How to lose weight and keep your friends

Nobody likes a loser! Well maybe a few people do, but there are definitely some who don’t! Losers are scary. If you’re a loser, be prepared to have people fear you and shun you.

Loser, in the context of this blog, is the person who lost weight.

Losing weight may make the loser feel great, feel healthy, feel powerful, feel in control, in short, feel better than she’s ever felt in her life. That is great, but what about the people she loves, her friends and the people who work with her. How does her losing make them feel?

As humans we seek validation and approval. We’re basically herd animals.  Our herds are  typically people who are like ourselves in values, moral character, and behaviors and to some degree, size, shape, and gender. We belong together and it feels safe.

There is an order to the herd; everybody has a place within it. We all know how we fit in the herd and we like the status quo.

What happens when one member of a cozy, comfortable, safe group decides it’s time to change a few things in order to weigh less and maybe reduce health risks? It’s an unsettling shift, especially for anybody among the group who is overweight and may, from time to time, suffer feelings of inadequacy or even self-loathing.

Linda lost 97.3 pounds.

Her circle of friends were all a little to a lot overweight, but she was the heaviest member of the group. She was okay with her weight until a checkup revealed she was close to developing type 2 diabetes.

“I thought about losing weight and sometimes I start a diet I saw on the Dr. Oz show. I’d lose 10 or so pounds and lose interest. I gain the weight back before anybody ever even noticed I’d lost it!”

“When my doctor told me I was heading for diabetes, I got scared. There is a lot of type 2 diabetes in my family and my aunt even lost a leg because of the disease, so I got serious. I joined Weight Watchers” Linda said,

” At first nobody noticed. Nobody paid attention to what I what I was eating and on Fridays when we would go out to eat, nobody commented on what I ordered.”

That changed when Linda started to look thinner.

“After I lost the first 25 or 30 pounds, the girls started to ask me if I was losing weight. I admitted that I joined Weight Watchers  about 5 months ago because of my health. My friends seemed happy for me,” she said.

“Then, as I kept losing, things started to get a little weird.” Linda recalls that at first her friends were genuinely interested and supportive of her efforts. “They congratulated me and asked me a lot of questions about my food and exercise.”

“They seemed interested in losing weight too. A few even talked about joining Weight Watchers with me. Then there was a shift in attitude. Some just seemed to lose interest in my weight loss. That was fine, but there were a few who got cold, distant, and sometimes even a little nasty.”

Linda recalls seeing pictures of her friends all together on Instagram at their favorite pizzeria. Nobody even invited her. Linda was hurt and confused. When she asked one friend how come nobody told her they were going, she said, “we didn’t invite you because we didn’t want to mess up your diet with pizza.”

Linda thanked them for their consideration, but emphasized that she can go anywhere they go and stay on track.

When they kept excluding her, Linda started to think that it wasn’t about their being worried she’d blow her diet. Her friends just didn’t want her around anymore.

Why would your friends stop liking you for taking charge of your health and losing weight? Why does that bring out the hater is some people?

John Brubaker, productivity coach, says, “Criticism is self-hate turned outward. I believe hate is often a sign of weakness, envy and fear. Haters hate on you because you’re doing what they cannot, will not or are too afraid to attempt.”

Weight loss is definitely one of those things that a lot of people can’t seem to manage. They try; they fail; they try again. The more failed attempts, the more down on themselves they become, while their envy of successful losers turns toxic.

In a way people who lose weight take on a new identity.

All of a sudden acquaintances and strangers alike may treat them as though they’re smarter, more attractive, more disciplined, more assertive, and more ambitious. It’s not surprising that some friends may feel inferior and animosity towards the loser.

When Linda lost weight, she discovered that some of her friends resented her. It could be because when she weighed more than they did, it made them feel better about themselves. “I may be fat, but I’m not as fat as Linda.”

"Now that Ms. Skinny lost weight all she does is harp on how disgusted she is by what I eat."

“Now that Ms. Skinny lost weight all she does is harp on how disgusted she is by what I eat.”

Some of her friends may feel uncomfortable around her wondering if she’s judging their eating and activity behaviors. “Now that Linda is eating all that rabbit food, I feel like she is disgusted by my junk food habit.”

Maybe her friends say, “Linda used to like to binge watch Breaking Bad. Now all she ever wants to do is take walks.”

Maybe it’s a little of all of those things. People who feel guilty about their behaviors get defensive if a friend gets preachy.

Of course, the changes you made to your lifestyle and body excite you! They make your happy! You want to celebrate it and your friends should understand.

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Best practices for keeping friends:

  • Stay fun! Don’t try to turn every sedentary activity (i.e. dining out, going to the movies, playing cards) with your friends into a physical activity.
  • Avoid taking the moralistic, judgmental, self-righteous road. Their habits, however unhealthy they are, are none of your business and certainly nothing about which you should make comments!
  • Spare them the details! Listening to your endless blabbing about “healthy food” and/or how bad and fattening is “junk food” isn’t fun.
  • Remember your weight loss is your project! Don’t ask your friends to become your “diet cop,” especially if you’re going to get mad at them when they try to stop you from eating ice cream and cake at a birthday party. Take responsibility for yourself and leave them out of your weight loss actions.

Losing weight and keeping your friends is a 50/50 deal.

If you do your part to keep your friends and you find that some still seem to grow distant, then maybe you’re just finding out that those friends never really were “friends” in the first place.

Oh, and if you’re struggling with resentment because your friend has lost weight and you don’t want to put an strain on your relationship, here is a great article on how to let go of resentment!

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.