Failed dieting gives us something in common
Dieting has such poor long term outcomes that at any point there are millions of people who have tried and failed to keep weight off using conventional diets. Many have tried several diets, still to no avail. In cafes everywhere, you can hear people swapping tips about the latest way to shed weight and telling the story of their most recent failure.
On the surface it sounds as though people would give anything to find a successful means of losing weight permanently. When people go on diets they genuinely do want this. But there is much at stake for the successful slimmer.
Slimmers can be boring
First and most immediately is the risk of being seen as boring. Apparently, a quarter of us avoid people who are losing weight because because they talk too much about their new eating regime. This is probably because the diet restricts what types of foods or what amounts they can eat. The more you restrict someone’s food intake, the more physiological and psychological pressure they are under to eat and the more they are preoccupied with food. Therefore dieting can leave people thinking about food most of the time because of the restrictions they impose on what or how much to eat. And what you think about most, you’re likely to talk about most.
Also when diets make eating out difficult, dieters often stay home to try and avoid temptation and stick to the diet. You may see less of a friend who fears the restaurant menu and that can affect the friendship temporarily.
The green-eyed monster
The second source of trouble is envy. Most of us don’t like to admit to having envious feelings, hence them being seen as monstrous. But Psychologists will tell you that envy is an extremely common emotion. It is produced by someone else having something you don’t have and that you really want, and the pain of not having it produces the urge to destroy the thing rather than allow the other person to have it. If you envy someone else losing weight, the envious feeling may lead you to want to spoil their diet.
When trying to lose weight, you may find that you are confronted with others’ envious feelings. Some people can tolerate others’ envy without too much trouble. Other people find it unbearable, and find that rather than being able to continue with achieving success, they either abandon the diet deliberately or perhaps find themselves inexplicably doing things that sabotage the efforts they have made so far.
The comforts of the Failed Dieters’ Club
While you fail to lose weight you can feel the cameraderie of joining in social activities that involve eating and drinking. When you swap reassuring stories with friends about how hopeless you are and how incapable you are of sticking to any diet, you insure yourself against envy.
Being involved in a social group is enormously important to us as human beings are highly social animals. Our group membership is valuable and good for our mental health and wellbeing. So it is worth thinking about what it would mean to go out on a limb and succeed at losing weight before embarking on your next attempt to lose weight.
Losing weight and staying close
If you know that someone who is very important to you will find it very difficult if you get slimmer, you need to work out whether the effect on that important relationship is worth the lost inches. For some relationships at some times, the answer may be no, and the diet may have to wait. When this happens, the way forward may be to work towards both of you starting a weight loss regime together and to do it collaboratively and not as a competition. Going for gradual weight loss rather than a quick fix is likely to help both of you.
When you are ready to succeed
If you are ready to leave the Failed Dieters’ Club because losing weight has become more important than staying the same, then you may find that some relationships alter. Your perception of yourself will change and how others see you will alter too. This certainly doesn’t necessarily mean losing friendships; indeed your increased confidence may have a positive effect on your relationships. Particularly if you have been a card-carrying Failed Dieter, your success will show others that success can be theirs too.
For more information on the psychology of weight loss and how to overcome blocks to leaving the Failed Dieters’ Club, join the Appetite Retraining Club to receive regular email updates.