Staying True In Spite of Mixed Messages

There are certain things inherently against us when we set out to change our weight.

  • Society
  • Media Messages
  • Habits that are near and dear to us
  • Physical restrictions
  • Emotional issues

I wanted to talk about how hard it is to lose weight when we get so many conflicting messages. The media messages we hear tell us to eat all we can eat, drink what we want, and indulge because we can. When we set out to lose weight and get healthy we are going against society norms. The fickle media also sends us the message that thin is perfection, and normal is not. It’s a mixed bag to be sure. Eat, but don’t gain weight. Indulge, but stay a size 2.

How is it possible to stay focused and have success when we are bombarded with conflicting messages on an hourly basis?  It’s not easy.

One way to stay focused on your own path would be to shut yourself off from all media outlets, and don’t listen to the opinions of friends and family. You could unsubscribe from the paper, turn off the television, don’t use the internet. That would help, but then you would still see the messages in stores, on billboards, and hear them from your friends. No, shutting ourselves off from the world isn’t the best way to achieve our goals.

For me, staying true to my goals involved learning to discern the false messages from the true. I had fallen prey in the past to the message that low-fat equaled healthy. The last time I lost weight, I set my own goals, and disregarded what the mass media and society was saying about weight. I set goals for myself based on my own personal needs, and developed a realistic weight loss plan that was sustainable.

When choosing to lose weight and improve your level of fitness you are saying to other people, “I’m different. I’m set-apart. I’m not normal.” (As I was writing that sentence, I was reminded of a great post that Dr. J did on being normal.)

It’s not easy to stand up for yourself and say, “I’m not going to have that value sized meal. No, I will not partake in every food item on the buffet. Yes, I’ve got to exercise today.” It takes courage and conviction and commitment.

I had friends and outsiders criticize me for exercising six days a week. They scoffed at me and told me that exercising was unnecessary. These were the same people who couldn’t have walked a nature trail without getting out of breath, even though they were average sized.  I endured the barbed comments when I chose not to eat dessert at church functions, and I stayed strong when the commercials told me that the more chocolate I ate the happier I would be.

Standing firm on my own convictions of what was right served me well. Going against the norms of society time after time gave me the courage to keep standing up for myself.  The messages I heard were often times false and not encouraging. But the messages I was telling myself were positive and true. The interesting thing is that over time, some of those same friends who scoffed at some of my decisions were the very friends who ended up changing their own lifestyles because of my example. Little by little we can not only make changes for ourselves that go against the tide, but we can also help change society. Diane

48 thoughts on “Staying True In Spite of Mixed Messages

  1. Yum Yucky says:

    Oh yes. My husband used to nag me all the time when I started working out. I was supposedly exercising “too much”. But oh, I was doing my workout DVDs in the family rooms, which means he got booted off the Xbox.
    .-= Yum Yucky´s last blog ..Food Trap Photo Gallery =-.

  2. Marisa (Trim The Fat) says:

    I agree! You have to stand strong, no matter what others think. I had some well meaning friends and family members tell me I was going overboard, but I knew that all the changes I was making would get me to where I am today. I had to go with my gut and what was right for me!

    • Diane says:

      @Yum Yucky – Too funny! My hubby didn’t mind me working out, except when I wasn’t back “on time” and he had to leave later for work.

      @MizFit – Thanks so much. Normal turns out to be not the best for us.

      @Marisa – Standing strong is so important, and I love the fact that you stayed strong knowing what you were doing was right for you.

  3. vickie says:

    I once read a series of postings by a woman that was getting major FLACK from her EXTENDED family about getting up and running each morning at 5:30 am before work. And I finally wrote in and asked if these people were camped out on her doorstep at 5:30am and ‘caught’ her – or if she was TALKING about running at 5:30am. And the light dawn-ith for her with that question. I think that much of the (unwanted) feedback we get from friends and family is self induced. If we did not mention food and exercise changes – they wouldn’t be able to nit pick them.

    I have one (extended) family member in particular who I will NOT let draw me into conversations about my weight loss or maintenance. It is not kind to say she is ignorant – but she is on this topic. A discussion would end up in an argument EVERY time. So I just stay away from the topin in general and my lifestyle choices in particular.
    .-= vickie´s last blog ..Keeping my own attention =-.

  4. Monica says:

    This is such a great post. The media is what makes me super mad. When I see these sickly looking models who have a figure that isn’t natural on one commercial, and then the next one shows Pizza Hut pizza being consumed by the boxful I think about the mixed message.

