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Conquer Your Weight

Episode #46: The Role Other People Play in Your Weight Loss Journey

Show Notes

August 16, 2023

In this week's episode, we'll discuss the role other people play in your weight loss journey. Whether it is family, or friends, or a casual acquaintance, you will be in situations in which other people will have thoughts, opinions, and questions about your journey. We'll discuss how you can be prepared to handle these situations.

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Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: This is Dr. Sarah Stombaugh and you are listening to the Conquer Your Weight Podcast, episode number 46. Announcer: Welcome to the Conquer Your Weight podcast, where you will learn to understand your mind and body so you can achieve long-term weight loss. Here's your host obesity medicine physician and life coach, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Hi, good morning. Thank you for joining me today. I am excited to talk about today's episode. We are talking about the role that other people play in our weight loss journeys, and this is so important. I cannot even believe we haven't talked about this before because from when you were just starting out to when you start to have success and people start to make comments, other people are going to be playing a role and you want to be prepared for how to handle that. Before we dive into today's topic though, I want to tell you about my medical weight loss practice. If you live in Illinois or Virginia and you have been looking to lose weight for the last time, I would love to see you as a patient in my practice. I am enrolling new patients right now for telemedicine visits, so come on over to my website. It's at That's S-A-R-A-H-S-T-O-M-B-A-U-G-H-M-D dot com. If you have been looking for the solution to your weight loss, maybe you're wondering about some of these new weight loss medications. You're wondering if they could support you in your journey, you know that you need to make a change, but you're not really sure to get started. Let me work with you. I would love to help you figure out not just what foods to eat, not just what exercises to do, but how to work on your mindset so that you are in the best position to be able to make those choices over and over again so that your weight loss struggles are a thing of the past. So if that sounds interesting to you, go ahead and fill out the form on my individual visits page. If you are someone who lives outside of those states, keep on listening to the podcast. Follow me for more. Share this with someone who does live in Illinois, Virginia, but I would love to have you as a patient in my practice. Okay, let's go ahead and get started. Talk about this role that other people play in our weight loss journeys. So from the very beginning, you can imagine that from why we want to lose weight throughout the whole process, unless you live in a bubble, which I do not recommend, other people will play a role. Let's talk about from the very beginning when you think about why do I want to lose weight, I often hear it said that your why should be about you, it shouldn't be for other people, and that is mostly true. You want to lose weight because you want to. Your reason may be about other people though you may be saying, I want to lose the weight so I can live longer for my children or my grandchildren be able to see their weddings or their graduation or something like that. And that is absolutely reasonable because it is still a very you focused thing. What doesn't work, and I'm sure that you may have experienced this before, is that no amount of someone else wanting you to lose weight is actually going to motivate you to lose weight. So you go to the doctor and they're like, Ooh, have you thought about losing a couple pounds? Or your spouse says something to you, or you hear something on media, on social media or on the television that's talking about weight loss that doesn't come home to resonate about you. So it needs to be your decision about something that is important to you, and that is the only thing that is going to help you. So if you're not clear on why you want to lose weight, go ahead and get clear on that. I have some episodes in this at the very beginning, both getting clear on why you want to lose weight and if there's anything you're doing along the way to sabotage your why, get really clear on that. When you are starting out your weight loss journey, this is something a lot of times this is not the first time you've gone on a diet, and so we are used to the experience of maybe sharing it with our partners, sharing it with our closest friends, what that means, my goal for you is to invite as little drama as possible. So you are going to probably need to tell the people who live in your household that your food is going to be a little bit different. I wouldn't work on making any life-changing statements at this time, starting with a really basic, Hey, I am working to make some changes. I would love your support and helping to figure this out. I think one of the biggest problems though is that we often use this as a reason to blame other people for not having the weight loss success that we are hoping for. So for example, if you are the primary grocery store purchaser, the primary cook in your household, that may mean you're thinking about making two