Losing weight is never easy, so you're going to want to make sure that the extra pounds you've lost stays off. A researcher has a tip: be mindful of people around you, as they may be consciously or subconsciously sabotaging your efforts.
In a study published in the journal Health Communication, a researcher from the North Carolina State University highlighted the unusual challenge that those looking to lose weight face. They were also able to uncover strategies people use in navigating interpersonal issues associated with weight loss.
Weight Loss And Relationships
According to Lynsey Romo, study author, a lot of the time, someone's efforts at losing weight are undermined by people around them, such as their family, friends, or coworkers.
"This study found that people experience a ‘lean stigma' after losing weight," she said.
Examples of lean stigma include being on the receiving end of snide remarks about choosing to eat healthy or being told that all weight lost will be gained back.
For the study, 40 in-depth interviews were carried out where people self-reported whether they were formerly obese or overweight but thought of themselves as thin at the time of the interview.
There were 21 female participants in the study, while 19 were male. Average weight loss recorded for all subjects was 76.9 pounds. Based on the results of the interviews, Romo found out that all participants had people in their lives who tried to undermine or belittle their efforts to lose weight, which resulted in the lean stigma she mentioned earlier. However, all the participants were also able to cope with said stigma by turning specific strategies, allowing them to keep off the weight they lost as well as maintain their personal relationships.
Coping With Lean Stigma
There were two categories into which the communication strategies the study participants used fell under: first, to save face, and two, for damage control.
"Saving face" meant helping other people not to feel uncomfortable about the participant's choice to eat healthily, while "damage control" was about helping participants find ways to lessen the discomfort other people are feeling about weight loss and its associated lifestyle changes.
One way to avoid discomfort is to tell others about why a participant wanted to lose weight, while mitigating discomfort usually focused on coming up with excuses for why a participant's behavior had changed.
For instance, study participants shared they took pains not to reveal just how much they've changed their lifestyle by saving cheat days for special occasions or night outs, accepting food but not eating them, and eating smaller portions at family gatherings.
Additionally, they would also go to lengths to clarify that there are not judging choices other people are making, stressing, for example, that they are eating healthily for health reasons or to have more energy.
According to Romo, overall, the study sheds light on the importance of personal relationships to making lasting lifestyle changes and how important communicating properly is in navigating those relationships.