan and keep the weight off, what can you do?
One way is to create a support system around you that outweighs (pun intended) any snide comments from friends or colleagues.
Take Randy. He's not the only one who has lost weight -- his wife has lost over 40 pounds. "That's been a key," he says. "Having someone equally invested and focused."
She picks him up when he's struggling. He does the same for her. Their athlete son also pays close attention to how he fuels his body. That makes eating healthy meals -- especially when they eat out -- natural and nearly automatic.
Just like it's hard when you're in a group and be the only one trying to eat healthy... it's also hard when you're in a group to be the only one that does not. As Jim Rohn said, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
Then, when you do get snide comments, focus on how you respond. If you're asked why you're eating a certain way, don't be judgmental. Don't respond in a way that reflects even a tiny bit of your choices back onto the other person. Be self-deprecating rather than preachy.
Just say, "Eating this way makes me feel better." Say, "I'm kinda surprised, but exercising has given me more energy." Say, "My cholesterol is a little high and that worried me."
In short, keep it simple -- and keep the focus, in a humble way, on you.
When you do, you may find that the people around you become more supportive. Whether it's weight loss, or building a career, or starting a successful business... most people want to help others achieve their goals. (And if someone doesn't, that person doesn't belong in your life.)
And you may find that the people who started off making snide comments... end up asking you for advice on how they can lose weight and get fitter.
Which will make your support system even bigger.
Can't beat that.