Adopt a strong focus if you want to change for the better. Be it emotionally, physically or spiritually, you’ll face opposition from those who love you the most, your friends and family, all who mean well, sometimes, but pull you down anyway. It’s the hermit crab effect.

I’m from an Italian-Irish family but dad was the Paison. We ate dinner together. Period. Mom liked it that way too. For most families, no big deal, but for ours, it was a big deal. I’m one of eleven children. Dinner usually came around the third quarter of a football game or the eighth inning of a stick ball match. If you grew up in NY you know what I’m talking about.


My brother and I showed up to the table with an inning left or a quarter to still in us. We were usually on different sides. Not pretty.

Our six sisters bore the brunt of our unfinished games. We’d kid them over all kinds of things but teenagers get most upset at being overweight. We made that our focus.

Hey, I don’t want you to think there was a lack of love in our home. Really, it was quite the contrary. Only we could make fun of our sisters – nobody else. Anyway, when it came time for them to lose weight, and what teenage girl doesn’t meet that time – my brother and I had lots to work with. With all the sibling banter we could muster, we made their weight loss goals more difficult.

That’s how we went about it but most families are not as cruel and as treacherous. They simply miss a relationship that was built over many years. Imagine always saying “no” to mom’s lasagna or “I’d like less, please.” Little by little, familial pressures come to bear.

It is sort of like climbing out of a crab bucket.

Our summer family trips to Fire Island in NY were a great place to witness what happens to people who try to improve without changing their environment. My brothers and I would dig hermit crabs and put them in the tin buckets we brought just for this purpose. Soon we had dozens to show off to mom and dad. There was always one trying to climb out. But the others would take their claws and pull him back down. It happened over and over again even though they all wanted to escape.

That's a lot like the support you'll get from your friends and your loved ones if they don't understand your goals or worse, if they don't agree with your goals.

Imagine you want to lose twenty pounds. You've done all of your preliminary work, wrote out your goals, set a schedule and you've begun. Your friends ask you to go out for pizza and beer but at this early stage you don't want to occasion the temptation so you politely decline. Next week the same invitation comes but this time it's for the ice cream parlor. "No, thank you," you say. Your friends are unintentionally engaging in the hermit crab effect. If you don’t keep your eyes on the top of the bucket you’ll be pulled down.

Can you turn off the hermit crab effect?

Yes and this is how: ask your friends to support you through your process. Include them. Ask them for help. Tell them what you're doing. You'll probably influence them to improve as well. Be open and honest... brave and kind.

And for goodness sake, stay away from your brothers. Then, you’ll never change.

Author's Bio: 

Cliff Fontenot has been a health nut all his life and is currently a wellness coach at More Health Less Care where health professionals voices are heard.

Check out my personal friends book that is geared toward negating this effect:
Creating Your Own Prescription