After years of unsuccessful weight-loss attempts, you've decided that this it. No more fad diets or extreme amounts of exercise—now you're focusing only on slow and steady, healthy choices. You've learned from past mistakes and vowed that they won't be repeated this time. Surprisingly, one of those mistakes wasn't related to your food or fitness plan. No, it was the decision to tell others you were about to embark on a weight-loss journey.
Most weight-loss programs stress the need for support, whether that comes from friends, family or others in your community. When you're surrounded by people who want you to succeed, you're much more likely to follow through, right? When you tell everyone you're trying to lose weight, it helps you stay accountable, correct?
That's not always the case. Is it possible that making a Facebook announcement about your goals hasn't led to success in the past, and this time, it's better to go-it alone? It might seem counter-intuitive, but for some, keeping their weight-loss goals to themselves has helped them be more successful.
According to a study by Dr. Peter Gollwitzer and colleagues, "When other people take notice of one's identity-relevant behavioral intentions, one's performance of the intended behaviors is compromised." Examples of identity-relevant intentions include becoming a faster runner, a more productive employee or a successful dieter. Dr. Gollwitzer goes on to explain that when people take notice of your efforts to improve, it can become an unintentional cue that your goal has been accomplished. For example, if someone comments that you've lost weight and look great, it could make you feel good enough to quit prematurely and not continue toward your ultimate goal.
As the study explains, "[…] any striving for goals—and not just identity goals—that can be attained by various behavioral routes is vulnerable to the negative effects of social reality on the enactment of behavioral intentions." Simply put, whether the feedback is good or bad, when someone comments on your intention to lose weight, it can inadvertently influence your progress.
To Share or Not To Share?
"I only mentioned my weight-loss plans in the course of a normal conversation," explains SparkPeople member SLIMMERKIWI. "A lot of people have directly and indirectly been negative about how I achieve my goals, such as weighing my food and using the nutrition tracker. Some of the negative comments have even been insulting [in regards to] using the weigh-and-record method and 'micromanaging' my nutrition. Ironically, some of those people were also complaining about their own weight-loss struggles [at the same time]."
WALLAHALLA keeps her weight-loss journey private for a variety of reasons. "Most of the people I know tend to be more negative than supportive, which is why I rely on SparkPeople. I don't want to be told what I'm doing wrong—it is discouraging. I don't want to hear how hard it will be to maintain or be reminded of past failures. I don't want to listen to snide remarks when I fit a favorite dessert or treat into my plan for the day. I want people to notice the differences in me without my saying anything. If I mention my weight loss, I feel like I'm fishing for compliments and then they don't feel sincere. If I feel like my failures are made public, I am more likely to throw in the towel. When failures are private, I just get back up, dust myself off and keep trying," she explains.
CINDILP would prefer that people notice her healthy lifestyle, not just her weight loss. "When I tell others about SparkPeople, I don't call it a weight-loss site, I call it a wellness site," she describes. "I lost weight [using] SparkPeople, but now I am mainly wellness-oriented. When weight loss comes up in conversation, people are either very passionate about their diet or they are judgmental. It's almost like talking about politics. I don't engage in those conversations; I focus on health and wellness in my life and conversations."
"I have found that I am more successful on my weight-loss journey when I don't share my plans with others," says GOOZLEBEAR. "I feel like they are watching to see how successful or unsuccessful I am and I don't need that extra pressure. Friends and family can either be a big encouragement or a detriment to my plan."
For GARDENCHRIS, losing weight is a private thing. "I am a slow and steady person. In the past I felt like people were judging me because I wasn't losing weight as quickly as they expected, but my clothes are looser and the scale is telling me I'm doing okay. Of course I wish it was faster, but this is a journey and not a destination. Don't let other people define who and what you are," she recommends.
4 Questions to Ask When Deciding Whether to Share
If you're debating whether or not to share your weight-loss intentions with others, ask yourself the following questions:
Even if you choose to keep things private, eventually those in your life might ask about the changes they see in you. If you're not comfortable answering their questions, consider responses that don't feel quite as personal.
"I'm working on making healthier choices."
"I'm exercising to improve my energy level."
"I'm having fun experimenting with new foods."
There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to deciding how much or how little outside support you need to lose weight successfully. For some, shouting it from the social media rooftops is the way to go; for others, keeping quiet and letting choices speak for themselves is a better strategy. In the end, do what works best to increase your comfort level and, therefore, increase your chances of success.
Do you share your weight loss goals with others? Why or why not?
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