I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m an advocate of keeping your fitness goals to yourself.
I remember a few years ago, there was a TED talk about sharing your goals, and how it can negatively affect your ability to advance on your goals. Something about telling people your goals, and the praise you receive from the actual conversation, makes your brain feel as if its already accomplished the goal, thereby diminishing your desire to actually make progress.
And, as weird as it sounds, I can understand how that could happen – you receive so much praise about your goal to finally lose those stubborn pounds for good, and people pat you on the back, cheer you on, and you get excited! You become happy. It’s encouraging for some, but for others, that initial happiness will never compare to the praise you get for losing 2lbs every week. In fact – people are so used to hearing about people losing 7lbs in 7 days, that people might even wind up snarking on your progress – “Shouldn’t you be losing more than that? Oh, I don’t know…I keep seeing magazine covers with diets that help you lose 7lbs in 7 days… maybe you need to check that out?”
As always, I have a few points worth considering when it comes to sharing your fitness goals with any ol’ body:
1) Sabotage isn’t just for movies – it’s a real life phenomenon. Those jerks at the office who, once made aware of your fitness goals, now want to ensure that you never miss out on “donut day” or now, all of a sudden, want to make sure you get a slice of whomever’s birthday cake? Those people… should all take a long walk off a short pier.
Now, mind you, every person who presents with saboteur-esque behavior isn’t doing it with malice in their hearts – oftentimes, they just want to see what it looks like for someone to turn down a tasty pastry, because they don’t know how and would like to see it in person. Lots of people feel like they can’t help but succumb to the flesh – err, frosting? – and want to watch it live and in real time. They rarely – if ever – think about how this action will affect you – what it’ll mean for you if you say “yes,” what it’ll mean for you if you say “no.”
If you find yourself being asked why you’re turning down the office crumb cake, all you’ve got to do is frown your face up and say “Nah, I’m not in the mood.” And, when someone pokes at you and says, “C’mon, everybody’s doing it! Peer pressure! Who turns down crumb cake?!” You just frown your face up again and say, “I don’t know.. I just don’t feel up to it right now. I don’t feel too hot.” (Because, of course, the only acceptable reason to turn down cake is because something is wrong with you.)
2) You signed up to lose weight – you didn’t sign up to be challenged by know-it-alls. The challenges are the most irritating. “Should you be eating that?” “I thought you weren’t allowed to eat that?” “You’re eating that?”
Yes, ask me these questions as I slide a fork full of it into my mouth.
Now, I can understand that someone who actually shouldn’t be eating whatever they’re eating might appreciate the check… but I’m curious – has this question ever resulted in someone saying, “You know what? You’re right,” while tossing the tray out? Or does this usually just end with a “Nope, oh well. YOLO,” as they take another bite?
The only person who really knows whether or not you should include something in particular in your diet… is you, and it is your responsibility to hold yourself accountable for that. You’re an adult – if you choose to stick to or side step your plan, I can only hope you chose to do so mindfully and not absent-mindedly, but whatever you do, it ain’t my business or anyone else’s, for that matter. Besides, the wrong person, in the right situation, can easily turn into a conversation that winds up shaming you for your ability or inability to stick to your plan…
3) …which leads me to my next point – shamers and mockers. I give people who sabotage – accidentally or on purpose – far more benefit of the doubt than I give shamers and mockers. These people are just obnoxious.
“Ohh, are you on a diet?”
“Oh, you diet probably doesn’t allow that, does it?”
Sharing your fitness goals always opens you up to these people who, while cutting a slice of pie, turn towards you and say “Oh, you probably can’t eat this since you’re on a diet, huh?”
It’s not even always pie or cupcakes, either – remember, when I told my Mom I was giving up pork and beef… all of a sudden every single night was ribs, steak, bacon, pork chops, burgers. If it previously oinked or mooed, it was dinner. Complete with an, “Oh, well it looks like you’ll be eating lettuce for dinner, huh, boo?”
That’s not the only way “sharing” and “mocking” can come into play, either – think about all the jerks who, after a few weeks say, “I thought you were on a diet? How much have you lost again?” as if to imply “whatever you’re doing isn’t working, since I can’t tell.” What’s more, if your current loss hasn’t met their “7lbs in 7 days!!!1ONE” standard, sure enough… the shame tries to seep in, once again.
4) Talking about your fitness goals can inadvertently open you up to being responsible for someone else! Suppose you’re ready and raring to go. You’ve got a plan – you know what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, and how you’re going to get it done. You’re confident that no outside force can affect you, so you decide to be Sharey McSharington and share your goals with everyone, anyway.
Now, people who aren’t anywhere near as committed as you are want to be your “workout buddy.” They want to be your “lunch buddy.” They want to poke, prod, ask questions and cling to you in the hopes that they, too, can do what you’re doing.
This isn’t a terrible thing, but if you didn’t bargain for this? It’s annoying.
People love workout buddies… when they actually do the work. If you’ve got hangers-on attaching themselves to you and trying to “attach” themselves to you and what you’re doing, hoping that you’ll “motivate” them into their own fitness… it’s irritating. If a person hasn’t had their “come to fitness moment,” then they aren’t ready, and attaching themselves to you won’t “get” them ready. And, even more, just because you’re knowledgeable doesn’t mean that the energy spent on someone else won’t weigh you down. It’s hard enough being mindful for one person – for two? I am unable.
5) The power of silent change is immeasurable. When people see you, without announcement, taking an “active lunch” at the gym, occasionally partaking of the cupcakes and cookies at work mindfully, drinking loads of water, it attracts other like-minded people. Soon, you’ve got a crew of people who all dip off to the gym during lunch time, and spend lunch in the weight room while grabbing a wrap out the door instead of going to Friday’s. Eventually, there are enough of you skipping the lunch time sweets to the point where there’s now a “basket of apples” next to the “basket of candy.” You’re an ambassador of healthy living, not the “girl on a diet.” It’s not a “thing” anymore – it’s just how you live, no big deal, and it produces results. Sometimes, that looks far more possible than “the diet” which, by now, we’re all so accustomed to failing that it’s literally ingrained in us.
It’s called “being the change you wish to see in the world,” and it works. Way better than offering yourself up for slaughter by the jerks with the oreos.
Now, none of this means that I don’t understand why some people are major supporters of sharing with everyone – I do! I understand the desire to have other people hold you accountable and help remind you of your goals… but that’s always left me wondering – why do you need to be held accountable by someone else? Why aren’t you the only person you need to hold you accountable? And there’s always the question of what are people holding you accountable for? Is this the person who sees you putting olive oil on your salad and snarking, “Are you sure you should be eating that?” Or is this the person who thinks that, because you’re not going vegan/paleo/gluten free/whatever they are or giving up bread/pork/seafood/whatever they gave up, you need to be reminded how you’re doing it wrong?
If anything, I see the value in having a select group of fitness-minded people who already share your beliefs on fitness to help you along. That’s different from being vocal about your goals with everyone. Being with like-minded people is always a plus… but the rest? Gotta let that go!
What do you think? What did I leave out? Do you agree?