As a caring and easy-going person, I suppose that I’ve attracted a lot of people to me in my lifetime. Most of the time, I go out of my way to support friends and relatives when they need it, and I’ve been rewarded with quite a few longtime friends. Unlike many people who come to Los Angeles, I didn’t feel the terrible pain of isolation when I ventured out to this big city. I was a lucky duck who found the right People at the right time.
There are few things that can really dissolve or wreak havoc on good friendships, and sometimes friendships have to go through what I like to call, “A Lifestyle Change Litmus Test” in order to determine whether they are indestructible. It’s a difficult test to have to experience, and the results can be surprising, but, overall, at least the result is that you know who will be with you through thick and thin (literally and figuratively).
People undergoing their own healthy lifestyle changes face vital personal decisions when it comes to socializing. Often changing means foregoing a weekly brunch buffet with friends until you get your eating habits under control, or passing up drinks or late night activities because you don’t want to be hungover for Pilates in the morning. So much of our social culture revolves around eating or drinking, that it can marginalize the time that you spend with your buddies, and it can distance you from them as well. Then again, therein lies that test that I was talking about.
If your friends are too busy drinking and eating and carousing to notice your absence, maybe it’s time to think about the essence of your friendship. There have been some friends with whom I enjoyed meaningful conversations over drinks, but, sober, found conversations stilted and awkward. Many of my friends, once I pointedly abstained from boozing it up or staying out ’til dawn every weekend, never once called, sent a text or even a Facebook message to see if I was still alive. At first, I made attempts to connect, to let them know, “Hey, I’m still here!” Unfortunately, with scant reciprocity to feed it, my little tree of hope withered, and I decided to move on to greener pastures.
Even if friends do stick around, if they care and keep in contact with you, there are other factors of lifestyle change that can cause tension or drive close friends away from you (sometimes for good) on your journey. It seems unfathomable that people who love you would be anything but supportive, and want to hear all about your personal triumphs, but even the best of us is human, and subject to earthly and unreasonable emotions. While your friends may be happy that you’re happy, they may also see your success as a reflection of their own personal failures. I think we’ve all been guilty of jealousy of a friend at some point. A friend gets an awesome promotion, and we want to be happy for her, but, secretly we’re sorry for ourselves, being stuck in a job we hate, or another friend meets someone he thinks is “The One” and we want to find some flaw in the relationship because we just got dumped…again. Everyone has an Achilles Heel, and, while you may be excited about your accomplishments and want to talk about them, your friend who is struggling with her own weight might be looking at you and thinking, “Way to rub it in!”
I’m guilty myself of being overzealous in sharing my workouts and race plans, and it’s a struggle to be mindful not to go too overboard with friends who might not be ready to be inspired into a healthier lifestyle, or who aren’t interested in the topic at all. Finding other things to talk about will, however, save those friendships that are worth it to you. If you don’t cool it, you may find these people distancing themselves from you, feeling alienated, jealous and upset. It’s important to do your best to be sensitive to their feelings, whether or not they actually disclose them to you.
I have adopted this strategy with those particular friends: If friends ask me about my workouts or training, or healthy eating, I will share. If not, I will talk about something else. If workouts or training must come up within the context of the conversation, I make sure to gloss over it quickly.
With whom can you share your enthusiasm for your new, healthy lifestyle, new body, and new goals, if not your closest friends and family? Get new friends. Join a fitness team, meetup, club or online forum. You can prattle on for hours within a fitness-friendly environment with people who share your passion. it will save your good friendships and possibly create more good friendships so that you will have that much more support when you cross all of life’s “finish lines”!