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The Language of Losing Weight


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Monday, April 25, 2011

One thing is pretty certain in this journey - when you lose 100 pounds, people are going to notice. There's no getting around it. And in today's society, that also means that people are bound to make comments about it. Here are just a couple of things I've learned about how people talk about weight loss and what it can sometimes mean for the person on the other end.

Spark People aside, I am a person that doesn't like talking about my weight. I was brought up in a family who thinks that appearance is the ONLY thing to talk about and, unfortunately, it's really turned me off wanting to hang out with them. If you're like me in this regard, you know that family gatherings always revolve around a ton of food and then the subsequent guilt that indulging in this food brings. They talk about who's "up" and who's "down" and it feels like everyone is constantly being measured against the thinnest member of the party (most recently my aunt and uncle who went on some crazy pill plan to drop to their smallest ever sizes).

My last visit home was at Christmas at which point I was down about 80 pounds. And even at 80 pounds I felt like a disappointment. My mother had taken much pleasure in telling my family that I had been losing weight before they saw me, so rather than have my new appearance be a nice surprise, she had built it up to epic and unmeasurable proportions like she tends to do (I also come from a family of over-exaggerators) which meant that everyone walking through the door was looking for something. They were looking for the image that they had built up in their own minds about this phenomenal amount of weight that I had lost. I was trumped. How could I possibly live up to those grand expectations? After all - I am only human. So I came home from that trip disappointed and defeated over something that should have been joyous.

These types of people - the ones who like a good story and love even more to over- embellish - I call "The Storytellers". I find they like to talk about weight loss in those same exaggerated terms: "OH MY GOD, you're just wasting away!", "You're a ghost of the person you used to be!", etc. etc. But if you take a good look at those words and really analyze what it is they're saying, you'll notice that YOU aren't in there at all. It's all about the story, all about the build up, all about the pleasure THEY get from being associated with you - the newest fantastic thing that just happened TO THEM. YOU are not wasting away at all (if you're doing this the right way). YOU are perfectly whole, and healthy and wonderful. YOU are not a ghost of any former self. In fact, YOU are probably feeling fuller and more sure of who you are now than ever before. At least that's how I feel. So it strikes a funny chord in me when I hear comments from a Storyteller. What you must remember with these folks is that Storytellers want your story for themselves. Even though they may be close to you, they ultimately aren't interested in YOU, they're interested in the fact that you've done something amazing that they can now go and talk about to pump themselves up. My response for a Storyteller: I smile, acknowledge that they have made a comment about something I'm not willing to indulge in conversation about, and then expediently change the topic - usually to something about them, because they've always got a good story to tell about themselves.

During my whole weight loss process, I have shared an office with my co-worker who also just lost a pile of weight last year. She is now at goal and has been a big supporter of mine (she recently brought in another 3 bags of her old clothing for me) since the beginning. We have a couple things in common as far as the process is concerned - we both run, we both enjoy clothes shopping. But that's about as far as it goes. She lost the weight with Weight Watchers (a program I have been pretty upfront about despising since the get-go), and she's a vegetarian (another thing I find tricky since I LOVE meat and tend to eat a higher protein diet). She also LOVES to talk about herself and her own process and how all of it ties into my own journey. Not true. She often uses my weight loss as an excuse to talk about her own habits and insists regularly on telling me what she's eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner and what her weekly running schedule is, even when I don't ask.

These people I like to call "The Me Toos". I often find that these are the folks who will latch on to any aspect of your own success to take the opportunity to remind you of their own accomplishments. They usually refer to your weight loss in terms of "Congrats on your 50 pounds lost! When I was down 50 pounds...", or "You're getting small enough now that you need to watch out for this...". Some of it can be useful advice, but under no circumstance is my story anything like her story. I appreciate the heads up, but in a lot of cases, I'd prefer to find out things for myself. Especially since a lot of this is so new and wonderful for me. A Me Too might be jealous of your success. Maybe they were in the spotlight for a while and were receiving all of the office glory, but that has now faded and you are the one receiving the newest bought of accolades. Enjoy it! My response to a Me Too: Smile, give them space to talk about themselves for a bit, take the useful bits of advice if applicable, and then gently change the topic or remind them that you'd rather talk about something else.

