A weight loss journey is one paved with many obstacles and personal battles, particularly if you are losing a very significant amount of weight such as 50-100+lbs. One obstacle people experience during weight loss, particularly women, is out of their control and involves the people around them.
This potential roadblock is negativity and jealousy from friends, family, co-workers, espouses and other loved ones.
Experiencing Negativity During Your Weight Loss Journey
It’s unfortunate that many times people tend to react negatively to other’s success but it is common. You may have been guilty of this yourself at some point in some small way.
For example, imagine that your job recently had an open position that you have been wanting for some time. You immediately begin working your tail off. Perhaps you start staying late to finish some projects or take on more work than usual. You feel confident that the higher-ups have noticed your determination and will consider you for the position. However, despite your efforts a colleague ends up getting the promotion, even though they seemingly didn’t put in the extra effort as you did.
The workplace example above might seem completely different than a weight loss journey but the reaction you garner from the people around you as you drop the pounds could be very much the same. As you begin to change your life and your body, suddenly you become that promoted colleague.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were jealous of someone else’s success? Has someone else’s success ever made you feel bad about where your are in your life or what you’ve done? Have you ever just felt bad when comparing your life, your body, etc to someone else’s?
What is your reaction? Some individuals will just shrug their shoulders and move on but many people will generally feel a little pang of jealousy or in some cases some serious disdain. It is easy to see someone succeed, even a colleague you really like or a good friend, and rather than feel happy for the person you feel a negative emotion. You take their success vs. what you see as your failure personally in the moment. The question is whether the moment passes and you move on with peace and love or if you lash out at the person due to your emotions and negative thoughts.
Nothing justifies bad behavior or hurting people’s feelings because of your reaction to what they’ve accomplished, but on the flip side we can understand how jealousy or negative comparisons can happen.
Why Loved Ones Express Negative Emotions
There are many reasons why friends or family may express negativity towards you when they start seeing you lose weight. Typically it comes from a place of jealousy, even if the person doesn’t realize it themselves. It can come from a place of genuine concern as well, but not everyone knows how to express that in a positive way. People don’t always realize that their words sound negative to you and sometimes these feelings can come out sounding more harsh than intended. Sometimes, you have to hear through a filter of compassion and love.
People who tend to express negativity towards another’s success are generally unhappy with their weight/health or have low self-confidence. This in turn causes them to see someone’s success as a reminder of their lack of success. This is a very toxic way of thinking for the individual and those around them. This thinking puts the focus on other people and comparisons to them, instead of putting that energy into reaching their goals or asking their friend or loved one for help.
(This is the place were I have to say that not ALL people who have a negative reaction to your weight loss are jealous…but some are. You have to be REAL with yourself to know the difference. A person’s weight loss journey is their journey and they need NO one’s negative energy if they are just trying to be healthy.)
As mentioned before, sometimes people around you may not realize that they are acting negatively towards you. They may even try to unintentionally sabotage your success by pressuring you to eat things you shouldn’t, skip exercise or convince you that you look great and don’t need to lose weight.
There are ways you can approach this situation and try to reconcile or, in some cases, cut ties with the person in question.
Approaching Negative People in Your Life
There are really two main ways you can deal with jealous or negative people during your weight loss journey: talk it out with them to come to a solution or remove that person from your life as much as you see fit. Removing that person from your life can take the shape of removing the influence that you allow that person’s words/action to have on you. (Sometimes you have to let these things just stand as opinion…and we don’t all have to have the same opinions.)
Before you do anything drastic, if you really care about the person it is a good idea to start a conversation and hear them out. One simple talk can squelch any feelings of jealousy towards you and you may even strengthen the relationship.
Depending on who you are talking to, there are different techniques you can use.
- Negative Significant Others
Often times it’s the boyfriends, partners or husbands that react negatively towards a woman losing weight, especially if it’s drastically changing their features. Some men can come from a place of defensiveness with their reactions. There can be any number of reasons why men act defensively and negatively.
