Overcoming Loved Ones’ Resistance to Our Lifestyle Improvements
How many times over the years have we confidently and with great motivation established a New Year’s Resolution (e.g., “This is the year I will finally quit smoking/lose 10 pounds/learn to play the zither!”) only to peter out before Groundhog Day? As January progresses, we slowly but surely begin to avert our eyes in front of Nicorette print ads, change the channel when the Jenny Craig commercial airs, and become accustomed to using that increasingly dusty musical instrument as a doorstop.
Are we too lazy or uncaring to change our circumstances? Absolutely not. We are simply products of the principles that govern our world. Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion indicates that a body at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an external force. To make an imperfect analogy (and with apologies to Sir Newton), in order to effect a lifestyle change, we must exert a force that is stronger than the forces that are maintaining our status quo. And one of these status quo forces is our social network.
Many personal trainers and health care professionals I know observe that one of the most salient determinants of the success or failure of a new health regimen is the support - or lack thereof - an individual receives from friends and family. You might think it would be a simple thing to be happy for a friend or relative who has decided to embrace a healthier lifestyle, but the truth is more complicated than that. Everyone can probably think of one or more situations where person X lowered their blood pressure or dropped a dress size or two, and while we were happy for them, if we are being completely honest, we might allow that there was still a bit of envy or angst along with the joy.
This doesn’t make us bad or unloving people. It means that we, like the person who embarked on the lifestyle modification in the first place, are going to have to deal with some change as a result of this modification, and that can be scary. Change can beget change, and especially if we are not the arbiters, it can leave us feeling unsure and insecure. So we cling to the status quo. (“You don’t smoke that much.” “I heard those exercise regimens can be dangerous.” “I don’t know when you’re going to find the time to fit that in. Life is already so busy.”) It’s easier than acknowledging in ourselves those things we might like to change if we would just make it a priority - or did not fear failure.
If you are trying to make a change toward a healthier lifestyle but are sensing resistance from the ones you love, read on for suggestions about how to cope: