Take the first five minutes of any given episode of "My 600-Pound Life" and you’ve witnessed the single toughest part of any weight loss journey.
It isn’t the calories themselves that are causing the problem or the distain for exercise that keeps people overweight; oftentimes, it’s the people we surround ourselves with that feed us (literally and figuratively) the guilty pleasures keeping us from hitting our goals.
On the TLC show, you see an obese person, hear about their struggles with weight and their current limitations being such a large size. The camera then cuts to a scene where the spouse brings home fast food bags or the kids grab pizza boxes from the delivery guy at the door.
We see these enablers—whether their intentions are innocent or otherwise—and scream to our televisions, “Why can’t they see they’re the problem here?!”
It’s easy to pinpoint the destructive actions of unsupportive people when there’s a 600-pound person with limited mobility on the other side of the screen, but it’s a serious lesson that can be translated into any weight loss journey.
Dr. Younan Nowzaradan, the show’s gastric bypass surgeon from Houston Obesity Surgery, says the families of patients he sees can either make or break their success.
“If they don’t have [a supportive family], it’s almost impossible for them to be successful in the long term, unless they remove those people from their environment. So they either have to change their dynamic with those enablers or separate from them if they want to succeed,” Nowzaradan told PEOPLE.
Sounds easier theorized than lived by, since often those enablers are our closest family and friends.
But if this is happening to you at home, there are ways to shift the enabling into encouragement, and it stars with a conversation. “If someone is going to make progress, it’s important to confront their family and friends about what support really means,” says Cymbeline Smith, a licensed marriage and family therapist, to Women’s Health.
If it triggers you to hear comments about your weight—positive or negative—ask supporters not to bring it up! Even hearing something like, “Your body looks amazing now!” can harm your self-image, so if you’re susceptible to that, make sure your family knows.
If your family struggles with eating the ‘diet food’ you want to prepare, make easy adjustments that allow for customization. For example, set up a taco bar where you cook the meat (99% lean ground turkey is the perfect swap for beef) and have everyone top their own. There are also countless healthy copycat recipes for your favorite guilty pleasures, so you can condition your family to eat these healthier tasty options without telling them at all.
And if snacks are your problem, kindly ask for boundaries. Ask that tempting treats be put out of your sight or that your number one temptation be kept out of the house altogether.
Finally, don’t feel guilty about hitting the gym! Sure, it may take you away from your family for one hour, but you need to commit yourself to the routine, and they always have the option to join you. Swapping out barre class for a family bike ride or walk one day a week is a solid compromise, too.
More often than not, your family wants to see you succeed! They may just not know how to help you hit your goals. It’s up to you to tell them!