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People Pleasing: Saboteur Spotting

When you set yourself the goal to lose weight and work towards it you will inevitably make some changes. After all, you know that if you want different results you need to do something different. You might have noticed that this change in behaviour by you provokes a change in response and behaviour from other people. For the most part, this is usually positive. People wish you luck and congratulate you as you make progress.  

However, you'll also notice that positive action on your part can prompt some less than helpful responses from others and they can say or do things which make achieving your goal harder. I call these 'saboteurs' because their words and actions are designed to undermine your efforts. Not all saboteurs are easy to spot, in fact, some of them aren't even consciously aware that they are trying to sabotage you, but regardless of their intentions, their behaviour can be problematic. 

In the next few blogs we'll focus on a range of topics around the subject of People Pleasing, including how to deal with other people. In this blog, we'll start by identifying the people who might be undoing your progress.  

Saboteurs generally fall into two categories: unfriendly and friendly.  



These are easy to spot. They are the people who openly put you down and criticise your efforts. 


The Mind Reader 

What they say: 

"You'll never stick to it" 

"There's no point, you always put the weight back on again why would it be any different this time? 

What they are doing:

They are claiming to know the future. They are taking examples of your past behaviour and assuming that these predict your future behaviour. Of course, that's all it is, a prediction based on their limiting beliefs, their experiences, their pessimism and their ideas. What they haven't taken into account is any internal changes or decisions on your part and they can't see how you have grown or changed on the inside. If you were to succeed you would prove them wrong so, of course, it's in their best interests to undermine your efforts and prove themselves right. 


The Critic 

What they say: 

"You're not on that stupid diet are you" 

"You've always been big, I don't know why you bother" 

What they are doing: 

Making a personal attack on you and your decisions. You might not recognise it as aggression but that's exactly what it is, verbal aggression. They are putting their opinions and ideas forward in a way that does not respect you or your opinions. It's a case of "I win, you lose" as opposed to behaving in a way that shows respect for both parties ("I win, you win"). The aggression is their issue to resolve, remember that it is not about you. 


The Expert 

What they say: 

"Diets don't work" 

"Research shows it's mostly about your genes you're wasting your time with healthy eating" 

"The right way to lose weight is to just do everything in moderation" 

"You're on a points system diet? They never work, I read an article that says fasting diets are better" 

What they are doing: 

They want to be seen as  knowledgeable. They have assumed that because you have shared your goal that your weight loss efforts are somehow open to public scrutiny. Often their opinions on weight loss are unsolicited but that doesn’t stop them.  This can happen for a number of reasons. For women, this can simply be because society has taught us that it's OK to have a say on women's bodies, what they look like and what they should do with them. Sometimes it's because the saboteur has a need to appear superior to others and other times it's because they are insecure and they worry if you are successful it will make them look bad. For them, it's better to try and put you off now so they don't lose face. 



These are harder to spot because on the surface they are being supportive or kind. What makes spotting these saboteurs even harder is that they are usually our closest family members or friends. They do care about us and want us to be successful but they have their own stuff going on too. Sometimes they may not even realise what they are doing. Sometimes, however, they really do! 

The Smiling Saboteur 

What they say: 

"Here have some of this cake, you've been so good have a day off.  

"You’re doing fine, one glass of wine won't hurt"  

"You've had a stressful day, just go for it. You can't stick to the diet all the time"  

"You look so much better now. You've already lost a couple of stone you look fab" 

What they are doing: 

They might sound like they are being nice but they are clearly encouraging you to halt your efforts. Usually, there is a reason why and in this case they are putting their needs above your goal. They want you to stop what you doing, even if only temporarily so that you can join in with them. Is it because you are putting them to shame? Do they feel left behind? Are they jealous? Who knows? The main thing is that they are not respecting what you want. They are holding you back when they should be cheering you on. 


The Concerned Party 

What they say: 

"Don't lose too much weight. It's not healthy" 

"You mustn't overdo it on the exercise" 

"Don't try and be like the models in the magazines, they're all airbrushed anyway" 

What they are doing: 

They are letting you know that they are OK with you losing weight but only to a point. They have a limit to the amount of weight they feel you should lose. This might be based on genuine concern but it could also be because at a certain point they feel bad about themselves. Maybe they think you'll look better than them, they might be worried that you'll change and they'll lose the person they know or something else entirely. The big question to ask yourself here is who determines how much is too much? That is your decision and it's not for other people to dictate what is right for your goal or your body. 