    I am still in the learning to stay strong part of my journey. I really want to be free from influence of the mixed messages I hear.

  5. Sara N. says:

    I love this post so much. As an older woman, I have seen the media messages change. I am am still surprised like some of your other commenters about how family members and friends react to my attempt to lose weight and get healthy. It’s not always a positive as I would have thought it would have been.

    • Diane says:

      @Vickie – Good point about the negative feedback sometimes being self induced. I can see where that would happen. In my own experience, I did tend to shy away from the “What are you doing to lose all that weight?” question, because I wasn’t sure how much they really wanted to know.

      @Monica – Yes, the media does send us mixed messages, and it is hard to filter out what is true from what is not. Keep strong!

      @Sara N. – Friends and family do surprise us with their reactions, and often times it’s not in a positive way. I hope that you have lots of friends who are totally supportive of you.

  6. Joanna Sutter says:

    Some of my friends and family made fun of me as well when I slowly changed my lifestyle. I do not eat meat, I workout 6 days a week, too, (and make no apologies!), I do not drink much alcohol. Personal choices. Now that my body has transformed a bit, I’m the go to person for advice when they are looking for new training programs or diet advice. I love it!
    .-= Joanna Sutter´s last blog ..Will workout for cupcakes =-.

  7. South Beach Steve says:

    For me, I kind of had to put blinders on, you know the kind that racehorses wear to keep them from getting distracted. Basically, I just chose not to see all the temptations. Does that make sense? Sure, it is not for everyone, but it worked for me. By the way, this is giving me some video post ideas – gotta go jot this down.
    .-= South Beach Steve´s last blog ..Wednesday’s Word of the Day =-.

  8. Jody - Fit at 51 says:

    Diane, I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO with you here! I researched & also thru just trial & error & doing the “wrong way” found my way to “the right way for me”. Again, I say, for me. Like you, I searched out what was right for me & not for that person on the commercial or somewhere else. Yes, Weight Watchers has a great reputation & there are other programs people use BUT I liked the process of finding what I preferred for me & made my food program based on things I enjoyed & made it work for me. Same with exercise!

    And loved that Dr. J post too! I am glad I am “not normal”. I don’t care if people think I have too much muscle because I like it. And like you Diane, I chose to eat or not eat what I want when I am out & about & no coercing by anyone is going to change that!

    Oh, and by the way, loved that some of the people criticizing you finally turned to “the light” 🙂
    .-= Jody – Fit at 51´s last blog ..Obsessed With Food? Get the Mindset Right! =-.

  9. Diane says:

    @Joanna – I love it that people are asking you for advice. Obviously what you are doing is working and people are noticing. Excellent!

    @Steve – The blinder analogy is perfect. Staying focused on your own journey is so important isn’t it? Especially when we see other people making different choices.

    @Jody – We are on the same page here to be sure. I had tried all the “programs” but just couldn’t seem to make them work for me. It was my own way that finally did it. I’m glad I’m not normal either – especially after I read that Dr. J post.

  10. Sunny says:

    The worst is having a husband who ends up having an affair because “you’re too fat.” Yeah, that was his excuse. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Not to make this all about me…obviously it’s not. I’m just saying, it’s amazing what people will say and do to us…all in the name of so-called love. (divorced him 8 years ago and happily re-married) All that said, we have to lose weight on our own time table. No one can force us to do something…or, at least, not for long. We have to want it bad enough for ourselves. And/but once we do, NO ONE can stop us!
    .-= Sunny´s last blog ..Contest: Week 3 (end) Weigh-In =-.

    • Diane says:

      @Amy H – It is hard not to listen because society’s voice is so loud. Stay strong.

      @Sunny – That is just terrible. I’m glad that you have found someone who is worthy of your love and loves you too. I hear the strength in your voice. You are doing great!!

  11. Deniz says:

    Normal to me isn’t the supermodel angularity I see in magazines and I certainly don’t aspire to that version of ‘normal’. What’s more, I wasn’t normal when I was at my highest weight, so why worry about being thought normal now. I won’t ever have the ‘perfect’ body, but I will do the best I can to keep it healthy and love the one I have.

    As to mixed messages from those close to you (yes, I too get the ‘are you sure you’re not overdoing things’ and ‘you don’t want to lose any more weight’ comments from family and friends), I just fix that trusty smile on my face and blithely go my own way. This whole issue brings out the stubborn side of me, I guess, and one big thing I have learned over my journey is that my opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s, actually more so when it relates to my body.
    .-= Deniz´s last blog ..Salsa! =-.

