A while back, I wrote a post about setting goals, and whether or not it’s beneficial to actually tell people:
And do we see goals as public property and “small talk?” As complicated as my current goals are, I certainly don’t think I can talk about them in a conversation with people who are only slightly interested in me. I don’t say that to imply that people shouldn’t ask – I don’t mind that – but I do mean that perhaps we should be careful regarding how we discuss our goals and who we share them with.
The more I talk to people about their personal goals with fitness and weight loss, the more I hear them tell me about how non-supportive their friends and loved ones are in them reaching their goals. They talk about how, once their loved ones learn of their desire to eat better, they find brownies and other irresistible sweets in the house all of a sudden. Now, they see their favorite cake on the dining room table as a centerpiece. Not flowers, not fake fruit (fake fruit?)… but a cake, man. Now that their girlfriends know that they’re trying to make better choices, they’re being put under the hot lights. They’re being given the third degree. They’re being asked the hard questions and, once they can’t give “the answers,” are told “girl, just shut up and eat this food… stop ordering all these salads.”
And all the while, while people are talking about this stuff, I just keep wondering to myself, why tell anyone anything?
If you’re starting on a journey that leaves you a bit confused and, just maybe, a little self-conscious, do you really think you could handle finding out that your peers and loved ones aren’t so supportive? And once they do show themselves to be non-supportive, do you think you could handle their acts of sabotage, should they choose to follow that path? If your answer is anything other than an emphatic yes, it might as well be “no.” Let me explain.
I remember when I first decided to give up red meat and pork, which was my junior year (I think?) of high school. I told my mom that I was planning to let go of the pork chops, the ham hocks, the ribs, the steaks, the burgers… all of it. It had to go. Considering how much she mad chicken, I figured I wouldn’t miss it much anyway, right?
Y’all. Before I knew it, every night… it was some kind of pork. It was ribs. It was roast. It was pork chops. It was bacon… every morning… bacon. House reeked of bacon (hence my general disdain for it – not because it’s “unclean,” just because I’ve been traumatized! Dang!) all the time, and it was inescapable. She was tryin’ to sabotage my efforts, man! Moms can, sometimes, take our efforts to change our eating habits (the eating habits we’ve developed from them) as an insult to them – it implies that what they taught us was wrong, and that we reject what they passed down to us.
And what about our girls? When we go kick it with them, and we head out to eat before we go out for real… what happens when they notice that we’ve chosen something grilled instead of something fried (and usually in soybean oil… yuck?) Do we go in on how disgusting fried food is (by the way, it doesn’t have to be) and how you’re making healthier choices and losing weight by not eating it… thereby making them feel like garbage as the waiter drops their burger and fries in their laps? Do we tout our moral superiority for choosing the “better” option in the midst of temptation, thereby guilting your friends for not showing the same restraint as you?
If you ask me, I say no.
Now, I’ve written about this before – the fact that the people we spend the most time with can wind up feeling judged in a roundabout way by the decisions we make. And, let’s face it – we can’t always help that. Sometimes, that has more to do with insecurity than anything else:
I mean, think about it – when we hear a woman talk about how she doesn’t want “big thighs,” how many of us have looked at our own thighs and asked ourselves “What, is something wrong with big thighs? Do I have big thighs? She doesn’t like my thighs?” and it causes us to feel some kind of way about ourselves and the decisions we’ve made for ourselves. [source]
But how much do we contribute to this? Do we ruin perfectly good outings by explaining to our friends how “those cupcakes are why they can’t get rid of their gut?” Do we, out of eagerness to share what we know, piss off the people who love us the most by trying to invoke their “come-to-fitness” moment before they’re ready? You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not – I’ve heard the stories, and I’ve witnessed it myself.
I’m a proponent of the art of silence. Like, the way my shoulders shrug off questions? You’d think I was a politician. I don’t want my outings with friends and family to turn into conversations about my eating habits, where I might be mocked and weakened and feel compelled to make decisions I’d rather not, just to conform and make everyone else [except me] comfortable.
“Aww Erika, you don’t really even go out to restaurants anymore… why not get a burger or something?”
[insert slow shoulder shrug]
“Dang Erika, you’ve got to try those cookies Danielle brought in to work… why aren’t you getting any?”
[insert slow shoulder shrug]
“But Erika, you’ve eaten this way your whole life and you’re still alive! What makes you think the problem is the food, and not just you?”
[insert shoulder shrug] [waits a few moments] “Oh, did I show you my pedicure? It’s my favorite shade of pink, too…”
All three are things I’ve heard over the course of my journey. All three have answers that could easily add another 1,000+ words to this blog post to answer each question but really, my little shoulder shrug works wonderfully. Now, I’ve advocated for straight up lying to answer these questions but really… you’ve got to use that to progress onward to the point where you simply don’t answer these questions. It’s pretty hard to find a point of contention in your reasoning… when the only reason you give is a physical version of “I don’t know.”
It’s all about self-care. Know your abilities. Are you able to handle the questioning? If so, then proceed with caution. If not, then know that. It’s a part of your new lifestyle – venturing off into unique territory and knowing you have a whole new set of strengths and weaknesses to assess.
The reality is, the more attention you draw to your lifestyle changes, the more people you’re inviting in to tell you how wrong you are and how you should be following the advice they’ve read in Marie Claire this week… and if you’re on the path to building the confidence you need to keep going, you really don’t need the additional battles of defending your choices at every turn. You don’t need the extra task of sifting out the friends from the frenemies. Your focus simply needs to be on making the “new” into the “normal.” If someone asked you why you always take off your favorite pumps and put them back in the box once you got home – a habit you’d developed from Mom – you’d answer “I don’t know.. it’s what I’ve always done.” and go on to another topic. Start thinking about this with the same approach.
The goal, in the end, is to make your new lifestyle something that isn’t “new” and “novel” anymore. It isn’t a “sideshow” worthy of pointing, staring and dissecting. It’s just you. And while you may be total star material… this is not a reality show, you aren’t in OK! Magazine and your every move – namely, your choice in salad dressings – really doesn’t need this much attention. Just shrug your shoulders… it counts as an upper body work out if you do it enough, anyway.