Just today I saw a friend that I haven't seen in a while. He gave me a big hug and we had a nice long conversation about life and what was new. I could tell that he was itching to say something for the whole conversation, but it wasn't until the end that he finally came out with "OK, am I crazy, or have you lost some weight?" I laughed and said, "Yep" which he followed up with - "Well, you look awesome, but I didn't want to say anything!"

These are my favorite types of people. The ones who KNOW that it's socially bogus to talk about a person's weight, but who still acknowledge that a change has occurred. These guys are more than happy to say their piece (usually a very sweet and meaningful compliment) and then to move on with the conversation. They never pry for more information. They're just happy that you're happy. We'll call these guys "The Genuinely Friendlies" since that's exactly what they are. And they're few and far between as far as I've experienced since mostly I'm used to meeting "The Interrogators".

Interrogators pose as Genuine Friendlies at first, but the follow up conversation is usually a barrage of questions about what you're doing, how many calories you're eating, when you go to the gym, how many times a week you exercise, etc. etc. They treat you not as a person, but rather as a self-help book because obviously, YOU have the secret to success. Interrogators get mad when you brush off any explanation with sayings like "I just decided to change my life" or "I'm just eating better and exercising" since those aren't REAL answers in their mind. They want the truth! (And so sometimes you have to lie to give them what they want). Though I loathe the Storytellers, Interrogators are probably the worst type of person for me since I just don't like talking about it and they won't let you off the hook until you do. Methods for dealing with Interrogators: Smile, answer only the questions that you feel comfortable answering (which may be none), and then remember a meeting that you're late for.

So far I have been pretty successful in keeping people at bay when it comes to discussing my weight. (Spark People aside since this is my one and only outlet to blog and discuss at free will my whole journey and progress and I LOVE notes and questions and WOOHOOs from my Spark Friends). My general opinion on the matter is that it's really none of anyone's business - and I think by honestly thinking and believing that (and thus projecting that opinion and belief out to the world) people have left me alone. I know the comments are only going to get worse from here on out. What I have managed to do is highly noticeable at this point to absolutely everyone.

But the next time you encounter a person in your own life that is obviously working on themselves, be wary of which of these categories you fall into. Some people live for the positive feedback from others while losing weight, but you have to realize that at some point that's going to stop and people will stop noticing, and then you will have to get those positive kicks from other sources. Unfortunately, for a lot of us, our positive kicks tend to come from food. See the bad cycle that starts? If you set yourself up to expect comments, but take away the need for them, you're setting yourself up for a much longer and more sustainable way of life without the need for other people to notice what you are doing all the time.

I think the media's over-saturation with weight loss stories, television programs about it, magazine articles, latest fad diets, etc. have only lead to a society that is obsessed with weight gain and the subsequent loss thereof. They've made this process, which is a very complicated and meaningful thing for a lot of us, into a 30-second spot on the latest entertainment program. A blip in time - not even a millisecond of that grand idea of "15 minutes of fame" - which even in its entirety, if compared to what we're actually doing here, is just completely ridiculous. We're talking about LIFE, and they're talking about a quick entertainment fix. And if the media is talking about it, it makes it socially acceptable to make comment about it to the people it affects without any regard to the real issues at hand, the amount of hard work and dedication that it takes, or the actual PEOPLE for that matter. I don't disagree that we have a huge problem with obesity in America, and certain topics NEED to be discussed. But do yourself a favour and don't become fodder for someone else's water cooler conversation. You're worth WAY more than that!

