If you are anything like me at one point in your weight loss journey you have asked this question. You have been so sick of not gaining ground or not feeling better or having more energy that you have wanted to give up. Like me, you have turned to your family and friends for support and, like mine, your friends and family have tried to encourage you with less than helpful comments. I have heard things ranging from ‘it doesn’t get easier, you get stronger’ to ‘you have to remember it took you years to get into this shape, it’s going to take time to get back out of it’, and ‘remember how far you have come?’. I am guilty of saying things like this too. To myself and to others. Having a support system is often a key to a successful weight loss journey and remembering where you came from and what you are fighting for is very important. Some days these encouragements are exactly what we need to keep us going, other days they are the exact opposite. Some days we hurt or feel sick and discouraged. Some days feel like we are climbing uphill during an avalanche wearing skis. On these days, when we ask ‘why does this have to be so hard?’ or ‘when does it get easier?’, we are not asking for advice or encouragement. What we want is empathy. We need someone to see that we may be smiling on the outside but inside we are fighting a battle and it feels like we are losing. I think what I failed to understand in the past, until I went through it myself, is that when someone asks me ‘when does it get easier?’ or ‘why is this so hard?’, they are not always asking for advice. They are not always asking for a pep talk or encouragement. Sometimes they are just looking for someone to acknowledge that they are struggling. For someone to see that they are NOT OKAY! Health is not just how much you weigh or do not weigh. Health is how you feel, yes physically, but also emotionally and mentally. As you work on the physical aspects of health many other things are changing. You experience mood and hormone fluctuations, hunger, stress, depression, anxiety and guilt. You deal with the looks you get or think you get and the questions and criticism. You become so focused on what you cannot have that what you can have becomes a burden and you wonder why you cannot just be normal. You hear things like you’re the one trying to lose weight why do I have to suffer or comments on how gross the foods you need to eat are. Some times you are angry and sometimes you cry because people do not understand. What you need to remember is that this journey is yours and they cannot understand!
Every individual’s weight loss journey is different and what you need to know is that people cannot understand what you are going through. They cannot know how hard you have been trying and how difficult it has been for you. They cannot know how much their comments can hurt or help you. They do not know where you are emotionally, mentally or physically. They cannot imagine how much you struggle because they are not you. How could they?
One thing I have learned in my journey is that I need to be honest, with myself and with others. With myself by admitting that I am struggling and that I need help. That people’s comments hurt and that it is okay to be not okay. That admitting I need help does not mean that I am weak, it means that I am out of my depth and need a life jacket. With others by sharing how their comments are helpful or hurtful. By telling them that what they say means a lot and that that meaning may change day to day and minute to minute. Be honest and tell them that you are struggling because they do not know, they cannot see it. As we struggle through our journey we need to help people help us. We need to be open and honest about what we are going through because it is a lot and people who have not gone through something similar have no way of guessing how hard we work every day just to show up. My question to you is, how can family and friends know how to support us if we do not tell them?
A short analogy that I use to get me through rough patches is this. Imagine you see a butterfly trying to break out of its cocoon. You have two choices, let it struggle or help it free. The first option causes the butterfly distress short term but long term that struggle builds strong wing muscles and allows the butterfly to fly. If you help the butterfly it will not have to struggle short term but it also may never fly. No one can own your journey but you! Embrace your struggle and remember it is only for a season and always for a reason!