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Ask the Expert: Dealing with Unsupportive Friends & Family

 Q:   I’ve recently started making changes to my lifestyle to become a healthier person.  Unfortunately, I’m finding that one of my closest friends doesn’t seem to be supportive (or as supportive as I’d like).  She hasn’t come out and clearly stated this- though through her actions I can tell she does not approve.  How can I talk to her without losing her as a friend?


Beth LeermakersA:  Beth Leermakers, H3 Wellness Counselor:

Friends or loved ones who don’t support your healthy lifestyle behaviors—by being the “food police” or bringing tempting foods into your home—can interfere with your progress.  Your loved ones may be trying to help you (but don’t know how), or they may be unaware of how damaging their words and actions are.  To address these unsupportive behaviors, try using “I” statements that focus on your feelings, explain how another person’s behavior affects you, and asks for change. 


Here’s the format:

I feel (specific emotion:  angry, frustrated, annoyed, sad) when (describe the specific behavior that upsets you, in objective terms) because (explain why the other person’s behavior bothers you) and I want (describe specifically what you want the other person to do differently in the future).


For example:

I feel angry when you comment on my food choices and tell me I’m not supposed to eat something because I feel like you’re trying to control me and you don’t trust me to make the right choices.  And I want you to please let me make my own food choices.  I know how to follow a healthy eating plan, and occasional treats can be a part of my plan. 


When someone really wants to help you but doesn’t know how, think of specific ways for that person to help you.  For example, you might say “I appreciate your desire to help me.  You could really help me by choosing/suggesting restaurants that have healthier options on the menu, or by cooking a healthy meal once a week.” 


It’s hard to recreate an environment as supportive as Hilton Head Health – but don’t worry – you can stay connected with our staff and other guests via our Facebook page.  Look up a friend near you, post to the discussion board or connect with us on the wall.   A healthy lifestyle is a journey – and you are not traveling alone!

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