The more we invest in ourselves and our own process, the less we need by way of other people to create our success for us. We have the power within ourselves to feel and to know when we're doing great. Sure it's nice to be acknowledged every once in a while - and the people in your life who are important and who matter will take care of doing that for you (along with a few great Spark Goodies from some wonderful Spark Friends). But ultimately, it's all YOU baby! All the way to the top. Have faith and believe in yourself and the battle is already half-won.
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WELL-ROUNDED 4/28/2011 8:17PM

    You speak the truth, woman! Unfortunately, I have no choice but to deal with my storytelling mother. Ugh. I am so tired of the interrogators, who are usually looking for the magic pill that makes you slender. What I say when they ask me 'how I did it': One day my switch flipped, my resolve to change my lifestyle was solidified, and I have enjoyed working hard at it every day since.

Great work and keep writing your insightful blogs!

Kathy

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BARCLE 4/28/2011 6:57PM

    Loved this blog. You have encapsulated the types of people encountered on a weight loss journey just perfectly! I really enjoy your writing style; you've certainly got a real way with words.

Congrats on your achievements and such an awesome blog emoticon

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BRAVACHASER 4/28/2011 6:05PM

    No kidding! Great Blog! Keep up the good work!

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MOSTMOM1 4/28/2011 6:03PM

    So, how DID you lose weight?
JUST KIDDING!! lol
Great blog.
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LINJO66 4/28/2011 5:01PM

    Wow...amazing blog!!!
You have definitely nailed the people we encounter along our way to success! Including ourselves!!
I too have a lot of weight to lose and you have definitely inspired me to continue this journey. I know I am worth it. Sometimes it feels painfully slow, but I am trudging along...never giving up.
Congrats on your 100 lbs gone, forever! Keep up the spark!
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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JENNSWIMS 4/28/2011 4:34PM

    Awesome. I truly enjoy reading your posts. Must add you as a friend!

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GILRAEN78 4/28/2011 3:24PM

    I love your writing! Thanks for sharing.

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TESSA321 4/28/2011 3:04PM

    So true, I took have a family similar to yours.

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CATHM26 4/28/2011 2:08PM

    Love this. Awesome.

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READY4CHANGE81 4/28/2011 1:20PM

    LOVED THIS BLOG!!! emoticon

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WILLOWWEEP 4/28/2011 1:10PM

  I love that you wrote this. I have lost 50 pounds before joining Sparks and I am so tired of my co-workers staring at my face. The usual comment is your face looks smaller, but you know that they are saying, "not the buddy."

There was a "Weight Watchers" at work program some years ago and I joined, but quickly left because people were commenting about everything I was eating (they were not overweight) and asking if I was eating enough.

I am so glad you blogged and I am proud of your accomplishment. emoticon emoticon

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JESSIEJUICE 4/28/2011 1:00PM

    Such a great post! I've definitely encountered each of these types of people on my journey!

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SILVERGROUNDHOG 4/28/2011 12:41PM

    Love this post!

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MUSIKGIRL 4/28/2011 12:27PM

  Well put... emoticon

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DANIELLESAUTUMN 4/28/2011 12:13PM

    "Some people live for the positive feedback from others while losing weight, but you have to realize that at some point that's going to stop and people will stop noticing, and then you will have to get those positive kicks from other sources....If you set yourself up to expect comments, but take away the need for them, you're setting yourself up for a much longer and more sustainable way of life without the need for other people to notice what you are doing all the time."

This is a very well written explanation of something I think a lot of people on here have to own up to, including myself. You have gone through a hugely long journey and there is much left to do, including the maintaining once you meet your goal. That bit in your blog made me say, crap I didn't even realize I do that. And it helps now to know that the positive feedback from people will stop eventually and I WILL have to be my own motivation.

I like where your head is at, you have a good mentality. It sounds like you aren't super receptive to talking about your journey. Anyone who asks how is after something- not always true. Some of the greatest reward can be telling people how you are making such a life change- you are an inspiration- embrace it, not hate on it. And if you CAN help people make the correct kind of change for themselves, in a healthy way, then spreading the word can only help them. For some reason certain kinds of people just don't believe that eating right and exercising will work for them. Science is a wonderful thing people! And i'm sure you've gotten the blank "Really?" stares from people when you're telling them how you are achieving such success.

