Relationships get stressed and tested when we make sweeping, large, epic lifestyle changes.
I know that this is not new news.
Our friends can help and support and be our biggest fans. And they can hurt us and challenge us.
Beyond the ‘how do I get motivated to start?’ question — questions about managing friendships and the tensions created with food, diet and exercise are a close second.
Fractures in friendships are serious, heart-wrenching stuff. Especially if they occur during a time where we are actively trying to create changes and make things better for ourselves.
This blog question is from someone I have never met:
‘I think I am going to have to ‘divorce’ my friend.
It is either my health or her friendship. I have lost a good amount of weight, with much more to lose. I am pre-diabetic.
She shows up to my house weekly with candy and homemade junk food for my kids. I’m trying to set a better example for my kids AND I can’t have that crap around my house.
I have asked her to NOT bring it into my house. She always agrees. Then she shows up with goodies for the kids and says ‘this is the last time…’
She doesn’t understand that she isn’t the one I am going to pick if she really forces me to choose…
What do I do? Did you ever experience this?’
In case you think she is alone, I also get asked:
‘My friend is my biggest supporter. We’ve each lost a bunch of weight. Now she’s stalled and I am still losing weight… Things are tense.” (I get asked the reverse of this as well; ‘I’m stalled and battling jealousy’.)
‘My friend keeps trying to sabotage my eating plan.’
‘My friend keeps making mean remarks about what I eat/don’t eat.’
Anyone reading these comments will probably think one of three things:
- That has TOTALLY happened to me!
- I would NEVER do something that hurtful to any of my friends.
- Are people really that mean?
This kind of thing has very likely happened if you have made ANY kind of significant lifestyle change. Perceptions and interactions with our friends change because something in our life changes to shift the balance/focus/dynamic. There is a learning curve involved for everyone. Some handle it better than others.
And you HAVE done this kind of crap to your friends when they were succeeding at something and you were NOT. You can sit there shaking your head at me… But you have. We somehow feel threatened by someone elses success or determination or bravery. We have all done some version – subtle or overt – of NOT supporting a friend who is in the midst/grip of a lifestyle change. We have ALL been ‘that’ friend at some point, no matter how hard we tried not to be.
People can be mean. Especially when they are hurt, cornered, scared, defeated, embarrassed or jealous… And people who KNOW us are some of the most capable of inflicting deep wounds. I try to remember that meanness often comes from a place of hurt; damn near impossible to remember when you are the target. But meanness is actually about THEM, not about me/you.
When it comes to forging a new, healthy path you might find yourself having to draw a line in the sand (or build a brick wall!) to protect yourself and what you are working towards…
Even with friends.
What happens when that line gets crossed, muddied, disrespected, trampled on?
The growth, death or transformation of our friendships is very much a natural part of all the change that occurs and that we create with a major lifestyle overhaul.
Being told change is natural is something we can grasp intellectually.
But understanding all of the dynamics involved in changing friendships as it plays out in real-time, in our lives, is a whole other story…
What happened with my friendships over the 3.5 years of this journey?
I still have many of my same friends. Honest. I was AMAZED to discover how many of my relationships were based entirely on food. We have since found other ways to value, grow and enjoy our friendship.
I am blessed to have a small handful of close friends who are actively a part of this never-ending journey. Some old, some new. But ALL, without ANY exceptions are 100% supportive of the new lifestyle I have built. It’s a tight and intimate circle of folks that I can count on one hand.
There are some friends that are no longer a part of my life. The relationships simply and quietly went away for a variety of reasons. We drifted apart. We just let it happen.
Finally, and the part most folks are really curious about… A few friends said mean things, were openly not supportive or were creating problems. Actions and words spoke loudly and clearly.
The result was TOUGH conversations and severing of contact that was purposeful.
I struggled HARD with how to handle the friendship-ending issues.
I always want to protect and preserve friendships to the extent possible. I don’t take friendships for granted or throw them away.
The conclusion I finally reached was that to preserve the friendship in each of these cases would be to sacrifice in some way, shape or form what I was trying to do to reclaim my health.
A friend would NOT ask me to make that kind of sacrifice.
In a confused sort of way, they actually helped me make the hard decision.
I saved the best for last. 🙂
I have more than my fair share of stalwart and solid friends who have been on this crazy adventure with me. I lucked out. I know it.
They’re doing the hard work right beside me.
They coach me through eating ONE serving of dark chocolate – and not the whole bar the first time I ventured out to try to add chocolate back into my diet after 3.5 years.
They guard the bushes and trails while I jump off the path to… uh… get close with nature.
They meet me at the gym at o’dark thirty to lift weights with a smile on their face.
They find places to eat that make food choices easy for me. And they enjoy it as much as I do.
They remind me of where I was a year/two years ago — and not-at-all-gently remind me to STOP COMPARING anything to anyone other than my old self.
THOSE actions speak so loudly; you can’t even even hear the words. 🙂
I know there were rough spots over the past few years with some folks who grabbed my attention for a short while; but all along my heart has belonged to this tribe of people who seem as committed to my success as I am.
They’re my friends.
I’m lucky to have them.
They have made all the difference in my world.