I heard this so, so many times in the beginning. People who recognized a significant “change” in the way I talked about things, the way I made plans, or the things I “enjoyed” once upon a time. Whenever I reacted to something in an unexpected manner, the phrase came like it was scheduled to arrive:
“You know, you’ve changed a lot since you’ve lost weight.” It was always—always—said scornfully. It was supposed to signal to me that I was different now, and the difference was not welcome.
To be fair, this means lots of different things to lots of different people. It can mean that people interpret your behavior as being high-fallutin or uppity—they think you’re behaving like you’re too good to do the things you used to love, and they translate that as you believing you’re above them because they still love to do those things you’re too good to do. It can also mean they think you’re passive aggressively passing judgment on them because they’re not giving up or embracing the same things you have. They also very well may feel like your presence makes it difficult for them to enjoy the things they do, since you serve as a reminder of why it’s better to let some habits go.
They don’t want a reminder. They want to indulge. Basically, they don’t wanna hear it.
But ultimately, it shames us into feeling bad for not being the person our loved ones…well, love. When we change, it changes the way our relationships feel—not just to us, but to the other party. If your best guy friend is used to sitting at a bar top with you and drinking a cold one while scarfing down some waffle fries and now, you’re frowning your nose up and thinking about carbs when he mentions it, that’s not just about you and carbs—on the other end of that, your best friend is wondering why you’re turning down your regular engagement. If your boo is used to bring you home a six pack and a pint of ice cream for you two to sit and watch movies every Friday night, but now you’re yelling at Boo because OMG 56 GRAMS OF SUGAR IN A HALF PINT??!??, that’s not just about carbs, either. That’s also about Boo thinking more about keeping your tradition going, and wondering why it’s so easy for you to ditch it.
Let’s keep it 100, though—obviously, change is necessary. Barring major health challenges like hormonal conditions, the following truth is self-evident: the way you live ultimately contributes to the body you have. A sedentary person who overdoes it on the goodies can expect to have difficulty losing weight; an active person who maintains a realistically healthy diet can expect to have difficulty putting it on. There are exceptions to this, but they are not many. Never set out to be the expectation on this, either—get it honest and put in the work on both fronts as best you can.
Lots of changes need to happen in order for a sedentary person to lose the weight, keep it off and develop a lifestyle that will help ensure that the loss stays permanent. You need to change the kinds of foods you eat, how much of it you eat, when and how you eat it. You might find that you can’t control yourself in certain environments, so you might decide you have to stop going to those environments when you can avoid it. You might start to prioritize stress relief more, and you might use exercise to de-stress, so your schedule might be a bit more crowded now.
These things are important and necessary, and you shouldn’t feel bad for realizing that there are parts of your life that would stand in the way of achieving your goals. You have to do what’s best for you, and people who love you will support you in your endeavors.
But how you go about these changes makes all the difference. Not every person who complains is a hater, and they’re not just trying to throw shade on your shine, either. I know that’s the way people usually approach this, but we have to be honest with ourselves: “treating ourselves well” means taking better care of ourselves, sure, but if we’re doing that at the expense of our interpersonal relationships, then we’re trading one thing (our fitness) for another (our mental health). We can’t give up our friends for fitness—if anything, we have to find ways to accommodate them both.
Do you have to change? Hell yes. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of, either. Do we need to be mindful of how our changes impact the ones we love? Again, hell yes. If we truly value them as our friends, family, and lovers, then we want to make sure we consider them in the moves we make. It doesn’t mean giving up our goals, or continuing habits that you know you need to quit just so you can stay close to them. It means letting them know that, while hitting up the Cheesecake Factory for lunch four times a week might not cut it anymore, you can do something different instead, like hit a different place or maybe not do lunch together, but meet up for a workout after work together. It means letting them know that, instead of the pint of ice cream and the six pack, you’ll make a dessert together and enjoy it with lovely conversation. Or maybe you walk your dogs together in the evenings instead of meeting at the bar, and that serves as your daily “Let me tell you what my jerk of a boss did today” session.
In all the changes we make, we should want to consider the ones we love. If they lash out at you, complaining about all the changes you’re making, and you know you love them and they’re not simply being haters, ask yourself: what does this look like from their shoes? How can I reassure them I’m not leaving them behind? Approach it with empathy and appreciation for their role in your life, and you will not only improve your health, but improve the quality of your relationships, too. Besides, you might even get a new workout buddy out of the whole thing, and really…who wouldn’t want that?