So how much weight did you lose? What did you eat at Green Mountain? Wait – they allow that food there? I thought it was a weight loss retreat? Since you’re there why don’t you take all of the exercise classes offered?
These are just some of the questions that may be asked by well-meaning family and friends of our participants while they are still here at Green Mountain and/or when they return home.
A leap of faith into the practice of a mindful lifestyle approach feels even more fragile when faced with having to defend your choices.
These types of ‘supportive’ questions are often experienced as policing and judgment – not supportive – which may drive a person to act out of rebellion and defiance because who wants to feel criticized and judged?
Loved ones are not inquiring from a place of malintent as much as possibly coming from their own ingrained beliefs around dieting behavior and no pain/no gain exercise so, it’s no wonder that the Green Mountain approach may elicit confusion and concern.
Strategies to Respond to Unsupportive Comments
I often get asked by participants how they can best respond to these unintentional, but unsupportive, questions. The response depends on the participant’s unique needs around what they feel would be supportive.
So, if you find yourself in this same situation at home, the first step is to get clear on what is and is not helpful for you.
Some people do want to receive outside comments and feedback about their choices, and others find it to be invasive and condescending. Some people need gentle accountability from loved ones, while others rebel against any sign of someone monitoring their choices.
So, gaining clarity first around what works for you is key.
The second step is to learn how to effectively communicate what you need – and what you don’t need. For example:
Loved One: “So how much weight did you lose?”
You: “I know you are asking because you care, but I’d prefer to not discuss my weight with anyone.”
Now, there is nothing more frustrating than having to tell someone that your weight is not open for discussion any longer – but that request still gets ignored. In these situations, self-assertion (not to be mistaken with aggression) will be needed.
Here’s an example phone scenario using self-assertion:
Loved One: “So how much weight have you lost? Is it working? ”
You: “Remember what I told you about my weight not being an open topic for discussion?”
Loved One: “Yes, but I’m just curious, I worry about you and I’m not sure that what you are doing is working.”
You: “I really need you to trust me and my choices and trusting me is the best way you can support me right now.”
Or: “I know you care and it comes from a place of love, but unless we change the topic I’m going to need to end this call.”
So, first gaining clarity on what would feel supportive, then gently expressing (and then firmly asserting if needed) is the progression for having a voice around what type of support works for you.
Which Comments Feel Supportive?
Sometimes we don’t know what works or doesn’t work until that moment. Trust yourself.
If feelings of shame, anger, frustration, and/or sadness come up after a person’s ‘supportive’ comment – that’s a clue that it’s not working for you. If you feel accepted, understood, and/or loved, that’s a good sign what they said does work for you.
Standing up for what we need in the moment is its own skill, and having a voice – instead of ‘swallowing’ it – positively impacts self-esteem, regardless of whether the person on the receiving end ‘gets it’.
Some people may never truly understand how to give you what you need until they walk in your shoes – but the point is that your willingness to express what you need showed YOU that your voice matters as you navigate the journey toward better self-care.