Criticisms, Mixed Messages, and Staying True to Yourself

There are certain messages and personal habits that can confuse us and get us off our path if we are not careful.

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

I wanted to talk today, at the beginning of the year, about how difficult it can be when we constantly hear inconsistent and contradictory messages. The media in the form of television, radio, and Internet advertisements scream at us to eat the “value meals,” drink the high calorie coffees and energy drinks, and indulge ourselves just because we can.

The truth is, when we decide to get to a healthy weight by eating a healthy diet, we are bucking societal norms. The media further confuses us by also telling us that all women should be a size zero or 2 like a supermodel, and that being a normal-sized woman is not perfection.

It is definitely a mixed message. Eat what you want but don’t get fat. Indulge in all sorts of “delicious” foods, but stay a size extra small.

How in the world can we be successful at our quest when we are constantly hearing mixed messages? It is not an easy task.

One option would be to shut down your Internet, don’t watch any commercials on television, and ignore the opinions of well-meaning friends who try to sway you from your plan. As appealing as that might sound, truthfully, there really isn’t a way to completely get away from advertising because there are messages everywhere.

Shutting yourself off isn’t really possible, and even if it were, that’s not reality. In order to really learn how to embrace a healthier lifestyle and meet our goals, we need to learn to discern those inherently false messages from the truth.

There was a time when I was morbidly obese that I truly believed that “low-fat” or “fat-free” on the label meant you can have it all because this food in this box or can must be healthy and appropriate for weight loss. I learned the hard way that that particular message on those boxed foods was false, and that fat-free doesn’t usually mean calorie-free.

My final weight loss attempt was different in that I decided what my own goals would be and ignored what society said about my “ideal” size. I set goals based on my personal desires, and developed a weight loss plan that was doable, realistic, and perhaps most importantly of all, sustainable.

When trying to lose weight, you are also setting yourself apart from the 66 percent of Americans who are either overweight or obese. When you choose to exercise while the majority of your friends and family don’t, you are saying, “I’ve got different goals than you, and I am no longer trying to be a normal American. Instead, I’m bucking the trend and getting healthy for me.”

It is often an uncomfortable feeling to stand up for yourself and say to friends, “I’m not going to order the number five combo with a Coke today,” or “No, I will not eat all that fried food on the Chinese buffet today,” or even, “Yes, I am going to exercise so we will have to reschedule our lunch date.”

Ignoring the messages from friends and the media takes courage and conviction and commitment.

I have known a lot of people who criticized me for being consistent with my six day a week exercise program. They chided me that that many days was unnecessary and just three would do. Ironically, those were also the people who were relatively unfit and likely would have found walking a few miles difficult.

I stoically ignored people who tried to push desserts on me at church socials, and I changed the channel when the television told me I should be making brownies!

Standing firm on my own convictions of what was right has 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.

How do you stay firm in the face of mixed messages or critical people? Diane

38 thoughts on “Criticisms, Mixed Messages, and Staying True to Yourself

  1. Barbara says:

    I noticed yesterday that I needed to make about 20 different choices to have a healthy day. Exercise, eat well, not eat too much, not eat when not hungry, drink water, use less butter, eat more broccoli than rice, find recipe to make orange chicken without sugar (was delicious btw), etc.

    On one hand it was exhausting. On the other hand, it was soooo worth it.

  2. Sharon says:

    Coming to grips with this issue is still my greatest challenge and I don’t even pretend to have it figured out yet. I often say that if I were single and lived at the gate of a national park with hundreds of miles of hiking trails, I’d have absolutely no problem eating healthy and maintaining my weight. My challenge will always be working it out to live side by side with people who don’t choose to or don’t want to eat the way I do. My problem isn’t criticism from others, it’s simply an inability to comprehend or understand why I eat the way I do.

  3. vickie says:

    I say this often – I think one of the most helpful things is NOT to get into discussions with people on these topics. This is a boundary issue. Boundaries are a topic/area where many of us need to work.

    One of my best examples of this is a blogger who got up each work day to run before work. One holiday the topic of the day was her relatives telling her how stupid this was. All day. No one supported this exercise.

    Were the relatives standing on her porch at 5:30am and caught her leaving the house? Not on your life. She had complained about getting up early to them. And they took those comments and ran with them.

    In blog land one can “complain” about an early morning run time and people will understand and still support the run.

    Relatives who do not exercise and do not watch what they eat, NOT so much.

    We are not going to convince them to change their ways.

    In general they have nothing (helpful) to contribute to us.

    I do NOT think we should open the door to their opinions on our topics.

