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Navigating Health Goals When People Around You Aren’t Supportive

Published on: June 16, 2024

Trying to lead a healthier lifestyle can be tough, right? It’s even tougher when the people around you aren’t exactly on the same page. Maybe your roommates love junk food, your family prefers the couch to the gym, or your office is filled with endless trays of donuts and candy bowls. You’re not alone in this struggle. Here are some tips on how to keep your health goals on track, even when your environment feels like it’s working against you.

Firstly, stop using other people as your excuse! I’ve heard it before…”it’s my husband’s fault I’m fat” (replace husband with partner, roommate, parents, kids, coworkers, friends, etc.). 

You set your good intentions and then he comes home with fast food, chips and snacks, suggests going to get ice cream, etc. And you can’t say no…

It’s really easy to blame others for tempting us to eat foods we don’t want to eat or that we’re trying to limit. 

Reality check: you can’t make anyone do anything. You can’t put your willpower into someone else, especially if you know that having a balanced lifestyle isn’t one of their priorities. And you can’t stop them from eating what they want to eat, even if it doesn’t align with what you want to eat.

I know, it blows 👎🏻

Some people think that a meal plan will help solve this issue, that they’ll stick to it and reach their nutrition goals. But in reality, your environment always wins. Temptations will always be there. It’s life. Don’t beat yourself up that you’re not strong enough to say no.

So what to do about it?

1. Set Clear Intentions and Boundaries

First things first, get crystal clear on what you want to achieve. Write down your health goals and the steps you need to take. Like ACTUALLY write it down. Just thinking about it isn’t concrete enough and you will forget it. Just like going to the grocery store with a list in your head vs. having it on paper.

Once you’ve got that clarity, communicate it to the people around you. Let them know why these changes are important to you. A simple, heartfelt conversation can go a long way.

Boundaries might feel awkward at first, but they’re crucial for your progress. Oftentimes, it’s simply communicating openly how much you want to make changes. And invite them on how they can help. If they see and understand why you’re trying to change, they may be more willing to help rather than unknowingly hinder your efforts. 

“Hey, I’m really trying to cut back on sugar for my health. I’d appreciate it if we could keep fewer sweets around the house.” 

“I want to go eat out tonight but I don’t want to overdo it. If I order chicken fajitas with a side salad, will you let me have a few of your fries so that I can get my craving out of my system but still feel satisfied?” 

“Will you come to the gym once with me this week, or can we pick 1 active activity to do each week instead of sitting in front of the tv?”

It’s totally normal for wanting to be upset that your partner brought home a bag of chips after you said no chips in the house, but deep down feeling excited to eat them and guilty at the same time. 

Having an honest conversation with the people you live with is a good start. They may not realize how much their choices are affecting your choices, and you never know, maybe as a team you can start making positive changes to your eating habits together! Find habits you can both get on board with. 

On the other hand, just like how you don’t all have the same interests in life, taste in music, or fav genre of books, you can go your separate ways when it comes to your habits. (see point #2 below).

Sure, when you have someone who’s also on board to change, to cook healthier meals, to go for walks together or the gym, to spend less time in front of the tv, etc., it definitely helps! It’s one of the biggest predictors of success. 

2. Find Your Tribe

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. The people you surround yourself with have a significant influence on your behaviours, attitudes, and overall life. If you spend time with positive, motivated, and health-conscious individuals, you are more likely to adopt similar habits and attitudes. Conversely, if your close circle engages in negative or unhealthy behaviours, you might find yourself doing the same. Your social environment plays a crucial role in shaping who you are and who you become, so choose your circle wisely.

If the people at home aren’t supportive (not saying they’re purposely sabotaging your efforts but they may be less than helpful), look elsewhere for your cheerleaders. Join online communities, find a workout buddy, or connect with a local fitness group. There’s a whole world of people out there who share your goals and challenges. Social media groups, fitness apps, or even local meet-ups can be great places to find your tribe. Send me a message if you’re stuck!

3. Create Your Own Space

Your home or work environment might not be the healthiest, but you can carve out your own little wellness sanctuary. Dedicate a corner of your room to a yoga mat and some dumbbells. Keep a stash of healthy snacks at your desk at work. Even small changes, like having a water bottle handy, can help move the needle in the right direction.

4. Meal Prep Like a Boss

If your household is filled with tempting, less healthy food, meal prepping can be a lifesaver. Spend a few hours on the weekend preparing healthy meals and snacks. When the junk food cravings hit, you’ll have a tasty, nutritious alternative ready to go. Plus, planning meals saves time and money in the long run!

Many people think if they want to eat better that means they need to make different meals than the rest of the family, which may not necessarily be the case. You can go about making the same foods but start watching your portions. Fill half your plate with veggies first. Swap or omit different sauces, dressings. 

You also don’t have to go “all-in”. Focus on preparing just some of your meals (especially those away from family if you work outside the home) so that you can eat things they may not enjoy, but that fall within your health goals. 

Focus on what you can control. Find a more nutritious evening snack that you enjoy to replace the nighttime carb-feast. Or plan nutritious meals and snacks for the rest of the day so you still have some good meal wins under your belt. Follow the 80/20 rule.

5. Sneak in Movement

In a sedentary environment, you need to get creative with your physical activity. Every little bit counts! Sift through 28 ideas in this blog post and pick a couple you’d like to get started with.

6. Mindset Matters

This might sound a bit woo-woo, but your mindset is powerful! Instead of focusing on how hard it is to be healthy in your current environment, try to see each challenge as an opportunity to grow stronger, boost your willpower, enhance your commitment, or increase your perseverance. Celebrate small victories and be kind to yourself when things don’t go perfectly – because we all know it will never be perfect. 

7. Lead by Example

Sometimes, the best way to inspire change is to lead by example. When your family or friends see how much better you feel and look, they might be inspired to join you. Share your healthy meals, invite them for a walk, or just let your newfound energy speak for itself. 

8. Get Professional Support

If things are really tough, consider seeking support from a professional. A dietitian, personal trainer, a therapist, or all 3, can provide you with personalized strategies and the extra motivation you need to stay on track. They can help find strategies you’re not aware of, and keep you accountable.

The bottom line

Life happens, and sometimes you won’t be able to stick to your health plan perfectly. That’s okay! Flexibility is key to long-term success. If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track as soon as you can. Easier said than done, I know, but I still have to remind you!

Remember, you’re not striving for perfection, just progress. It’s all about making small, sustainable changes that fit into your life, even when it feels like the odds are stacked against you. Keep going, you’ve got this!

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Kaitlyn is a registered dietitian and fitness enthusiast dedicated to helping busy women improve their health through sustainable habits.

She’s seen firsthand how difficult it can be to balance a demanding schedule with a healthy lifestyle. That’s why she is passionate about empowering women with the knowledge and skills they need to prioritize their health, even when life gets hectic.

She aims to spread the word about the power of habits and to make healthier living more manageable for busy women who are trying to do all of the things, like herself.

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