You are an interesting person, and I love the way you write. Can't wait to read more from you.

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KAT2212 4/28/2011 11:37AM

    Excellent post! So funny, I was just told by a co-worker this week that I was "a shadow of my former self". Something about the comment seemed negative and left me pondering it off and on throughout the day until I finally looked it up to confirm its meaning:
"to have less health or strength, or less influence, than you did before"
Which is actually the opposite of how I am now! I know this person meant it as a complement, but perhaps should have been sure before saying it! This person is by the way a "Storyteller" as well as a "Me Too"!

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SILEAHIA 4/28/2011 10:46AM

    Loved this blog! emoticon

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LIVELONGANDWELL 4/28/2011 10:32AM

    I think to a certain extent (if we're honest)... we are able to see ourselves in one or more of your characterizations. They are all brutally honest... I would fall into the Interrogators category but would prefer to call it the Curious People... its my nature to ask questions and want to know "how things work" ... Having read your analysis however, I will be more mindful of my need to ask questions and balance that against the possible invasion of someone's "personal space". Thanks for the insight.


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ITSTHENEWLAUREN 4/28/2011 10:12AM

  emoticon I love this blog. Thank you for putting what I am feeling about many people in my life into the words I couldn't find.

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CATIATM 4/28/2011 8:41AM

    Brilliant analysis! You have a keen eye for seeing what's beneath the surface and a wonderful gift for expressing yourself. And CONGRATS on your success! I hope it translates in every other area of your life, too.

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DANIELLEBREEN 4/28/2011 5:49AM

    Brilliant! I loved every word!

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WWOLF3 4/28/2011 12:24AM

    This is my first time to read your blog and I loved it. Thanks for the insight, that was terrific

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SALSA_DIVA_44 4/27/2011 11:55PM

    emoticon

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BAKERBARBARA 4/27/2011 11:51PM

    I just LOVE your blogs...you are a wonderful writer...and your profile picture makes me smile emoticon

I read a lot of blogs, but so far I've decided that you and KASEYCOFF are the best!! Keep up the good work!!

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SBKITTY 4/27/2011 11:36PM

    This blog is fantastic. i am struggle with the same kinds of people. i woke with all females and i often feel violated when they talk about me and my body. I want my success to be my private success because losing with is an inner battle for me more than anything. Nobody really understands that it's not what you do to lose the weight it's how you've changed mentally and spirtually that is most valuable.

Thank you for sharing, it has really helped me.

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LYNN2BTHIN 4/27/2011 11:34PM

    Wow girl, what an emoticon blog!!! You really hit describing these different people right on. You are such an inspiration and I love reading your blogs. Thanks for sharing this! It truly was emoticon !!



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JUSTME29 4/27/2011 11:00PM

    I would add another category - the genuinely interested. They are friendlies, they can seem like interrogators, but the difference is that they actually want to know what's working. They are the ones that will back off when asked, and will believe you when you tell them the "big secret" to your weight loss. These ones I usually refer to Spark. As to the other groups, you've done an amazing job of summing them up.

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COODLEBUG 4/27/2011 10:06PM

    WOW!! Very uplifting!! What an awesome blog, thank you!! Keep up the awesome work! emoticon

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OJIBWEEQUAY 4/27/2011 9:53PM

    YES! I have met the me toos and interrogators! I really only look forward to my hubby grabbing my tush and commenting on the firmness emoticon

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THINWITHIN18 4/27/2011 9:53PM

    No wonder this blog won a prize for Most Popular: it's fantastically truthfully awesomely wonderful! Great insights, great writing, and a great help to all of us. Thanks! emoticon

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RSANDBERG 4/27/2011 9:49PM

    Am I crazy-or have you lost 100 lbs? You have a lot of great things to say in your blogs. Thanks so much for your words.
You are doing great!