    I would NOT say I had to change a get together because I exercise. I would say I had to change a get together because of an appointment.

    I would NOT tell anyone (other than blog land or a trainer or classmate who understands) how many days a week I exercise. I wouldn’t even mention what kind of exercise I do.

    If we open our mouth on these topics, in my opinion, most people then think it is open season on giving us their viewpoint (forever).

    I also think it is extremely helpful to totally eliminate TV commercials from our lives. I now have a DVR and skip through all of them. In the days (long ago) before DVR’s, I recorded on VHS and skipped through the commercials. I think TV commercials do a lot of harm.

    No, we can’t eliminate everything.

    But I think it helps a great deal to eliminate what we can.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I understand exactly what you are saying, and also understand what Gwen said about your comment. I had to draw some boundaries with friends, but over time I was able to let any stray comments go by me because I had proof (in pounds lost) that what I was doing was working. At that point, I ignored people’s thoughts. One thing I did do, as you say, is not to ask for advice or complain because that did just seem to make people feel like they had a say in my decisions.

  4. blackhuff says:

    I stay firm due to the plan I chose right from the start of my journey which helped me to lose and maintain weight loss thus far. There is no one or nothing that can change my mind. That’s how I stay firm.

  5. Dr. J says:

    I don’t know why, but for much of my life, the media has had very little impact on the decisions I’ve made. Probably because I’m introverted, meaning I make decisions from within myself. Fortunately and probably purely from chance, they have been mostly good 🙂

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I’m an introvert too, but I sure was swayed by biscuit commercials when I was obese. Maybe because I was watching television by myself and would just get up and make biscuits in the middle of the day! Then, I’d eat the whole pan. 🙁

  6. Gigi says:

    It is so easy to become overwhelmed with everything out there. I too was finding myself torn in all different directions just trying to decide which program to follow- do Weight Watchers, no – try South Beach, oops – I meant high protein. I’ve finally decided to create my own program of lower calories and exercise 6 days a week and keeping my blinders on for all the other stuff out there trying to get into my head. Good post as always!

    • michelle says:

      Your program, Gigi, is exactly what worked/is working for me! : )
      IMO, the commitment/dedication it takes to follow your own program is what leads to success, you have to be making choices that fit your personal lifestyle, and no program can do that for you.
      and yes, Barbara, there must be at least 20 choices made most every day! Having to make the right choice, so frequently, is I assume what makes maintenance so difficult. Most days I don’t struggle (too much) with these choices, but, they really are omnipresent!
      Thanks for the post, Diane.

  7. Leah says:

    My daughters and I noticed exactly what you’re saying Monday evening when we watched the newest Biggest Loser episode online and the commercials were about baking mixes. I thought it ironic to see baked goods aired at the same time the health and fitness show was on.

  8. Gwen /Sunny says:

    I can understand Vickie’s point of view, but I’m post menopausal so I have a different attitude. I am not afraid of others opinions or comments. And if I disagree, I’m not afraid to do so. I would take someone’s complaints more of a challenge to teach them (gently, not confrontational) the logic of my ways. Like a Johnny Appleseed. Much like when I went from dying my hair (literally and figuratively) and let it go naturally white/silver/gray. I got PLENTY of opinion. Even so far as ‘why are you letting yourself go?’ and ‘don’t you know you are going to look older/old?” But once I not only explained my rational reasons why, and time passed and they saw how beautiful my natural hair actually was, and how much healthier, suddenly what I was hearing nothing but compliments, and mostly “I wish I had the guts to do that.” Again, I felt like Johnny Appleseed, because then my message was (to comments like, ‘but my hair would never look that good’) “well, you never know until you try.”

    People aren’t necessarily ripping into our choices, per se. They are expressing, I think, their own insecurities onto our actions. We need to stop taking comments personally, and realizing they are really only reflecting on the messenger’s own insecurities. We can help them learn, we can combat them, or we can ignore.

    Sorry for the tangent. LOL I very much draw ENERGY from being a Johnny Appleseed. Whether for dietary purposes, exercise purposes, or hair color (or lack thereof. LOL)

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I surmise this goes much to personality don’t you think? I used to take criticisms to heart, but over time carved my own path where I just didn’t care what anyone else said. There are some people who need to have those boundaries so they stay on track, and others, like yourself, who can use it as a teachable moment.

  9. Jody - Fit at 55 says:

    The media & advertising really did not effect my choices as much as how I felt about myself – that is where it hurt me.. sometimes still does since they don’t like to much muscle & I have that. It is not what the regular people like as much I guess… still bothers me some when I try to get a yes on submissions to things yet I still make the choices right for me.