different meals. That may seem really daunting if the other person in your household, if your spouse or your partner or your roommate, if someone else is in charge of buying the groceries and preparing the food, now all of a sudden you're coming to them and saying, Hey, I'm embarking on this weight loss journey and I expect you to totally change your habits in order to support me. So you can understand if they have a little bit of pushback, especially if this is something that you've done many times in the past. So your partner is not in charge of you having weight loss success if you are not the person who is doing the grocery shopping. If you are not the person who is doing the cooking, that is a conversation that you and your partner need to sit down and figure out what is this going to look like and if you are the person that's doing it, thinking about the other foods that you need to have in the house for your partner, maybe for your children, for anyone else who lives with you, what does it mean to have those foods in the house and what role is that going to play? So this is a time where a lot of people get really caught up like, oh, we have to have the goldfish because that's what my kids love, but those are really a big trigger food for me. Well, we need to figure out one, okay, do we need the goldfish? Could your kids be just as happy with a food that's not a trigger food for you? Or two, how do we work to make sure that goldfish aren't a trigger for you, that they're not something that you're just snacking on mindlessly? Because it's going to be really sad if you are blaming your children for the fact that you are not having success in your weight loss journey. So you're going to tell the people that you live with maybe just the adults in your home. I have kids who are toddlers and preschool, preschool age, right? I would not necessarily share that with them. They're not even really going to notice. What people are going to notice is if you're being really weird about it. So a lot of times in weight loss journeys, people are always making these declarations. They're being martyrs like, oh, I can't have bread. I'm on a diet. I wish I could, but not right now. Those type of comments are completely unnecessary, and they are likely to one, raise drama within yourself, which invites drama from other people, and they too make the entire experience a lot less enjoyable. So if you have decided that, for example, you don't want to have as many processed carbohydrates and you are not going to be having bread, for example, you don't need to tell your children that you don't need to make a big deal. You can just pass that bread along and not say anything. And here's where we start talking about the role that people maybe outside of our family play. You go out to dinner, you go to someone else's home for dinner. When we start making these really big declarations, especially early on when we are not exactly sure what we're doing, we are not exactly confident in what we're doing. We have a lot of drama and we invite other people into our drama. So if you could imagine being out to a restaurant and the bread comes and you start going into this whole monologue about why you can't have bread, people are like, well, you could just have it once. I mean, if you want to have bread, you can have bread screw your diet. They're trying to rescue you. They are trying to help you because you are in this place right now where you are having a lot of drama and a lot of confusion, and that is uncomfortable for them. So they are trying to help you find a solution like, dude, it's okay. Just eat a slice of bread. It'll be fine. It's just once. My recommendation to you is that especially starting out before you've gotten into your groove, don't say anything about diet or food plans or following a new regimen. Simply use words like, no, thank you. I'm not hungry right now. Don't say anything. A lot of times people are so wrapped up in themselves that they don't even notice if you pass something along or if you take a smaller portion or if you get a glass of wine and then don't really drink it. People are so wrapped up in themselves that very rarely do they actually realize what is going on with you. It is only when you start making a big deal about what is going on with you that then they decide to join in on that. So throughout this process, then other people may continue to play a role. So imagine people in your life who are food pushers. Again, a lot of times this is in our heads. A lot of times we have this idea built up that people are going to push food and we play out this whole circumstance of what if they say this, oh, you should, and that we're going to get into an argument with them about it. The reality is there certainly are. Those people, don't get me wrong, they may be people in our family. A lot of times our family, they're much more comfortable with us. They're much more likely to say something about, oh, well, you usually enjoy eating this cake. Why aren't you eating this cake right now? So other people are going to play that, and you can have a going into circumstances, you can sort of think about, okay, I know I'm going to encounter my sister or my mom or this one friend who loves making desserts and is always pushing it on people. And you can sort of play that scenario out and decide, how am I going to respond if and when they say that? And just have that response in