Dear Emuna,

I think my best friend is trying to sabotage my efforts at better health and weight. I try to exercise daily and she’s always encouraging me to blow it off and come spend time with her. When we are together, she frequently wants to go out for ice cream or split a very fattening dessert. The friendship is very important to me but so is my new ‘get healthy’ plan. What should I do? Am I just being paranoid and imagining things?

Trying to Change

Dear Trying to Change,

I don’t know your friend and it’s certainly possible that you are being hypersensitive. Maybe she’s just behaving how she always does but now you find it challenging because you are working so hard to change your habits. That’s certainly a possibility. Look back over your time together. Were those typical activities for the two of you? Did you frequently share a luscious chocolate dessert? (My mouth is watering as I write this).

Is that part of her expectation of her time with you or are you the one that changed the rules? I can hear her side also: If you want to go out and really indulge, it isn’t fun to be with someone who only orders salad...

On the other hand, it is possible that she is trying to sabotage you, maybe not even consciously. It is actually a real phenomenon. She may sincerely not be aware of it but she may feel threatened by your new behavior. She may feel jealous and inadequate herself. Maybe she also has some weight to lose and she has built up some very solid rationalizations to justify why she can’t. Maybe your changes have wiped those away. Maybe she really doesn’t want to exercise or eat differently but watching you makes her feel guilty. Maybe it even interferes with her marriage if her husband notices and comments on the new you. Maybe it affects her other friendships. Don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure – in so many different ways.

Since the two of you are frequently together maybe she feels judged and lacking, maybe just in her heart and her mind. All of this can lead to sabotage, intentional or not.

Since you don’t want to lose the friendship, I suggest you take a deep breath and rise to the challenge of having the difficult conversation. Make her your ally, not your enemy. Explain how hard it is for you and how much you need her support. Emphasize how important the friendship is to you and brainstorm less fattening activities the two of you can engage in together. Shower her with love and I’m sure her feelings of resentment and/or jealousy will diminish.

Our sages taught that we need to “buy ourselves a friend”; friendship requires real investment. I’m confident that if you find other ways to demonstrate your commitment to the relationship and strategize creatively how to work together, you will accomplish both your goals – greater health and a stronger friendship.