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SMJENSEN64 4/27/2011 9:25PM

  Wouldn't it be nice if peopled greeted each other with "How nice to see you" instead a comment on how you look?

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JENNYLENNON 4/27/2011 9:13PM

    Good blog. I was trying to decide what type of person I am....maybe an interrogator lol!

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LAGARRY82 4/27/2011 9:03PM

    Such a unique way of looking at it. Thanks for sharing!

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LADIBUG71 4/27/2011 8:33PM

  GREAT BLOG
THANKS FOR THE INSPIRATION.
I just hope that I am successful this weekend so that I can get motivated again on the weight loss journey.

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DANCINGBRAVE 4/27/2011 8:20PM

    This is a very thought provoking blog. Thank you.

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DAWNGW 4/27/2011 8:15PM

    Great blog, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I can relate to your aversion to wanting to talk about weight loss or gain but sometimes you can glean out the few people who really do care about you. Thanks for the advice on those who really just want to bring the subject back to themselves somehow. People are funny that way.

My issue is with people who don't say anything but I can see disappointment in their eyes or they just stare. That's where I'm most uncomfortable. It's probably all in my head, although a strange kind of motivation! We are living a healthier lifestyle for ourselves and that's all that matters!
Keep up the good work!!!

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JUNIE33 4/27/2011 7:35PM

    I use to lose weight and then WAIT for the compliments. When they didn't come, I would go back to my old ways and gain the weight back.
That is how I yo-yoed maybe 10-15 times.
After that the weight just started accumulating. Two here, another 3 there and all the way up to 15 since last year.
I no longer hang out with the same crowd or work with the same people and I don't rely on anyone to validate or invalidate me. After reading your blog, maybe I needed to move on from my failed rah-rah group to finally get to me, myself, and I.


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KAREN608 4/27/2011 7:12PM

    Relatives or friends sure can be a trial for us in what they say. Keep at it regardless.

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MALPAL99 4/27/2011 6:25PM

    Awesome blog! It was nice to read something, and kinda see how someone else views the topic of talking about losing weight!

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SLIMTHICK2 4/27/2011 5:39PM

    I enjoyed reading your blog, especially the part about the 'storytellers'.
All the best for the rest of your journey. emoticon

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REDLACED 4/27/2011 5:33PM

    great blog!

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YOUDONTOWNME 4/27/2011 5:33PM

    emoticon

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OLIVERSMOM2 4/27/2011 5:30PM

    I have way too many interogators in my life. :)

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NOEL711 4/27/2011 5:09PM

    Thank you! Your story nourishes those of us who follow in your
footsteps. You are an inspiration!

After losing 55 pounds (with more to go), a few people look and me and ask if I've done something different with my hair!

Some people ask what I've lost, and when I tell them, the say: "Oh." Like I'm a disappointment?

My husband says nothing; nothing at all.

But I'm not doing this for anyone but me.

And I thank you for your example, and your perspective.

keep up the great work!

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LARISADK 4/27/2011 5:02PM

  Before I joined Spark People I was definitely an Interrogator. I was always looking for someone else who had already succeeded to tell me that one secret of success. Now I realize just how individual a process it is for all of us and am working on being a Genuinely Friendly.

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VK2Z10 4/27/2011 5:01PM

    My mother can't understand why I don't tell her that I am losing weight. She is a very skinny, unhealthy exercising woman and if I don't look like her and exercise/eat like her, then I am a fat, bad looking blob. so, i do everything i can to minimize her negative comments whenever i can.

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JBJAKUBEK 4/27/2011 4:36PM

    That was a fantastic blog. I've been struggling with an Interrogator and I love that I now have a "name" for this person. Thanks so much for sharing!

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ASTRIDR 4/27/2011 4:25PM

  The Me Toos are sometimes, in my experience, not trying to brag about themselves, but share in success and build inter-personal realtionships....hey look we have this in common, so lets chat..that chatting can be support for both of you.

They are also usually not from families or cultures where talking about such things is taboo or seen as rude (this varies wildly by social circle in my experience).

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