Dieting ambiguity: Dealing with supporters who are saboteurs

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Family, friends, and media can both support and sabotage diets—And sometimes simultaneously!  Here are some ways to cope with diet ambiguity.

Have you noticed the women’s magazines that feature a 7 layer chocolate cake in the ad on the left page, and an article about the newest star diet (featuring said skinny star) on the right facing page? Talk about a mixed message!

Relatives are notorious for these double messages as well. On one hand my mother would say, “Eat, eat, I made this just for you” and then could turn about and in the next moment remark, “That dress looks a little tight. Have you gained some weight lately?” 

So let’s start out with the bad and downright ugly side of people-and-diets and then move on to the good that people can do for you while you are dieting.

Why your diet often gets sabotaged

The word sabotage comes from the Dutch word sabot. These were the wooden shoes that were thrown into factory machinery, when both jobs and lives were being destroyed during the Industrial Revolution. People were threatened by the new and wanted to return to the old. Stopping the machinery however they could was one way to register disapproval.

The same thing may happen on a smaller, more modern scale, when you announce you are going to go on a diet. Some folks might be uncomfortable with your diet if they themselves are overweight, and unwilling to make a life change. Or they may be threatened by how a ‘new you’ might change a present comfortable relationship.

Sabotage can come in a myriad of expected and surprising ways

1. “Just this once. It won’t hurt.” Eve and Pandora both learned the hard way on that one! You know that giving in to such an argument is the first step down a very slippery slope, and yet it is hard to resist.

 If you suspect that this one is coming, think up your answer ahead of time. Tailor your response to the situation you see coming:

  •  Sometimes bluntness is the only alternative with pushy people! With them you might chose to simply say “Yes, it will.” With a smile, of course.
  • At other times humor can save the day: “My dentist will thank you.”
  •  If all else fails, try delay tactics: “Thanks, but no thanks this time.”

 That last one may seem to open the door for future temptations, but in reality folks have very short memories when it comes to food. All they will remember is that you didn’t accept their offer.  But be persistent.  Each time you say ‘no thanks’ builds a firmer mental pathway in their social consciousness.

2. “Here, take just a taste.” Why do people do this? Who knows! 

If you can stop at one bite, take it. And then pause and take a breath. Remember that the very essence of taste is contained in the first bite or two. Lick your lips appreciatively, say, “Mmmm. Good!” and go no further. Your hips will thank you!

3. For the mom, who truly equates food with love, another tactic might be more successful. You want to retain her love and attention, just redirect how she shows it.

Sit her down when food is not present. Give her a big hug and say, “Mom, I want to be around to:

  • take care of you,
  • appreciate you a long, long time
  • present you with loving grandchildren
  • or, fill in your own good reasons! 

And then continue, “to do that I need to…” And here you fit in your diet plan. Finish by saying, “If I don’t take seconds, it’s not because I don’t love you, but because I do.” Be loving, gentle, and firm. 

Offer her alternative ways that she can show her love to you:  hugs, encouragement, telephone calls.  Emphasize that you need her in your life and appreciate her caring and concern.

4. On the media side, Late night TV is, of course, notorious for diet sabotage. One night I counted 25 food commercials between 8 and 10 pm!

Here are some ways to fight back:

  • hit the mute button,
  • make a pit stop,
  • walk up and down a flight of stairs
  • Do a stretching or breathing exercise
  • Or just stand up. 

Anything that will help break the cycle of passively taking in all those delectable visual cues will help. Remember the one minute rule and keep moving!

Remember that saboteurs fall into the ‘hit and run’ category of interactions.  If you have a good immediate response ready, their influence and temptations will be fleeting. Plan to be consistent but assertive with saboteurs. Wish them no ill, but be persistent.  If you do, your diet will be successful! 

Diet supporters come in all shapes and sizes

In contrast to saboteurs, you want to encourage all the supporters you can find into your life when you are on a diet.

Support for your diet can come through single individuals or in a group setting.  It can be face-to-face, passive (TV) or interactive (online). Bring them on!  They are all welcome!

1. For example, a diet is infinitely easier on the buddy plan. One of the best diet experiences I ever had was when my best friend and I did it together. 

We would call each other on a daily basis to share recipes, food tips, and commiserate when the scale was treacherous. Misery truly loves company!

 2. WeightWatchers has operated on the principle of group support for years. It is not just the dread of the weekly weigh-in, but also the camaraderie of the same group of people coming together that makes this strategy successful. TOPS has an excellent program in some areas of the country built on the same concept. 

3. Rather than group meetings, Jennie Craig, supports weight loss through one-on-one meetings. Here diet consultants weigh you in anonymously and then tailor their suggestions based on your own individual life goals.  The downside to their program, of course, is that you must buy their food to keep your diet going, and that can be a bit expensive.

3.Not surprisingly the Internet is also getting on this diet support bandwagon. Not only the paid-for-use sites such as WeightWatchers, but many others are offering interactive support during the dieting process. 

A daily check-in, motivational quotes, ways to track your weight loss are common benefits.  If you Google diet support groups you will find a chat rooms and forums that will help.

4. Reality TV can also be a source of support. Pair that with your TiVo or DVD recorder and you have a dynamite combination. Not only shows such as Dancing with the Stars (dance along) or the Biggest Losers can help motivate, but check out the diet related cooking shows and exercise programs, as well. All can provide needed motivation at no cost.

Strive for internal, self motivated focus 

When you are able to diet with an internal focus, rather than to please or give in to other people, support will be more readily available and sabotage will lose its power to sidetrack you from your hard-won diet goals.


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Dieting ambiguity: Dealing with supporters who are saboteurs
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About Author, Pegasus Quincy Mystery Series

I write a mystery series about a young rookie deputy on her first assignment in the Verde Valley of Arizona.
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