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Healthy Eating: Getting Support When Changing Your Eating Habits

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So you've decided to change your eating habits. Great!

Have you thought about getting support in making this change?

Having the support of people close to you is an important part of change. It doesn't matter if you're changing a job, a routine, or how you eat—support gives you a better chance of making the change work.

  • Support can come from lots of people. Your family and friends can help you change how you eat, but you also can get help from others.
  • Support comes in many forms. It can be positive words and actions or gentle reminders to stay on track.
  • Support works. Research shows that getting support from spouses, family members, and friends is important in making behavior changes that affect health.1
  • Some people that you may expect to support you may not help you and may even make it harder for you to succeed.
  • You can decide who you want to share your plans for change with.

Support from others includes love and understanding as well as advice and practical help. Your support team makes you feel good about yourself and cared about as you change how you eat.

You may choose to tell lots of people about your plan to change, or you may only want to tell a few people. Some people make changes and don't tell anyone.

Support can come from:

  • Your family and friends.
  • Clubs or groups. You may join an existing group or form your own. The group can focus on eating or have another focus, but the members are willing to support you as you make changes in how you eat.
  • Internet bulletin boards and chat rooms.

You may ask for different types of support from different people. For example, you can ask one friend if you can call late at night for support, and you can ask another friend to meet you for lunch to see how you're doing.

People will support you in different ways. Family members may not want to eat the same way you do at dinner. They might continue to have large servings of dessert, for example, when you take a smaller serving. But if they don't make negative comments or complain, they are supporting you.

Test Your Knowledge

Only your family can help you change how you eat.


Temptation is everywhere when you try to change your eating behavior. It's in your fridge, at the convenience store, and in the office break room. It's at family get-togethers.

In this culture, there is always something to eat, and there is always an occasion to eat in a way that's less healthy. This makes it easy to get away from your eating plan.

Your family and friends can make things easier. Their support can help you feel as though you're not alone. Their words of encouragement can motivate you and help you make healthy food choices. A word from them can help you stop eating before you feel stuffed. If you've slipped away from your eating plan, your family and friends can help get you back on track.

Support works. Research shows that getting support from spouses, family members, and friends is important in making behavior changes that affect health.1

Test Your Knowledge

You need support because:

It can encourage and motivate you.
It works.

Your family and friends can do a lot to help you change how you eat, but you need to talk to them about it.

  • Tell your family and friends why you're making this change. Give them your reasons, and explain why they are important to you.
  • Tell them that you would like their help, but that you don't expect them to change their lives for you. If they're willing to make some of the same eating changes as you are, then that's great. But they can support you even without changing how they eat.

Support from your family

Here are some ways that you and your family can team up.

  • Keep to a regular family meal schedule. Families that regularly eat meals together tend to eat healthier foods and be closer to a healthy weight than those who don't.
  • You may be able to talk with your family about making some of the same eating changes you are. This may take compromise on everyone's part. It may mean eating less of some foods and more of others.
  • If what you eat is different from what your family eats, ask them to eat a meal from your food plan once a week. If they see that this is as tasty as the food they're eating, they may choose to eat more of what you're eating.
  • Set up "no food" zones in the house. Make one room food-free. You can use this room to do things that you may have done in the kitchen while eating, such as paying bills or helping the kids with homework. Staying out of the kitchen may help you stay with your eating plan.
  • Put away foods that you don't want to eat so that they are out of sight. Ask family members not to leave food on the table when they are finished eating.
  • Set up a kitchen or refrigerator shelf that is just for healthy foods that you want to eat. When you're hungry, you'll have several healthy choices.
  • Discuss your family routines. If you take the kids out for pizza once a week, could you make a healthier pizza at home instead? Or you could go out to eat but order a salad and other healthy foods with the pizza. This way you can fill up on other foods and eat fewer slices of pizza. See if you can find something you can all agree on.

Support from your friends or family

Here are some ways that your friends or family can help you. Ask them to:

  • Not say negative things about you or what you eat.
  • Be positive about your desire to change. Let your family and friends know that you'd like to hear encouraging words from time to time, and that their words and actions mean a lot. Hearing how well you are doing with your new eating habits helps you stay with your plan.
  • Celebrate with you when you reach your goals. Take a cooking class or go to the movies together. Remind yourself and others that you're successful.
  • Help you make healthy food choices. Ask them to encourage you to eat more fruits and vegetables, for example.
  • Encourage you when you slip away from your eating plan. A reminder of how well you've done will help you get back on track.
  • Respect your new eating habits and not urge you to eat foods that you don't want to eat.

Many people find that having a partner or "food buddy" makes the change easier. A food buddy is someone who is also making changes in his or her eating habits.

It's motivating to know that someone is sharing the same goals. Your food buddy can remind you how far you've come and support you when you're having a hard time following your eating plan. You and your buddy can talk about healthy recipes, ways to plan regular meals, and how to fit small amounts of your favorite foods into your food plan, for example.

You may find that some friends or family members say or do things that make you feel bad. They seem not to want you to succeed. They may urge you to eat more than you want, make negative comments about your new eating habits, or point out how many times you may have slipped up.

If this happens, it's important to talk to these people. They may not even be aware that they are doing it or that it bothers you. If you need to, ask them to stop doing this. You also can ask them why they are behaving this way. You might find that they are worried that your change is leaving them out or that you are making them look bad. They may not like the attention your change is getting you.

If this is the case, ask them what you can do to help them. Often, an honest talk is all that is needed.

Other types of support

You also can look for support outside of your family and friends.

  • Join a healthy-eating class or support group. People in these groups often have some of the same barriers that you have.
  • The Internet has many online forums and chat rooms for people who are trying to make changes in food choices. You can read and leave messages and chat online with others for support.
  • A local hospital or other health facility may have a wellness center or support groups.
  • If part of your plan is to become more active, see if anyone in your exercise class or neighborhood wants to change how they eat.

Test Your Knowledge

Finding a "food buddy" is a good way to help you make changes in your eating habits.


Healthy eating can be hard. Here are some ways to help you do this:

Click here to view an Actionset.Healthy Eating: Staying With Your Plan
Click here to view an Actionset.Healthy Eating: Recognizing Your Hunger Signals
Click here to view an Actionset.Healthy Eating: Changing Your Eating Habits

If you would like more information on staying at a healthy weight, the following resources are available:

3101 Park Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22302-1594
Phone: 1-888-779-7264
Email: [email protected]
Web Address:

The USDA food guide website provides many options to help people make healthy food choices and to be active every day. Enter your age, gender, and activity level to get a food plan specific to your needs. You can also print out worksheets for tracking your progress and goals. On this website, you'll find answers to many of your questions about healthy eating.

National Agricultural Library:
10301 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, MD 20705
Phone: (301) 504-5414
Fax: (301) 504-6409
Web Address:

This Web site has information on nutrition, healthy eating, exercise, and food safety. You can use an e-mail form to ask a food-related question.

Return to topic:


  1. Thompson WG, et al. (2007). Treatment of obesity. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 82(1): 93–102. Available online:

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last RevisedJanuary 25, 2013

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