    • Diane says:

      @Deniz – I’m not inspired by supermodels either, although sometimes they clothes are pretty cute! Very good point about your opinion being the most valuable one, particularly where it pertains to you and your health. You are very wise.

      @Melissa – Thanks so much. I’m glad you found it too!

  12. Leah says:

    Another great and true post. So far I haven’t heard too many negative comments from people about how I eat or exercise. That may come when I lose more weight, so I’ll have to be prepared for it.

    Oh, but I do remember that once when my husband saw my mom losing weight and eating very little he told me, “I’d rather you be happy and big, than have to eat so little.” Yea..until he gained weight from eating lots and realized we have to be careful and only give our bodies what they need, and not what they want. 🙂


    Confession…I used to think that a lady I know was an exercise/health nut freak. She is about my mom’s age and also now a friend of mine. Now, part of it was because she was pretty open with me about her opinions of young thin wives that let themselves to and gain weight shortly after marrying. (which I always thought was funny, because she was talking to me – a 95%-of-my-life overweight girl) And she was very strict, almost extreme, about some things.

    However, now that I’m working on losing weight I see that our eating and exercise habits are not so different anymore and she had some really good points. I am now looking forward to sending them a Christmas card and telling her about the changes in my life. I know she’ll be proud.

    Sorry, I may have gone off track with that comment.

    Thanks for the great post, Diane! Balance in all things…

    • Diane says:

      @Leah – What a great comment. It’s so true about being a little bit judging of “thin/exercise type” people, but then realizing that they were on the right track after all. I used to hate seeing people running down the road because it made me feel fat. (Which I was.)

      @Janet – Good point. Why do they care what you eat? I think it’s that sense of misery and bad choices love company.

  13. Dr. J says:

    Thanks Diane!! Great post, as always!

    I’ve always been very independent in my health and fitness choices rather than being influenced by the media. I don’t know why, it just felt better to me to make my own choices. After all, the choices we make determine our lives!

    • Diane says:

      @Stacy – They really do try to manipulate us into thinking certain things, and behaving a certain way. Thank you for the comment.

      @Dr. J – You are quite welcome. I’m not surprised that you are independent in your health choices. I have learned to be as well.

  14. michelle says:

    You are truly a blessing in my life. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

    I want to write this to you, because I think it’s not only about being immune to the outside..but also to the inside voices. The conflicting messages within your own head ‘your too fat/too lazy’ etc. and then the next day or hour ‘your beautiful’. I think that I am going to do this tomorrow on my blog. Getting down the nitty gritty of who I am and what I stand for in certain areas of my life. always..a Godsend.
    .-= michelle´s last blog ..‘Hey, watch this!’ =-.

    • Diane says:

      @michelle – Thank you very much. You are so kind. I will look forward to reading your blog tomorrow and beyond. You really are in the self examination period of your journey. It is what will keep you focused and strong – for you!

  15. Lynn @ Actual Scale says:

    Convincing my husband that I not only need to exercise 6 days a week, but want to has been tough.

    We’ve had to talk about him not pushing emotional guilt upon me for not spending every moment of every evening together. Finally, we’ve come to a compromise, but I really had to stick to my guns about it.

    We do have to do what is best for each of us individually without letting society stick its nose in our business.

    Great post as always Diane!
    Have a great week,
    .-= Lynn @ Actual Scale´s last blog ..Is it just my hormones… =-.

  16. Shannon Fab Fattie says:

    I have admit I am easily swayed with the promise of “a quick fix” I so wish I would no tlet it get to me. Once we find what works for us we just need to do it. Easier said than done that is for sure!
    I love what you said about the media. Mixed messages gallore!
    .-= Shannon Fab Fattie´s last blog ..Watch Oprah Today! =-.

  17. Diane says:

    Any time thoughts of going against the grain come into my head, I quickly remind myself of the million and one other ways I go against the grain of society , and I take comfort in the fact that weight loss and healthy eating just completes the picture.And in
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..You canhear it in the air =-.

    • Diane says:

      @Lynn – We do have to do what is best for us, and its often not what the media thinks is best. I love the way you compromised with your spouse by talking it over. It’s so nice to see couples working together to make life better for both people.

