CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
I am 32 and have stuck with my New Year's resolutions. Since January, I have lost nearly 40 pounds. I exercise at least four days a week and am eating better than I have ever eaten before. My weight problem was due to many years of good ol' home cookin' and lots of creamy casseroles made by my mom and assorted aunts. Church dinners were a mainstay for me, which were rarely healthy, and I was eating out a lot.
My family and friends are my biggest problem. Because I make different choices now and don't always eat what they are serving for meals, they make fun of me and pressure me to eat. Comments like, "Oh, that's right, she can't eat real food anymore" or "Come on, one bite won't kill you." I had to skip church dinners and feel like I need to stop eating out with my friends in order to stay healthy. Also, when they convince me to eat something I shouldn't eat, I feel resentful and guilty.
How do I stay on track and deal with these people whom I want to be around? -- Sandra
Well, I have to hand it to you staying on track with the ongoing peer pressure. It requires a great deal of motivation, discipline and self-respect. I have always marveled at this common behavior and wondered why the people who love you are the very ones sabotaging your healthy efforts.
My advice and opinion were formed many years ago when I felt similar pressures from my well-meaning Italian family. I can recall holiday celebrations and get-togethers when aunts and uncles labeled me skinny and constantly told me to eat or I was going to "blow away." They viewed fat babies as healthy babies, full stomachs as evidence they were good providers, and overeating a sign of a great meal. Unfortunately, these were the same relatives who ended up with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and bodies too heavy to move around.
Nowadays, we understand that excessive amounts of food, fat-laden casseroles, fast food, buffet dining and foods with more calories than nutrition don't do us any favors. Most people understand that encouraging loved ones to overeat is detrimental to their health. So why when we commit to a weight-loss program are we still teased and prodded to re-embrace bad habits?