To Tell or Not to Tell?

I read a few weeks ago that the one thing media mogul Oprah Winfrey really regrets having done on her now defunct show is the episode in which she revealed her sleekest body ever and carted out the wagon of fat to show how much she’d lost.

“I had literally starved myself for four months — not a morsel of food — to get into that pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans,” Winfrey recalls.

“Two hours after that show, I started eating to celebrate — of course, within two days those jeans no longer fit!”

In 1989, Winfrey acknowledged that she had regained 17 of the 67 celebrated pounds she had lost the previous year — and her weight has continued to fluctuate since then.

Oprah had embarked on a strictly liquid diet to have the dramatic weight loss that she gleefully shared on the show. I absolutely would never encourage anyone to “eat” like that, but I wonder if she was on to something with regretting being such a blabbermouth about it.

Another recent article says yes. A couple of health care professionals say that keeping mum about your weight loss intentions is the best move for you in the long run. There are two thrusts to their thoughts:

  1. Being vocal about weight loss may add awkwardness to your circle of family and friends if you find yourself in the middle of a “culture of obesity,” with people who look and eat like you do, according to Jon Walz, MD, the doctor who inspired Kentucky resident Anita Mills to lose 242 lbs with four strategies, one of which was “Do not tell anyone what you’re doing.”

    “Deliberately or not, the family, the friends, the other people who are part of that individual’s culture will resist the change,” Walz says. “(They) will try to change them back to what the culture tolerates.”

  2. Your will to lose weight may be weaker after having told someone, because if you receive enough praise before you’ve met your goal, you may feel accomplished enough to never actually meet your goal, said psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer, PhD.

I have experienced both of these scenarios. I’ve mentioned before that people sometimes get weird with me about food–either the food I’m eating or not eating, or the food they are eating. Some of these are people with whom I’ve shared a “culture of obesity.” These people are still very close friends and family and they are excited about what I’m doing and have congratulated me on the results, but we sometimes have weird food moments. My solution has been to do my best to ensure I’m not creating the weirdness by talking incessantly about weight loss-related issues. Also, some of the people in my circle have expressed an interest in doing more activities that don’t revolve around food. Taking the food out of the equation when we meet up makes it much easier to bond. Fortunately we’ve worked out some compromises that don’t derail my weight loss efforts or my relationships.

I have also been someone who has celebrated far afield of the goal line. Me fitting into smaller clothes, and the compliments of those around me have made me lose some of the force behind my desire to push on with weight loss. This was part of the reason why I hit a wall for bout a year and a half–the acceptance I’ve been seeking in other areas of my life for years suddenly fell into my lap in the form of having lost 40 lbs. and being able to find clothes in most stores, and in pats on the back from well-wishers. As my emotions have been Krazy-Glued to my eating habits, this was a predictable thing and a dangerous thing–dangerous in the sense of the affect it’s had on my weight loss work ethic.

The challenge I have with this is to remind myself of additional benefits I can gain from continued weight loss–even better vital stats to further lessen the likelihood of heart disease, diabetes, and other issues; more vitality and energy; and even more clothing options. And I also need to remind myself that any acceptance I experience resulting from physical changes is not necessarily legitimate acceptance anyway. It’s much better for me to carry on with my original goal than to rest on laurels from fairweather sources.

The article doesn’t totally discredit telling someone about your weight loss intentions. Suggestions for making this announcement work are to ensure you’re telling the most supportive, positive people possible, said Bonnie MeChelle, a fitness and nutrition expert. Also, make sure your goals are specific, Dr. Gollwitzer recommended. Don’t just say you want to lose weight; consider adding a timeline and specific details on how you intend to lose weight.

I would have never guessed three years ago that weight loss would be so much of an emotional minefield–for myself as well as for those around me. There is so much beyond the number on the scale that can change when someone loses weight. Whether you decide to be 100 transparent or keep some details to yourself, be prepared to find workarounds for a host of challenging feelings that can pop up.

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2 thoughts on “To Tell or Not to Tell?

    • I thought the theories were interesting. I guess ultimately we’re responsible for how we react to others’ reactions, though, whether they support us 100% or not. It’s definitely not always easy for me to manage my feelings about others’ feelings, but I plan to work at it, because it’ll help me in other areas of my life.

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