Your Loved Ones Will Sabotage You


They truly don’t do it on purpose. However, some of the people who love you the most will be the same people who tempt you to abandon your goals.

It’s grandmas who “know this pie is your favorite so I made it just for you.” It’s friends who tell you “you’re not in bad shape, don’t worry about it.” Or, “we never see you anymore. You spend too much time at the gym.”

They want to do nice things for you, spend time with you, and make you feel good about yourself. It’s wonderful to know that you are loved, fun, and should feel amazing about who you are. In addition to all that, you can still have goals.

Here’s how to manage your friends and family as they inadvertently try to sabotage your progress with all that love.

Ok. This is going to sound cruel, but intentions are absolutely useless. Your friends and family obviously want the best for you, but sometime they don’t understand why a certain goal is important to you – so it isn’t important to them.

They will do things that they think are nice for you, but stand in stark contrast to your goal. They’ll do things that the person you were loved. The person you’re becoming doesn’t want to do those same things anymore.

It doesn’t matter if their intentions are good if the end result is not supportive of your goals. These good intentions fall into common categories you’ll deal with when you make positive behavior changes.

The most attempted habit changes involve food and deal with either quantity or quality.

Let’s take pie for example (because I love pie). In high school I could eat up to 3 pumpkin pies in a day, feeling light and energetic like a pie fueled hummingbird. Now, 2 pieces makes me sleepy. More importantly, it awakens a mean sweet tooth in me. I spend way too much energy fighting the urge to eat candy and other desserts afterward.

A quantity and quality example using pie:

You decide to only eat one piece of pie (quantity goal) to which your whole family will inevitably say things like: “I thought this was your favorite? I made extra just for you!” Originally intending to do something nice by making extra pie so you don’t have to share, they’ve now started to guilt trip you into eating more pie than you planned on. This opposes your goals.


You decide to substitute pie for yogurt and berries (quality goal) because it will satisfy the sweet tooth, but isn’t as calorie dense or sugar coated. This will get responses like “It’s not quite the same though is it? This pie used to be your favorite, we picked your favorite flavor.” Their intention is to give you your favorites, encourage you to cut loose a little. Instead they are blatantly tempting you with food you’ve decided to replace. This, again, opposes your goals.

In my training philosophy, there are three kinds of activity: Intentional Activity, Restorative Activity, and Daily Activity.

Intentional Activity refers to exercise. There is specific intent to the exercises you perform, the way you perform them, and the number of sets, reps, and workouts you complete. This leads to a desired end result while building maintenance habits.

Restorative Activity is recovery work. This includes mobility exercises, stretching, myofascial release techniques, and lower intensity cardio. The goal is to use activity to manage the quality and recovery of your muscles and connective tissue (tendons and ligaments). 

Daily Activity is commonly known as NEAT: Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is walking around you house, hauling groceries, and general movement. Thermogenesis refers to the calories burned during this activity as this usually used in energy balance discussions.

Sabotaging your physical activity goals is one where your friends are most often guilty. Their intention is to spend more time with you. Not a malicious intention, they like having you around. 

However, spending all day watching football – or in my case watching Avengers Infinity War and Avengers Endgame back-to-back because they’re really one long movie – keeps you from all 3 kinds of activity. You are sedentary while doing this. Not a big issue for a day, but if these are common activities for your friend group, you’re looking at a lot of time molding a butt dent into the couch.

This goes double for gym time. Unless your friends also exercise, they may not understand the importance of your gym habit and see an isolated event that you could skip “just this time.” Exchanging the gym for another hour of Call of Duty “just this time” quickly becomes the plea every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Again, they don’t want bad things for you. They just don’t understand that you want something different. Cut them some slack, but stick to your guns.

This is the hardest part. These people love you and want you to be their idea of happy. You don’t want to abandon these important people, and you want to reach your goals.

There’s an important distinction here: they have their own idea of what things make you happy. It’s possible they are exactly right about what would have made you happy until you set your new goal. Now, that idea is inaccurate and they don’t understand why.

The best thing you can do is actually explain it to them. Some will hear it and get on board. Some will hear it and reject it. You have zero control over their reaction. Be honest and steadfast anyway.

Thanks Them First
Start with thanking them. Show gratitude for the fact that they thought of you, want to spend more time together, or want you to have the food you like. This is a form of gift giving that we commonly overlook.

“Mom, thank you so much for making this gigantic pumpkin pie for me. You know it’s my favorite and you went out of your way to make more. This is awesome.”

Your Goal and Why
Then tell them what you have decided to change and what it will mean to you when you succeed. You’re not convincing them of anything, you are telling them what you’re doing.

“These days, I don’t eat too much sweet sugary stuff. It makes me feel sleepy and sluggish and I don’t enjoy the rest of my day so much. Now I substitute yogurt with berries on top. I think it’ll help my energy level and will help me drop the couple pounds I want to lose.”

Maintain Your Relationship
Then let them know that your new behavior isn’t expected of others and won’t change your relationship. Folks get worried that changing leads you outgrowing them.

“You don’t have to make anything special for me and everyone else should still enjoy your pie because it is AWESOME. And from now on I’ll bring my own dessert.”

Thank Them Again
Thank them for understanding and let them know you love them. Yes, even your friends.

“Again, thank you so much for thinking of me and doing something special. I love you! *gives giant hug*

*Obviously, you’d talk to a friend a little different than a family member, so adjust accordingly.

Decisive Language
Notice, at no point do you leave room for doubt. It isn’t that you’re not eating pie “right now” – you don’t eat pie anymore. You’re thanking them for understanding, not asking if they are ok with your goal. Use respectful, decisive language that shows you’ve made up your mind, and appreciate their support.

At this point, you haven’t asked anyone to change their behavior. You haven’t accused them of ruining your progress. You’ve stated your goal, your why, and taken full responsibility of pursuing it.

Sadly, occasionally someone will hear you, understand you, and still actively try to keep you from the behaviors you’re building. These are the toughest moments in behavior change.

If they still routinely encourage you to act against your goals – drop them. Yes, it’s harsh, but folks who don’t care if you succeed didn’t support you in the first place. Your habits just aligned with what they wanted. They want you to do what they say and nothing else matters. You don’t need that.

Don’t judge relationships on tenure. Judge them on support. If you’re not being supported you’re not losing anything meaningful by walking away.

For the record, don’t ask for something you’re not willing to give. You should be ready to offer the kind of support you’re requesting.  Relationships are like a door – they open both ways.

This is how you turn well-intentioned saboteurs into active supporters, and weed out bad influences.

It requires honesty, trust, and determination. Then again, so does every positive change you make or new skill you learn.

Be patient with your friends and family as they understand how to be on your side. After, they’ll be the best support system you’ve ever had.