Support Systems

Yesterday at Weight Watchers we spoke about support systems and the important role they play in a person’s weight-loss success. I have to say, without the support I’ve found in my friends and family, I don’t think I would have been able to be as successful as I have been. I need people to share my successes and missteps with, and I need people to offer me encouragement and support. My support system makes me feel like I can do this — no matter how hard it is some days. I owe a lot to my mom, my dad, my sister, mi amor, my friends. And the support group that exists on Tumblr has really been a big part of this journey as well. Just knowing that people out there are experiencing the same things and dealing with the same exact issues really helps me. Plus, I get so many great ideas from my fellow Tumblrs.

Unfortunately, there’s a flip side to this coin. I’ve noticed the not-so-encouraging effects my weight loss has had on people in my life. I knew it would affect me, obviously, but I wasn’t expecting it to change some of my relationships as much as it has. As I continue on this weight-loss journey and look at the way it’s changed my life, I see the way it’s changed people react to me and interact with me. And I’ve lost some people along the way.

Friends I thought I could count on for support and encouragement have made themselves scarce. Is it because I’ve changed? Is it because they haven’t? It’s probably a combination of the two.

I’ll be the first to admit that, yes, this weight loss has changed me in some ways. I’ve changed the way I approach life, and I changed the way I react to life. I’m a healthier and happier person than I was 85 pounds heavier. I’m not the same person when we go out to restaurants or bars; I go home to bed early so I can wake up early. I look for ways to get a little activity in — walks, runs, bike rides, classes at the gym — when I spend time with people. I feel more confident and am not so nervous about saying what’s on my mind. I don’t apologize for who I’m becoming, which is a better version of the “old” me. I don’t try to hide my weight-loss success, and I’m learning to take compliments. If my successes make someone uncomfortable, I see that as a reflection of them, not of me.

I know this is not an issue that is unique to me — it’s a topic of conversation on many websites and is covered in numerous books. In “Joining the Thin Club,” Judith Lederman devotes a whole chapter to support networks and “Friends or Foes.” She addresses the different types of friends people have in their lives: Former Food Buddies, Unsure Friends and Supportive Friends.

I think that a number of my friends who’ve disappeared fall in the “Unsure” category, those friends who may be jealous or may just not know how to support me. Of those jealous friends Lederman says: “They might feel uncomfortable around you because it makes them feel inadequate that they haven’t lost the weight. This is not your fault.” For the most part, I feel terrible that these friendships — many of them years and years long — are fading. But, I must realize that this is not my fault, and I need to continue to focus on me and my health and not let someone else’s insecurities derail me. I can be supportive and understanding, but I can’t make their problems mine. Because, to be honest, I’m working through enough of my own issues right now. Then there’s the issue of those friends who want to be supportive but simply don’t know what I need. This is my responsibility because if I can’t ask for the help or support I need, then I’m not going to get it.

My weight loss is about me changing so much more than my body. It’s about changing my life. And, unfortunately, change can be uncomfortable for people. People may not understand my choices or the changes I’m making. Heck, when I look over the last eight months, even I can’t believe some of the changes I’m seeing in myself. But they’re all, in my opinion, positive changes that are making me a better person. And I hope that my friends and family can see that — even if it takes them a little while. Because, honestly, I can’t do this without them.

Lederman writes: “Support for your weight-loss efforts is monumentally important …. You can lose weight without support, but it is hard. You can keep it off without support, but that is even harder.”

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