I have three theories on why many people no longer admit to trying to lose weight. People will tell you that they are trying to “eat healthier” or “exercise more” or “cut back on sweets” or “stop eating processed food”, but what they don’t tell you is that their primary measure of success is weight loss or some other form of it, such as a smaller dress size.
I understand that weight is not an automatic indicator of health, fitness, beauty, or confidence (see I Am a Real Woman), and I think people are recognizing this when they set their new broad-based healthy living goals. But I also know that weight loss is still an overwhelmingly popular health-related objective (as most New Year’s resolutions or the billion-dollar diet industry will tell you), even if people won’t admit to dieting.
Why is public weight loss suddenly taboo?
- You’re afraid that you will fail.
Once other people know that you’re trying to lose weight, you might feel like they are monitoring your progress. If you fail to lose any weight or actually gain weight, then you may feel like they are judging you in a negative way (“she can’t achieve anything even when she really tries”). This likely also contributes to why people will tell you how much weight they’ve lost even though they never even told you that they were trying to lose weight. They’ve already succeeded.
- Wanting to lose weight means you have weight to lose. Most people who want to lose weight are overweight. People associate being overweight with a number of negative stereotypes such as being lazy, lacking willpower, letting yourself go, gluttony, and so on. For some people, admitting that they’re trying to lose weight is admitting to possessing some of these stereotypical qualities. Even if they don’t actually have any of these qualities, they might feel like they do, so they wouldn’t want to advertise to others that they have these undesirable characteristics.
- Caring about your weight is “uncool”. I read all this sugar-coated garbage in magazines where celebrities claim that they never exercise and always eat whatever they want since they believe that life’s too short to worry about their weight. Yet those same celebrities then complain on the red carpet that they’re starving since they haven’t eaten solid food in 48 hours. People equate wanting to improve one’s appearance with being vain, shallow, or narcissistic, none of which are qualities that a fun and relatable person would have. This is nonsense to me. Honesty is the most relatable quality in a person.
There are of course other situations where people keep their weight loss goals to themselves (i.e., anorexics and bulimics who are hiding their eating disorders, friends and family of recovering eating disorder sufferers), but I suspect my three theories play out more often than perhaps one would expect.
Weight loss certainly isn’t my only goal in my recovery from BED, but it is included as one. My first and foremost goal is to stop the warpath of binging (see Setting Goals in Recovery), but I hope that weight loss will eventually follow.
I believe that people should not be ashamed to tell others that they are trying to lose weight, especially since telling others can make you more accountable and serve as motivation to lose weight. If you would like support from others to help you achieve your weight loss goals, then tell people who matter to you. You don’t need to do this alone.