Most people have at least one friend who is trying to be healthier or lose weight. The friend may have announced their decision to lose weight proudly. They may also have whispered it to you quietly and almost shamefully. There is nothing wrong with being on a diet as long as the diet is healthy and the weight is lost at a healthy rate. Frankly, most people have dieted in their life. They have cut back on the sweets after Christmas when their jeans are too tight or started doing longer workouts to get rid of the extra helpings of Thanksgiving turkey that settled around their middle.
Despite how common diets are, they are not always easy. Dieting means giving up something. A friend who is dieting may have decided to stay away from sweets. They may have stopped drinking. They may also be eating and drinking the same foods they enjoyed before they started their diet, but now they are simply eating and drinking less of those things. There is a lot of self-control required to avoid giving in and drinking just one more glass of wine or eating one more cookie.
When your friend is dieting, support them as long as they are attempting to lose weight in a healthy manner. Starvation diets and other dangerous weight loss practices should never be encouraged, but if your friend is trying to drop a few pounds by exchanging the potato chips for carrot sticks and binging Netflix for evening walks, be there for moral support. So, how exactly can you be there for your friend? Here are a few ways to support a friend who is on a diet.
Pick Healthy Hang-Outs
One of the hardest parts of being on a diet is navigating social interaction without compromising your diet. This is because so much voluntary social action occurs over food or drink. Friends often meet for dinner, drinks, lunch or coffee. This is normally a combination people enjoy: hot food and good company. For someone who is on a diet, however, eating out may provide temptations that they are not yet able to resist. Even if they can keep from ordering that piece of cheesecake for dessert, you do not know how much fat or calories are in a meal when you eat at a restaurant or order take out. When you cook for yourself, however, you know exactly how much butter or oil you put in the recipe.
When you spend time with a friend who is dieting, pick a place or activity that is friendly to their goals. In the summer, go swimming. In the spring and fall, see if your friend is willing to join you on a hike nearby. During the winter, you can go outside and enjoy the snow, or huddle under some blankets with a cup of tea.
If you really need to get lunch together, suggest a restaurant that serves healthy food rather than fried fast food or items with a lot of thick sauces, heavy creams or cheese. Restaurants that have a variety of salads, such as Panera’s, are good options for healthy lunches as are places that serve authentic Greek or Vietnamese food. Both these cultures tend to favor fresh vegetables, fish and poultry and use spices that are known to be good for the human body. Authentic Japanese food is also a diet-friendly option, so long as you avoid steakhouses and tempura.
Know Their Goals
Know what your friend is trying to accomplish with their diet. Are they trying to lose weight? Are they trying to eat healthier? Are they trying to stop eating so much sugar? If they are trying to lose weight, the most common reason for dieting, why do they want to shed a few pounds? These questions can help you relate to your friend and support them while they are dieting. A person who is trying to lose 10 pounds before their sister’s wedding, after all, has a very different motivation and deadline than someone who is just looking to shed their post-holiday weight.
Be Their Accountability Buddy
If your friend is comfortable with it, you can offer to be their accountability buddy. This would involve helping your friend stay on track with their diet and occasionally being the little reminder that tells them they really do not need to order dessert. Be careful, however, and do not assume that your friend is looking for an accountability buddy. Some people like to have someone to save them from themselves while others find it irksome.
Celebrate Their Victories
Even if you do not care about losing weight or think that your friend looks just fine, celebrate their successes with them. Achieving a goal that you have worked toward is always a big deal, and it is no different with weight loss. If you are tempted to roll your eyes at how happy your friend is to be five pounds lighter, remember that they found that goal important enough to devote their time and energy to it. Show that you recognize that their diet was important to them, and celebrate their success with them.
People who are dieting sometimes feel like they need to, on some level, choose between their goal and their social life. Help your friend see that they can both stick to their diet and hang out with the people they care about. Find alternatives to getting drinks after work and, if they are open to it, help them stay on track with their diet. Above all, however, make sure you are there for them to celebrate their successes, console them after their mistakes and cheer them on as they keep pursuing their goal.