It can be because they personally enjoy the body of a larger woman and don’t want that changed. They might also see you dressing in a way that flaunts your new body which attracts attention from other men. People who are larger themselves might feel like they are no longer attractive to you and you may leave them. These are just some examples, because each relationship is different.
Approaching this situation can be daunting but it really should be discussed, ideally before your weight loss journey begins. Talk with your significant other about any potential fears or concerns. Sometimes reassurance alone is enough to stop negative emotions. Also talk to your lover about any health issues and how weight loss may improve them or decrease your risk for certain illnesses.
If you are in a situation where your boyfriend/fiancé/partner/husband/etc. reacts extremely badly to your weight loss plans, doesn’t support you or even goes to the extreme of telling you not to do it, you need to seriously consider their motives and whether it’s a healthy choice to continue having this person in your life. Consider counseling if you need it. Your health matters, and this weight loss journey is not just about looking cute. Honest communication will help you both to see eye to eye.
- Negative Family Members
Family members are another group of people that can be daunting to confront if you’re experience negative reactions from them. Families who have many members that are overweight or otherwise lead an unhealthy lifestyle may not understand why you want to lose weight. In the same situation, they might even find you slimming down as unhealthy due to a warped perspective about being “curvy” vs. “skinny”. There are healthy people of very size.
Change is hard. If you’ve always been the chubby sister or if being overweight is considered a family trait, the change that your weight loss presents may be un-nerving to others. If you say that you were unhealthy at a certain weight and your sister is the same weight…what are you saying about her? That scenario plays out among sisters, moms/daughters, nieces/aunts, etc…
One idea that can help is that when you begin your weight loss journey, you sit down with any immediate family members or siblings that you are close to and discuss your plans. Share your goals and ask for their opinions.
You may want to make it a family affair for support. You can share meal ideas with them or leave it up to them if they want to be included or not. You never know, you may find a partner who can walk with you on this journey.
Most family members, even if they don’t necessarily agree with your choice, will still support you in the long run. It helps to be stern with negative family members and solicit support from positive family members. In the long run, you may eventually help some of your family members with negative opinions to change their lifestyles. There are hundreds of people who will tell you that they faced negative voices in the beginning, but later those same people asked for help and advice because they saw their family member succeed and change their life.
- Negative Female Friends
In those instances when negativity comes up, female friends also tend to be more negative versus male friends about a friend’s weight loss. This often stems from insecurities as mentioned earlier. Women tend to be more sensitive and body conscious (blame the culture and the media) which often leads to this negative behavior, even if they have no real, valid problem with you at all.
Some women may feel threatened by a friend’s changing body and increasing confidence. Others may lead sedentary lifestyles themselves and could be worried that you will choose more active friends over them. Negativity can also stem from shallow jealousy (i.e. you get more attention from men now). Another reason could be much more deep rooted, such as a friend inadvertently treating you badly because your success reminds them at their failures at weight loss.
I also hear from women who say that friends who have lost weight “Think they are better than me now.” or “They have changed and think they are too cute now.” When you lose weight you have to make sure that YOU don’t become the person who treats people negatively. It goes both ways.
Just as you would with a family member, talk to your girl friends about your plans to lose weight. Use this opportunity to build some camaraderie and ask them if they want to join you if you want that kind of help. If they don’t, it can help if you reassure them that you’re still the same person and your changing body doesn’t mean you’re no longer going to want to do things with them. Let them know that you are doing this for you and your health.
You Should Expect to Receive a LOT of Positive Feedback
Focus on the positive energy that will be coming your way. So many people will cheer you on. So many people will be happy for you. You may even share your story and inspire countless others to start their weight loss journey too. Experiencing negativity during or after dramatic weight loss is unfortunate, but positive feedback will be even more common. It is important to be strong and don’t waver in your decision. You may lose people you thought of as friends but for every negative person that leaves your life, a positive one could pop up. Visiting groups on the internet like Black Women Losing Weight and healthy spaces like your local gym are both great ways to meet likeminded people who will support you through your journey.