Published January 11, 2014
What's the worst thing anyone ever said to you when you were trying to lose weight? That's the question we put to Health's Facebook audience, and boy, did we get an earful!
Research backs those responses up. A whopping 66 percent of women aged 25-55 who have dieted or are trying to lose weight say those closest to them—including spouses and friends—actually undermine their attempts to get slim and healthy, confirms a recent survey by Medi-Weightloss Clinics in Tampa, Fla. Here, the worst things someone can say to you on your weight loss journey—and what your best response should be to stay on course.
"Here, try these brownies… I baked them just for you."
Guilt-inducing? Sure. But typical. Half of all dieters report that other people pressured them to eat food that was not on their diet, and a whopping 56 percent succumbed to that pressure, usually because they didn't want to hurt the brownie-baker's feelings.
Best response: Pass the buck, said Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, a nationally recognized health expert and the co-author of The Carb Lovers Diet, and do it with a smile. "Wow, that's so sweet! I'm not eating that right now, but I'm sure Sally in accounting would love them!"
"I'm buying, let's go out for dinner!"
This can be a typical response from someone who is jealous of your weight loss efforts but is not aware of it, said Dr. Sejal Shah, medical director of the Medi-Weightloss Clinics.
Best response: "Be honest and say, 'I appreciate the gesture and I would like to take you up on it another time,'" she suggests. Better yet, go… but choose a healthy salad, not a fattening entrée.
"What difference will a few pounds really matter on you?"
Dieters need to expect this kind of undermining, and steel themselves against it, said Greg Hottinger, MPH, RD, co-author of Coach Yourself Thin.
Best response: Let your actions do the talking. Say, "If you're not on board with my weight loss plans, let's change the subject." Keep your responses short and let go of the need to explain your behavior, Hottinger said.
"Have you tried the Blood Type, Dukan, Forking diet?"
This suggestion often comes from friends who don't really know how unhealthy yo-yo dieting can be for you long term, Largeman-Roth said.
Best response: "No, those fad diets don't work. I'm on a healthy plan that allows me to stay healthy and still lose weight," suggests Largeman-Roth.
"You look better when you're heavier." Or "I like a woman with lots of meat on her bones."
This kind of undermining usually comes from the man in your life, who feels threatened that your weight loss efforts leave him out—or that you will look so great afterwards that you will make him jealous, Shah said.
Best response: Try to make it a win-win for him, Largeman-Roth said: "I feel better at my goal weight; then we can do more fun things together!"
"When are you expecting?"
Amazingly, women dieters say they still hear this dig!
Best response: Ignore em, or reply, "When are you going to stop being a jerk?"
"Don't become anorexic!"
This undermining comment is often a way for concerned loved ones to make sure you are dieting in a healthy way, Shah said.
Best response: "There may in fact be those who develop eating disorders, but I will not be one of them," Shah said. "I am following a healthy weight loss plan and I check in often with my physican."
"Just practice willpower/cut down on dessert/stop eating."
Largeman-Roth said these comments usually come from naturally-thin people who have no idea what you are going through—and never will.
Best response: "That might work for you, but it doesn't work for me." Then change the subject.
"My 2 year old held up a peanut butter cookie right in my face and said, 'Mommy, that's for you.'"
Best response: Kids always push your buttons, but don't let them. Largeman-Roth suggests turning their sharing instincts in a healthier direction with, "Thanks sweetie, but that's not healthy for mommy. Why don't you get me a carrot instead? I LOVE those!"
"Are you SURE you can eat that?"
Best response: "I want to be my own diet police," Shah said. "Let them know you don't need any extra monitoring, even if they think they are being helpful."
"I've seen you try this before… you'll never lose the weight."
Sometimes, it's best to realize that some people will never be supportive, and to surround yourself with those who are, Hottinger said.
Best response: Back away. Take steps to identify those people you can count on for unconditional support, and only go to them for advice.
"Come on, another helping of mashed potatoes won't hurt."
Family members can be trouble when you're trying to lose weight, especially because you usually share meals with them. Hottinger suggest negotiating with them to keep trigger foods out of the house and temptation off the dinner table. An informal contract can be your backup when the undermining—"Look what I bought… Ring Dings!"—gets too intense.
Best response: "Thanks, but no thanks… we discussed this and I need to not have these foods around me."
"You don't want to get TOO SKINNY do you!?"
Best response: Largeman-Roth said: "How thin I get is my business. You don't want to get TOO RUDE, do you?"
"You're no fun when you're on a diet."
Best response: Shah said: "You know what, in all honesty it saddens me to be the weight I am now. Bear with me while I work on being the fun person I want to be."
"You're dieting during the holidays/on Friday night/on our anniversary weekend?"
Best response: "Yeah, it may seem inconvenient, but it's worth it," Largeman-Roth said. "The holidays only come around once a year, but I need to be healthy every day."