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How many times have you decided that you’ll be hitting the gym, only to be (subtly) put down by your peers who go, “Gym again!? Come have a drink with us!”

Your friends don’t know it, but they’ve just thrown a monkey wrench in your weight loss plan, since we all know that sustained periods of elevated heart rate and building lean muscle help you to drop the excess pounds quickly. You need your weight session and cardio, but all your friends want is for the “old you” to come back and join them for a night out at the bar. If you give in, then they’ve just successfully pressured you into putting off your weight loss.

Weight loss “isn’t normal”

People tend to make others fall in line with an expected norm, so they’ll prevent you from doing what you need to do to succeed at weight loss. In fact, a study amongst 196 college student in the United States showed that there was an attitude that weight loss was “non-normative”. That is to say that actively losing weight is not a normal thing. To a certain degree, that’s true for us. After all, if you’re skipping social activities to work out, you’re labelled as the one who abandoned everyone.

Interestingly, another study by the North Carolina State University that conducted interviews with 40 formerly obese people found that all of them reported having people in their lives who had belittled or undermined their weight loss efforts.

This comes from what researchers have termed as “lean stigma“. Society tells you that it’s good to lose weight, but simultaneously discourages you from taking key actions required to actually become lean and fit. People end up making fun of the eating habits of others, or try to stop others from working out too much.

Beating the naysayers

Now that you know exactly why they’re doing this, even if they don’t know it themselves, it’s time to turn the tables around. You may feel like the whole world is against you, but take it slow, and beat this obstacle one person at a time. Here’s how you do it:

  • Explain yourself: When people try to pressure you into skipping a workout, explain exactly why you’re embarking on your exercise regime. Focus on things like your personal health, and be open about your goals. Once you’re done, go ahead and do it, no matter what they say back to you.
  • Adapt yourself: Sometimes, you absolutely cannot avoid being at family gatherings. In those situations, you might have no choice but to be exposed to eating unhealthy food that mess with your diet. In that case, adapt and eat less of whatever it is you shouldn’t be touching, and place a little more fruit and vegetables on the plate.
  • Talk about your success: Sometimes, family members will ask you why you’re “torturing yourself” to “look good”. Shift the conversation to a health-based one and talk about how your body fat is down and how that lowers your chance of heart disease. Tell them about how you can now run further and go faster. They’ll either be converted by your enthusiasm or silenced by it. Either way, you’re winning.
  • Share the fun stuff: Your friends might want you to go out for a meal, but if that messes with your diet plan, then ask them to come to your place for a meal. You can make tasty, healthy dishes and treat them to a relaxing evening of conversation to everyone. Trust me: when you’re offering to be the one who cooked the meal, no real friend will try to get nasty with you.
  • Challenge them: Sometimes, the closest people are the ones that hurt us the most. If might be your romantic partner that’s stopping you from weight loss. In that case, put them to a 30-day challenge! Go head to head using whatever weight loss metric you want, and try to outdo each other. Raise the stakes, and have a serious prize for the winner. Your partner will most likely quit attacking your weight loss plan, and start attacking his own workout routines.

Like all things in weight loss, it’s never going to be easy. What you can do is focus on improving your health, optimising your workouts and be as happy as you can be. Remember: you can’t control how others treat you, but how you treat yourself is entirely within your control. Love yourself, and keep at your weight loss plan!