Ditch the fitness frenemies

It’s not just you — those around you can also contribute to your weight gain and lack of fitness. Dietitian Susie Burrell points to the main culprits to avoid when on a weight loss mission.

A few years ago, a landmark study found a powerful link between an individual’s weight and the weight of those closest to them. When the long-term study tracked the social connections of 15,000 participants who gained or lost weight, it became clear that fitness (or lack thereof) wasn’t random.

What researchers found was that groups of people would become obese or lose weight together. The study even showed that when just one participant became obese, his or her friends were 57% more likely to do so too!

These findings tell us one thing: we become like the people we spend our time with — and there is a huge range of influencers who may be playing a bigger role in your health than you might realise. If you’re trying to keep on track with your diet and lifestyle goals, here’s how to deal with the people in your life.

01 Friends

Simply put, if your friends regularly exercise and make healthy meal choices when eating out, you are far more likely to keep your weight under control too. Friends might even play a “feeder” role without realising it, where they encourage you to eat foods you don’t really want to. It’s important to be honest and transparent with those closest to you, and to be confident to stand up and say that you’re keen to stick to your diet, or look for active social engagements as you want to lose or control your weight.

02 Partner

Partners are notorious for playing a leading role in sabotaging their better half’s diets, especially when they don’t want to make healthy choices themselves. You need to be strong with this one, separating yourself from your partner, even preparing separate meals if you have to. Be honest: point out to them that bringing chocolates, tempting treats or alcohol home is not helpful, and actually quite selfish.

03 Colleagues

That we spend so many hours each week at work can be a disaster when it comes to dieting if our workplaces aren’t all that healthy. The combination of fundraising chocolates, regular birthday cakes, unhealthy vending machines and office feeders can be a disaster on your calorie intake. Avoid overeating at the office by planning ahead, taking your food in with you and getting used to saying no to the incessant feeders and bakers of the office.

04 Mother

For women in particular, the relationship they have with food has a lot to do with what their mum taught them. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of supposedly well-meaning mothers sabotaging diets. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to have an honest chat with your mum and ask her not to cook, buy or offer you foods you’re trying to avoid. If this kind of confronting conversation is not for you, you can always avoid meals with your mother and try and catch up over a coffee, a walk or at your home instead of hers so you can remain in control of your food options.

05 Family

When we’re in the presence of family, we often return to food habits we’ve had since childhood — the good as well as the bad. Then there are the family feeders, offering delicious, home cooked, diet-wrecking foods that are literally impossible to refuse. Where possible try to say no, especially to foods with zero nutritional value like snacks, lollies and chocolates. When eating extra food is inevitable, focus on portion control and bulking up your plate with veggies and salad where you can.

06 In-laws

Let’s face facts: if your mother-in-law wants you to eat, she will do everything in her power to make sure you do. It can be hard enough with your own family to say no, let alone saying no to your in-laws — especially in the early stages of a relationship. In busy social situations it can be easier to divert attention away from you, but when there’s only a couple of you, the easiest way to manage the situation will be to accept the food on offer. Eat slowly and mindfully to allow you to eat only as much as you want to.

07 Kids

Busy parents are guilty of forgetting to take care of themselves. Their diet tends to become a mix of the kids’ food, leftovers and anything they can get. Child-friendly restaurants and take away tend to serve only high-carb, high-fat fare. The easiest way to avoid all this is to ensure your nutritional needs are satisfied first. Choosing your cuisine first, packing your own snacks and eating your breakfast before the kids do is the easiest way to stay healthy. And the kids will be eating your healthy food too!