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GUILFORD, United Kingdom — Although weight loss is a personal journey, having the right support group can make all the difference. However, researchers from the University of Surrey say not everyone, even family and close friends, may have your best interest in mind! Their study finds loved ones may knowingly or unknowingly try to ruin your dieting efforts.

Upon reviewing the current literature, the Surrey team found that the not-so-supportive side of social support can come in the form of sabotage, feeding behavior, and collusion, which all can throw people trying to lose weight off track. Specifically, the researchers found that along with sabotage, discouraging healthy eating, and putting up barriers that prevent people from going to support groups negatively affected confidence and self-esteem levels.

Weight loss often results in change, from giving a person more confidence to a change in social dynamics in their relationships. Many do not welcome such changes and may, consciously or subconsciously, try to derail a person’s attempts to lose weight in order to keep things the way they are,” says Jane Ogden, a Surrey professor of Health Psychology and lead author of the study, in a university release.

“We need to explore this area further to develop interventions which could target family and friends and help them be more supportive in helping those they are close to lose weight.”

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Several studies have found that family, friends, and partners can collude with those on weight loss journeys in an attempt to “go along” with their behavior that isn’t keeping them on track with their weight management goals. The team also found that “being a feeder” can be harmful to those trying to lose weight. Loving family members can often try to provide you with as much food as they have to offer. This isn’t always a bad thing, and is actually most often is done with good intentions, but it can be detrimental to people trying to lose weight or when someone isn’t hungry.

Overall, the team concludes that family and loved ones more often than not don’t want to purposefully stop you from reaching your goals, but certain behaviors can do that even if coupled with the best intentions.

“People pursue weight loss for a number of reasons, be it for their overall health or to feel better about themselves. Support from friends and family can be an invaluable tool in helping people achieve their goals however sometimes those closest to them thwart their efforts by tempting them with unhealthy food or acting as a barrier in helping them adopt a healthier lifestyle,” explains Prof. Ogden.

The findings are published in the journal Current Obesity Reports.

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About Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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