      @Shannon – I used to love “quick fixes” too. Magazine diets, etc. I tried them all to no avail.

      @Diane – Yes, yes, yes. Just stay true to yourself and you will be fine. Going against the grain is what makes us each unique.

  18. Amy says:

    A friend’s mother (who got the saying from the title of a book, I believe), used to say, “Normal is a setting on the dryer”. This has served me well in many ways the last year or so. I don’t need to be “normal” in how I raise/teach my children, how I eat, how I exercise, how I love others. “Normal” or typical, is often a horrible way to go…

  19. Taryl says:

    I am glad that my husband and friends have been so supportive of the changes I’ve made. Those are true friends, right there!

    As for media influence, if I have to be morally discerning with popular media messages, as a Christian, then it just doesn’t phase me to have to apply a similar level of discernment as a former fat woman. It’s just part of taking the good, leaving the bad, and being confident in myself and my ability to take care of my health with common sense!
    .-= Taryl´s last blog ..Mini victory blurb. =-.

    • Diane says:

      @amy – I think I’ve read that book. Seriously. Yes, like Dr. J pointed out, normal really isn’t what we should be striving for.

      @Taryl – You are lucky to have supportive friends and a supportive spouse. It really does make everything easier. Discernment is a valuable tool in life, both in the appropriateness of things, and also in weight loss.

  20. Pam says:

    Before we started losing weight, my husband used to tell me he didn’t want my behind to get any smaller…I told him that I would look pretty ridiculous weighing 100-something with a rear that belonged on a nearly 400 pound person! As time has gone on, he’s come to appreciate the proportions that I am becoming! LOL

    I try to not let other comments influence my journey, but of course it is difficult when it comes from someone you love, or whose opinions you value.
    .-= Pam´s last blog ..Shameless Self Promotion! =-.

    • Cari (aka Gastric Bypass Barbie) says:

      Hi Pam — Had to jump in on this one because I lost my butt BIG TIME after shedding 180 pounds. I’ve since regained 10 (so I don’t look like a skeleton) and fortunately, some of it has gone to the right places — but it is a real dilemma when you are used to filling in your pants a certain way or…sitting for longer than 10 minutes at a time (ha ha). You haven’t lived until you’ve slipped right off the toilet — this actually happened to one of my plastic surgeon’s patients. She said that was the day she decided on butt implants (LOL). Fortunately for me, though I ended up with more of a “THUTT” (Thigh+Butt) than anything else, it’s still better than my old hiney, which more closely resembled an in-window air conditioner than anything else. And forget about the “badonka-donking” — I don’t miss it, and I’m guessing you don’t either!!! God bless your hubby for supporting you in your transformation. It’s good to have one of those at your side 😉
      .-= Cari (aka Gastric Bypass Barbie)´s last blog ..Shin Splints: God’s Gift to Bariatric Athletes =-.

    • Diane says:

      I’m with Cari on this one. My body changed in unexpected ways when I lost all my weight. My hubby used to say, “Where does it all go?” I’d shrug my shoulders and say, “No clue!”

      I think it’s interesting that your husband was a little concerned about how you would look after you lost weight. You are doing great, and he’s probably surprised at how much better you look (and feel) now!

  21. Cari (aka Gastric Bypass Barbie) says:

    Talk about a media blitz! Here’s some fun messages we encounter every day:
    1) McDonald’s (Note that I don’t eat here because I can’t, but I was with my hubby in the drive-thru last week and noticed this oldie, but goodie): Hot Apple Pie! $0.89 each or 2 for $1! Now, why on EARTH would anyone order just ONE??? It’s like flushing $0.11 right down the toilet. I remember I used to get sucked into this trap (in my “before” life) all the time. I’d convince myself that I would “only eat one and save the other for later.” I always ate them both, and that was AFTER I’d finished the Quarter Pounder, Fries and a 2nd Refill on my X-Large Diet Coke. Now, on a really “bad” day, I’d order FOUR pies for the bargain basement price of just — $2!!! What a deal.

    2) 100-Calorie Packs. These things are ingenious because, CLEARLY, *nothing* is fattening if it’s only 100 calories, right? And, hey, since it’s *only* 100 calories, I could eat 2 or 3 packs and end up getting way more than the “regular cookies.” So smart!

    3) No Sugar Added. Hey, these things are *SUGAR FREE” — they MUST
    .-= Cari (aka Gastric Bypass Barbie)´s last blog ..Shin Splints: God’s Gift to Bariatric Athletes =-.

