We have a Twitter; we have a Facebook page; we have Pinterest; we have MyFitnessPal profiles (Thirtysix24thirtysixElle and Thirtysix24ThirtysixNaomi) and friends. We have started a blog (and have 446 followers so far as of this posting; thanks guys!). We’re friends in real life, and we have other friends. We know the importance of community and of talking about issues regarding weight loss and body image personally and culturally. But despite knowing the importance, sometimes….sometimes it’s just so damn hard to talk about, right? We want to discuss why that is and how we feel about public acknowledgement of weight and weight loss.
Elle: First, my position on the topic. Strictly speaking, I don’t talk about it. I don’t talk about my intense desire to be thin, I don’t talk about my current dissatisfaction with my body, I don’t talk about my dietary concerns. I talk about working out, but never in the context of the end goal. If the topic comes up in general conversation, I keep quiet about it. Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t think about it…every second of every day, it seems.
Naomi: I almost always talk about it. I am a very open person. I never really sugar coat what’s going on with me, especially when it potentially calls attention to my habits. For example, if I say that I don’t want any cake, it’s understood why. I don’t want to always talk about dieting, but I think that having the people around me know helps me make better choices and also prevents me from explaining myself all the time.
Elle: What you said: “it’s understood why.” THAT’S exactly what I balk against. I don’t want my refusal of a cookie to be “understood” as me trying to lose weight. Why couldn’t it be “understood” as me feeling too sugar-saturated or thinking that the baker is seriously overdoing the nutmeg? By having an “understanding” – or even telling people outright – I feel that it says to everybody not “I’m trying to be healthier and lose weight” but instead “I need to lose weight because I’m wrong in some way.” Telling people highlights the fact – and it’s a fact that I have lived my whole life trying to tone down for the watching world.
Naomi: I am not saying that it doesn’t bother me that I have to tell people. But I do care in some regard what people think of me, and I believe I have secured enough people that care about me that makes me want to care about myself. I want to be around for a long time. Health is my main priority. I want to have a relationship with food that isn’t based on it being there but needing it to refuel. That being said, I believe my friends’ support actually benefits me rather than making me feel ashamed. Losing weight doesn’t have to be about vanity; you know why YOU are doing it, and that’s all that matters.
Elle: Well, when you put it that way, it sounds so easy and healthy and right. But…I guess I’m just too proud. I feel as though I’ve spent my whole life trying to prove that I’m “just like everybody else” (what is that?), that I am not different because of my size or appearance. I don’t want to be the only one refusing some delicious treat or another beer.
I am also in a position where I don’t feel like the people around me – the ones who really matter in these circumstances since they’re the ones I eat/socialize with – are that close of friends. I’ve only met most of them a few months ago, and I feel like I’m still in the process of gaining their friendship, which often requires a lack of vulnerability to start off – after all, you can’t present yourself as an emotional wreck right from the get-go. Of course, all of these verbiage could really boil down to…I’m afraid. I’m scared that this will be yet one more way to feel (or actually be) rejected. It’s probably an irrational fear, but it’s an omnipresent one.
Naomi: I understand your position with regard to not knowing people well, but what’s wrong with a little vulnerability? You may find that one of these new friends also struggles with weight or has in the past. Support for weight-loss to me always works unless it’s negative support like “Are you sure you’re going to eat that?” or “Aren’t you on a diet?” Weight loss is such a personal journey, but when you share it with people it’s like “some” (imaginary) weight has been lifted. I know for instance after starting this blog with you, I automatically feel like I can’t fail because 1) we’re writing this blog, and 2) because when we talk to each other about our struggles we can brainstorm together on how to fix them. Everyone loves a success story right? So why is it that we don’t share the struggle before the success? You don’t just wake up one day and walk out of your bedroom skinny; it takes time, energy, effort, saying no to delicious treats, etc. I just think it’s easier when people know or understand what you are going through.
Elle: Yes, everyone loves a success story, and I would certainly love to be one. But I hate a failure story – and that’s one I feel all too familiar with. Perhaps that’s what it boils down to: a very acute fear of failure. I understand that if others know, that’s more motivation; but if others know and I still don’t lose weight, then that becomes a more public failure.
I also think dieting is difficult to talk about because it labels me as just another statistic. There are obesity statistics and Americans’ poor health standards floating around, and becoming just another “dieter” negates the intense personal struggle that we’re trying to identify in these conversations and on this blog. In addition, you have thin people (let’s just say it: skinny bitches) who are so vocal about eating their carrot sticks or denouncing restaurant meals when they don’t need to. You know who I’m talking about – the girls (and guys) who call attention to the fact that they don’t need to lose weight by proclaiming that they are watching their weight and not eating much. I’m not saying they can’t be healthy, but we all know that some of these people are fishing for compliments. Their actions lead to a culture of reassurances, “Oh, come on. One isn’t going to hurt. Of course you can eat that, don’t be silly! Why are you dieting? You look fine!” Even if these aren’t true, people now feel obligated to say these empty compliments as a standard of politeness. When they do this, I feel even worse and more conspicuous about refusing because, hey, I do need to diet while these other people who are yammering on don’t. It just highlights the contrast in ways that are uncomfortable to me.
Naomi: But the fact is, you are a statistic because you do need to lose weight – you’re not alone because so many people in America (including the friends you don’t give enough credit to by not talking to them about this) are in the same position, and maybe they need to talk about it, too.
[Let the record show that this is a paraphrase of what Naomi said, then deleted because Elle may have freaked out about hearing that she does need to lose weight from somebody else’s “lips,” even if she obviously knows it’s true. What ensued was a frustrating text conversation fraught with self-deprecation but still encouragement by a dear friend, Naomi. We have our issues, too.]
So where do you “weigh in” on public announcements or acknowledgements about dieting and fitness?