You’ve changed but your friends and family just cannot put their finger on it. Have you had your hair cut? Is that a new shirt? No, you’re losing weight. Your lifestyle is changing and you’re making choices to improve your wellbeing. And here’s your next decision – should you tell the people in your life that you’re on a diet?

You might want to keep your efforts hidden, and that is completely understandable. Fear of failure or embarrassment might be stopping you from sharing your intentions (“what happens if I don’t reach my goal?”) or what if the lads think you’re boring for not having a beer, or your mum’s offended if you don’t want her infamous roast dinner? 

Weight loss is difficult at the best of times and we want to ensure that we are setting ourselves up for success. We need a support network – friends, family, the other dudes at the gym who look a bit like you – but you need to choose wisely.  

How to tell people you're on a diet (and how to get them on your side)

Why you should tell people you’re on a diet

It’s true that making your intentions public could be detrimental. Studies from New York University have found that as humans we crave recognition, acknowledgement and achievement, and telling your friends and family that you intend on changing your lifestyle may prompt them to praise you; meaning you’ve already received that recognition and the feeling of achievement resulting in waning interest and motivation.

However, the benefits of telling people you’re on a diet often outweigh the negatives. Have you ever thought about losing weight or starting to exercise but not actually done it? When it’s just a thought it’s so easy to forget about it. Saying it out loud makes it real. In an interview with Self, University of Scranton professor John C. Norcross said “public commitments are more effective than private declarations” and we reckon that sums it up quite well: if you know that people are expecting to see you slim down, you’re more likely to actually do it.

But announcing your weight loss plan during your weight loss may result in some subtle sabotage and you succumbing to peer pressure and banter (Remember when they called you boring for not having a pint?). Occasionally those closest to you might get jealous, or miss the ‘old you’. How many times has someone told you that one slice of pizza won’t hurt, or that you should start your diet next week? Stay strong when these comments come your way, and it’s useful to arm yourself with some answers so you don’t feel as though you want to buckle to the pressure. Keep your friends close and your goals closer.

How to tell people you're on a diet (and how to get them on your side)

So when and why should you ‘come out’, if you feel it’s appropriate at all? When you feel like you need some support. Accountability is the key and we can use the people around us to keep us in check. Remind yourself of goals and share these with your friends – this will help you feel more accountable and make you feel less guilty for declining their offers (and they might feel bad for pushing you away from your goal!)

But what should you do if your friends and family just aren’t on board? Here are some tips that might help you navigate those awkward social settings.

Be untruthful (but only a little)

Utilise this at your own risk! If the lads are bumping up the banter because you laid off the Doritos when you were watching the game, tell them you’ve had a big lunch or your saving yourself for your takeaway tonight. Don’t get caught! Don’t be tempted to tell them you’ve gone vegetarian because they’ve bought burgers to be found snacking on the beef jerky a day later.

Be picture perfect

If you’ve taken any progress pictures, now is your time to shine. Not only is it motivational to see how far you’ve come, you’ve got a bloody good visual excuse not to overindulge just because everyone else is. Show off your progress and leave ’em speechless – then they won’t be able to tell you what to do.

How to tell people you're on a diet (and how to get them on your side)

Be upfront

If your friends are being relentless, and you feel comfortable in doing so, why not be completely frank and share your objectives/how your progress is going. Hopefully this will reinforce how important this is for you, it continues to keep you accountable and will help you stand your ground if they are fully aware of what you’re achieving.

Be different

Social gatherings are quite often based around food. People eat to celebrate, to commiserate, because they’re bored or simply to spend time with each other. With some smooth talking, you could convince your mates to socialise differently. You could make a day of it and go watch a football game, go clay pigeon shooting or even something badass like axe-throwing. Or if you want to keep it closer to home, why not play a few games to keep the attention off food, or score yourself some activity points and suggest a kickabout at the local park? It doesn’t always have to be about food or drink.

How to tell people you're on a diet (and how to get them on your side)

And if they don’t work? Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your relationships. Do you need that sort of negativity in your life? You don’t have to cut them out completely, but maybe you need to avoid the subject with them. A positive lifestyle change is something that should be encouraged, supported and celebrated.

Whether you share your goals and progress is ultimately up to you and what your motivations are. If you’re one who loves a surprised reaction and the compliments when you meet your crew, then your secret is safe with me but I like to share my experiences with my nearest and dearest. I love a good ol’ pep talk when I need one and I thrive on being told when I’m doing well. A good support network helps you find that often elusive self-control.

But if you feel as though your friends are sabotaging you or you need more support from like-minded individuals, why not reach out to other people just like you? Talking to people with similar goals and interests might be beneficial, so look out for local weight loss groups or see if there are any fitness clubs – it’s surprising how motivating it can be to be a part of a running or cycling club. And if you’re looking for something that takes a bit less effort, there’s always the MAN v FAT forums.