The Petrified Partner 

What they say: 

"You look great you don't need to lose weight" 

"I think you're attractive just how you are"  

"I'm not attracted to skinny. You don't need to change" 

What they are doing: 

They are letting you know that they don't want you to change, this is usually because they are scared. They are worried about what will happen when you reach your goal. Will other people find you attractive? Will you find other people attractive? Or do they think they will look bad when people see you as a couple? This sounds like a series of compliments and genuine concern but when you hear these kind of comments more than once or twice it's more about their fears than reassuring you. Don't mistake the two. 


The Nurturer 

What they say: 

 "You'll have a second portion won't you, I made it especially" 

 "You don't want to be hungry later, I'll wrap some up for you to take home" 

"You might as well have some seeing as I've gone to the trouble" 

"Don't believe what they say in the magazines, you don't need to be thin. Eat up!" 

What they are doing: 

They are putting their need to nurture above your need to pursue your goal. This can happen even when you have sat this person down and explained how pleased you are with your progress. The words can feel like they are falling on deaf ears. The question is, why should their need to nurture and provide be more important than what you want? 


The Fearful Friend 

What they say: 

"You've changed, you're a diet bore now." 

"You used to be fun. I want my old friend back. I miss us going for dinner" 

What they are doing: 

They have noticed that you are making positive changes and they are having a reaction to the idea of change. Rather than deal with their response to change and focusing on how good that is for you, they try and convince you that you are the problem rather than them. They do this by making out that you have become a bore overnight. Of course, you are the same fun person you always were it's just that your idea of 'fun' is a bit healthier. Real friendships are based on doing things together and supporting each other. What part of love and support needs food or drink? None of it, your friend will have to realise this too. 


The Flake 

What they say: 

"Let's sign up for this challenge" (but they quit during the first few weeks of training) 

"Let's do the diet together and keep each other on track. It's more fun than doing it alone" (then they quit and want you to quit as well) 

What they are doing: 

Chances are they were never serious about the goal in the first place. They just wanted to feel the togetherness of a group of people doing things together. They liked the idea of the comradery and the support but not the hard work or end result. When the feeling of facing a challenge together has waned they want to quit but of course, they want togetherness so they hope everyone else will quit too. They know that once they quit it will be harder for you to carry on. You might benefit from continuing but they don't want to quit alone. Don't be surprised if you hear from this person less if you keep going when they stop. 


The Emotional Blackmailer 

What they say: 

"I've had a rubbish day please go for a drink with me. I desperately need a good night out" 

"I've been so stressed, I need a takeaway. You'll have some won't you? I can't have a take out if you're not having one, I can't have one on my own" 

What they are doing: 

They feel rubbish and they want someone to feel rubbish with them. Sure, they might have encouraged you to undo all your hard work but hey, at least they weren't suffering alone! And the best bit? You both get to feel remorse together too! You might be fooled into thinking this is strengthening the bonds of your relationship through shared experience but does this sound like friendship to you? One person's desires are being met while yours are being ignored. Real friends lift each other up rather than dragging each other down. 


The Head-in-the-sand 

What they say: 

"Oh, you're still on the diet? I didn't know" 

 "Does that mean you're still not drinking then?" 

"I totally forgot, otherwise I would've got you something healthier" 

What they are doing: 

Ignoring everything you have told them. Of course, not everyone is thinking about your goal 24/7. Here we are talking about people who 'forget' what you've told them repeatedly. Either they don't consider your needs to be important enough to remember or what you want is an inconvenience to them as it doesn't meet their needs. They think if they ask you enough times you'll give them a different answer, the one they expect. This is a blatant rejection of what you want. 


The Baker 

What they say: 

"I baked at the weekend and I had some leftover. I thought I'd bring these in" 

 "I can't eat all this cake myself and I don't want to take it home. You'll have some won't you?" 

" I spent ages on this recipe, it's amazing. You have to try it" 

What they are doing: 

There's nothing wrong with the occasional bit of cake. Unexpected cake is always a pleasant gesture. However when baked goods become less of a kind gesture and more of an obligation it can be a problem. This person is putting their needs of giving, indulging and togetherness  above what other people might want (See: the Nurturer and the Emotional Blackmailer). They are catering (literally) to their needs, not yours. 


When looking for saboteurs ask yourself "who's needs are being met here?". If you spot someone putting their needs across without leaving room for yours to be met too, you have a saboteur. 


This list above could go on and on. Who have I missed? 

Who are the saboteurs in your life?

Share your thoughts below or on the Facebook Page

Learn some top tips for tackling situations like the ones above by downloading my free guide to losing weight here.