I was recently on a coaching call with one of my online clients (Hi, M!) and there was something that was giving her some trouble. For the record, whenever M and I are getting caught up on exercise, diet and life in general, she’s normally one of the most positive, optimistic and motivated clients I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
So, when we had a chance to connect this past week, she made a list of things she wanted to discuss that were giving her more stress than normal.
The most notable was the fact that she would be seeing her mother in about a month’s time. She prefaced by saying: “You know my mother’s a really wonderful person but she ALWAYS makes a comment about my weight and I find myself already stressing out about it a month before she even gets here.”
She continued: “It’s not that she harps on me about my weight but there is always one comment that she makes and I get so anxious and discouraged about it because it’s upsetting to me.”
As a coach, I find this to be one of the more consistent and frustrating aspects of self-improvement for my clients. It’s so often that I find that many of my clients who are just trying to keep one foot in front of the other when it comes to their journey of a healthier weight and a better relationship with food/exercise have this persistent mental footprint of a parent who, despite their best intentions, leave them feeling bad about themselves.
As a parent, as imperfect of a parent as I am, I have only ever wanted the best for my children. However, even as that is the case, I’m sure I don’t always say the most helpful and most effective things to them either. That aside, there is sadly something to be said for the way that mothers and daughters interact with each other in a way that can be more damaging than motivating, much of which comes from the discussion about bodies (and weight in general).
I don’t want to throw every mom under the bus though. Sometimes, it’s a father, a sibling, an overstepping aunt/uncle, etc.
But I did want to spend some time on this with M and I asked her to consider a few things:
First, I asked her to think about rates of weight loss. If we work with the generally accepted rate of 1 to 2 pounds of fat loss per week, M could lose 4-8 pounds by time she sees her mother. My words to her were: If you were to lose on the upper end of that spectrum, let’s say 8 or so pounds down, would your mother still make a comment about your weight?
“Yes, she would.” M said.
So is it fair to say that even if you got laser focused on the weight loss, she’d still have an opinion about it? Is it worth stressing over?
“No, I guess it wouldn’t.”
In addition, I added, look at all the other things you have to be proud of: your studies are going great, you have a great job, which you love, your marriage is going well, you’re committed and excited about your training and your diet is in a place that you feel positive about. Is someone else’s opinion going to take up that much space on your plate?
“Now that you say it that way, I really don’t think I should let it bother me so much. Especially since I can’t change the fact that she’ll have a comment to make, only how I react to it.”
Exactly, I said. And out of curiosity, how much weight do you think you’d need to lose for her to give you a pat on the back or that “gold star” you’re looking for? Is it 20 pounds? 30, 40?
“You know, I honestly don’t know.” She replied.
I know it’s easier said than done, but I wouldn’t let this worry you anymore. Certainly not a month out. You know her behavior, you can’t control it, and the likelihood that she will still have something to say is high. I would just focus on the good in your life right now and accept that her opinion of you has more to do with her than you. In a manner of speaking, and something I’ve heard before that I don’t know who to credit the sentiment to: what rent are you charging for the space she’s taking up in your head?
M laughed, “You’re right. I’m glad I brought it up!”
Shortly after we got off our call, I got one of those annoying spam calls that came up on my phone. I went back into the info link and saw the option to “block the caller”. I thought: how apropos…
Isn’t this how we need to treat other people’s opinions of us?
Unfollow the social media people and pages that make us feel negatively about ourselves.
Reduce our exposure to people in our lives who don’t contribute something positive to our self-perception.
Most importantly, protect your headspace at all costs. You have to live there 24 hours a day and you determine what “calls” you’ll accept and what influence you’ll allow.