  10. Caron says:

    I used to purchase a few “ladies” magazines because the covers got my attention at the checkout stand in the grocery store. There would be a beautiful chocolate cake on the cover with a title like “Best Chocolate Cake Ever!” BUT, there would also be another article listed with a title “Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days.” I no longer even look at those magazines but they did get some of my money years ago. 🙁

  11. Marc says:

    “How do you stay firm in the face of mixed messages or critical people? Diane”
    I’m still in the learning phase. I haven’t reached goal yet. Some days I fold and some days I stand strong. When ask if I want some, I just say maybe.

  12. Madijo says:

    I got this covered! I got rid of my tv over 10 years ago, and I have not missed it a bit. I only read books/blogs/internet articles and I am happier for it.

    My inner voice gives me all the negative vibes I can handle. I do not need the media to tell me I am not good enough too.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Media does not have a big impact on my decisions but my close friends and family do. Some will try to talk me out of going to work out to do something “fun” instead. However, I can’t say I always stick to my intention or plan but do most of the time.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      It’s hard to say “no” to friends because often times what they are asking us to do is fun. I find that I end up compromising sometimes – I’ll still workout but at a different time, or workout on my normal rest day if I’ve missed a day because of a social obligation.

  14. LovesCatsinCA says:

    You know, Diane. It’s hard… When I developed hypertension in my early 40s I got really motivated to eat better and dropped around 30 pounds. Around 10 of them came back to haunt me as I started perimenopause. On the other hand, 20 have stayed gone and it’s actually not hard to have them stay gone…

    I haven’t given up on the 10–or at last some of them. But I did realize that there IS such a thing as moderation… it’s not necessarily healthy to be miserable because I’m not a size smaller either…. I’d love to shrink that waist a little–and I’d also like not to have to worry about leaking when I sneeze or suddenly lighting up with heat like a human Christmas tree–all related to hormones.

    I’ve conceded that I have to walk more etc. to keep the pounds from continuing to creep. But the other thing is the message to look young and the message to be thin. I have lost the fat in my face. I haven’t lost the fat around my waist… and THAT is one of the unfair mixed messages of the media as well.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      There is definitely moderation and I’m a firm believer in it because so often times if we are too strict with ourselves it backfires. Amen to your last sentence – I’m right there with you on the age thing. Ugh.

  15. PlumPetals says:

    I love this post! For many years I thought I could have it all – a bit of exercise, a bit of indulgence, staying in the middle without making any major changes. All that did was keep me in the middle and unhappy. After being more firm in my stance and disciplined with my changes, I have finally begun to make progress and it feels great. It has given me the confidence to continue to say no and to make sure that I do whatever it is that I need to do to live a healthy life. Not to be mean, but if that means hurting someone’s feelings by saying No thank you to a brownie, then that’ll just have to be the way it is – eventually, friends come around and understand.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Sometimes being in the middle isn’t a great place to be is it? Good for you on being more firm – a lot of times we have to channel our inner toddler (who loves to say “no” to things) and just learn when to say that little word.

  16. Shannon says:

    This very ting happened to me the other night. Our t.v. receptor has been broken and we got it working this week. I had not had a craving one since Jan. 1st. No feeling of needing to go out to dinner nothing. As I was sitting watching t.v. I suddenly wanted a steak and cheesy chicken stuff. It just kept on going. I looked at my husband and said I can’t watch t.v. anymore! I could not believe what and effect it had on me. Same goes for magazines. I just avoid them.

  17. Diane Carbonell says:

    Ha! I think I have read that on your blog before now that you say it again. Whenever people complain to me about the slow pace of their weight loss or the fact they still can’t run a 5K very quickly, I tell them, “You are doing better than the man/woman who is sitting on the couch not losing a pound and the person who couldn’t walk a 5K if their life depended on it.”

  18. AnotherFreakyDietBlog says:

    Hi, I have discovered your blog today while visiting randomly one blog after another (blogs are actually like Youtube aren’t thy 😉 )

    Well, I am glad I did, it is a very inspiring blog. I go back to read more

  19. Megan says:

    Once again a great post, way to start the new year! As I have been progressing on my journey and becoming stronger in myself, something which I think happens in partnership with your happiness and fitness, I have been able to stand up for myself. I have stopped bringing up my weight loss journey to stop hearing the comments it brings- like many of the others above. Occasionaly I have had to be firm and tell people I love (my mother for example) to back off. It’s not that she is wrong, but she doesn’t understand that it is a process not a simple decision. Simple comments can hurt even when they are not meant to, since being firm and being upfront about these things people are less likely to hurt me out of ignorance!

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