    • Cari (aka Gastric Bypass Barbie) says:

      Darnit! I accidentally pressed the “return” key in my zeal!

      Let me continue (sorry!)

      3) No Sugar Added. Hey, these things are “SUGAR FREE* — they must be good for you, and they aren’t fattening, like the ones with sugar. What? These aren’t sugar free? What? They aren’t low calorie? What? If I eat too many of these I may experience a “laxative” effect?

      4) Low-Carb. If Atkins says it’s low-carb, it MUST be low-carb. Who cares if it’s high-fat? Who cares if you’re not *really* supposed to subtract ALL of the fiber from the carbs to arrive at the net carb number. Who cares that you really only get to subtract 1/2 of the fiber and ONLY if it’s higher than 5 grams. That’s for diabetics, not Atkins people.

      5) High Protein. This is a good one for me, because, since my surgery, I’m malabsorptive and have to get lots of high-quality protein in every day. The high protein stuff is probably LOADED with sugar and fat, and the “high-protein” might only be 10 grams! Gotta read those labels.

      6) Light ‘N Fit (Now with improved flavor!) — Translation: NOW WITH MORE GRAMS OF SUGAR. Yup. I almost fell for this one. The old product had about 2 grams of sugar per serving; the new one (you know, the one that tastes so good?) has 5 grams. You do the math…

      It’s a mine field out there, people! We have to be vigilant.
      .-= Cari (aka Gastric Bypass Barbie)´s last blog ..Shin Splints: God’s Gift to Bariatric Athletes =-.

  22. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    Great post! Yes, it’s so important to do what’s right for us. And it’s not always easy to figure out what’s right with all the messages our there. It’s so tempting to think that what works for someone else will work for us too. It’s also very tempting to think that there are shortcuts, but there aren’t.

    I have had to deal with not so supportive comments regarding my lifestyle choices. I deal with them by being polite but firm (i.e. I won’t be pressured into eating something I don’t want to eat, and I make sure to fit exercise into every day, etc.). In the end I know that I’ll have to do what’s right for me and my health.

  23. MyKashiDiet says:

    for me it’s not media so much as it is my love of food – I watch the food network (porn for a fat girl) and I want to try everything and not be afraid of any foods – but in the real worl using cream, butter, pasta etc… well it adds up – so even though I watch and see these chefs and share their passion for food, I realize there has to be a balance or else I’ll become a baloon!!
    .-= MyKashiDiet´s last blog ..comfort food =-.

  24. ChezJulie says:

    Diane, that is why I love the blogosphere. It is like an alternate media community that is sending out its own messages about healthy living. So instead of thinking, “Oh, no ‘normal’ person has to exercise 5 days a week to maintain their weight,” I think, “Diane does this, too!”

    And this is funny, but the other day I saw a commercial where a beautiful model in a chic outfit was holding a plate with a muffin on it, and I thought, “Why can’t I look like that and still eat delicious muffins?” And then I reminded myself that the model probably got the muffin out of her face the second the camera stopped rolling. She probably hasn’t had a muffin in years!
    .-= ChezJulie´s last blog ..Getting Better, D.C. Trip, Biggest Loser =-.

  25. Hanlie says:

    We’ve been without TV for almost a year and I don’t buy magazines, so I’m being protected from a LOT of advertising. We still watch movies and I have noticed something peculiar – in American movies, when the heroine goes through emotional turmoil, she either binges on something like ice cream or alcohol, while in European movies the heroine would withdraw, stare moodily out the window and EAT LESS. I think there’s a powerful message there!

    Someone once said that being well-adjusted in a sick society is no indication of health. I have to agree with that!

    This is a very important post!
    .-= Hanlie´s last blog ..A time for every purpose under heaven =-.

  26. Leslie says:

    I’m lucky that I have a lot of support and encouragement from friends and family about my weight loss aspirations. I find it’s not the messages that thwart me as much as the presence of food everywhere. Duh – I guess that’s what you’re talking about. I can hear adds for fast food joints I used to love and NOT be wooed, but that food has never been my biggest challenge. Anyway, another great post with much food for thought.

  27. MamaBearJune says:

    I’m at the point where I get totally disgusted by the advertisements that offer “all you can eat” of high calorie foods or “My burger is bigger than your burger.”

    I enjoy the blogging community and the support we find throughout. My family has been supportive, too.
    .-= MamaBearJune´s last blog ..Over the Top =-.

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