your mind and ready to go. And oftentimes you may have to be in that situation a few times and let it play out awkwardly. Let it play out like it may have in the past. And then here's the most important thing. Use that as an opportunity to learn for next time. Sit down with your journal. Sit down with a therapist, with a coach. I would love to sit down if you're one of my patients and review how did that situation play out? What were the words that were said? What were that were offered? And how would you do it differently? So imagining if given a redo, what would you say or do differently for that situation? And a lot of times by doing that, we give ourselves the opportunity to practice, okay, this is how it played out. I'm going to encounter this type of situation again. Of course I am next time when I'm encountered with this type of, or when I'm in this type of situation, this is what I would like to say in order for that to play out differently. And then recognize sometimes other people are just going to be other people. We cannot control what they say. We cannot control what they do. If someone else has a lot of drama coming up about you and the decisions that you're making, let me tell you this. This is the best advice that I have ever gotten, and it is applicable certainly in your weight loss journey, and a lot of times in many aspects of our life when other people have a lot of drama about something that is going well in your life, when you are confident and sticking to a plan that is such a direct reflection of what is going on in their life. So if you can imagine that you and your friend have both dealt with obesity, for example, and you on your weight loss journey, and you are starting to have success on your weight loss journey, you go out to dinner, bread is offered and you pass the bread. If there is a lot of drama coming up with your friend, let's say you have passed it, you have not said anything. You are not being weird making any declarations. If your friend decides to have a lot of drama there, that is because she is seeing you. Someone who has also dealt with obesity starting to conquer their issues. And through that, she sees a mirror held up in which she realizes that she is not at the same place that you are. And in some ways, this can be really good for her, right? This can allow her to reflect and see, wow, look at what is possible. But if drama starts coming up there, it is important for you to know that is completely about her in this situation. That is completely about the other person that is not about you, and there is nothing that you can say, there is nothing that you can do that will change them. The other thing here is thinking about why we eat. Are we eating because we want to or because we are trying to satisfy somebody else? So a lot of times, especially in these food pusher situations, we just give in because it's easier. And so I want you to think about that because you are both sending a message of, oh, actually I really did want it, which helps reinforce for them that they should be rescuing. And then two, you are teaching yourself that you should be doing things for other people as opposed to what are the goals that you actually have for yourself. So as we are on our weight loss journeys, especially early on, especially if you've practiced having drama in the past, especially if you have friends or family who may have some opinions about it, it is really important to give yourself some grace to spend some time practicing and workshopping these things. And then just to embrace the journey, recognize that there are times, maybe you're going to be weird, maybe you're going to be saying things differently, but I can do this. Let me think of a simple solution, a simple thing that I can say, now, this is a really fun thing, but it catches a lot of my patients off guard, is when people start to notice that you have lost weight and what we make that mean. So weight is unlike any other medical condition in that we wear it on the outside of our bodies. Plenty of my patients also deal with things like high blood pressure, diabetes, fatty liver. Those are things that are all inside of us. So when your blood pressure was 160 over 90, which is high, and now you've lost weight, or we've started on blood pressure medications or whatever the reason, let's say your blood pressure is 120 over 80. You and I, my patient, and I may be celebrating that your blood pressure cuff knows that it's lower. You and me know that it's lower, but nobody else does. Walking down the street, going into the office, no one's like, Hey man, congratulations. Your blood pressure's lower unless you share that with someone that is completely internal to you and they will never know it. Your weight, however, is one of the few medical conditions that we wear on the outside of our body, and that can mean a lot of things. What it certainly means is that other people do notice and other people will say something. So when other people start to notice and as they say things, I want you to be prepared for how you will respond to that situation because it may catch you off guard Sometimes when people say, wow, I see you've lost weight. Congratulations. We feel really positively about that. Other times though, it's interesting because it may actually bring up negative feelings. It may actually bring up realizations of, wow, I can't believe that I had allowed my body to get so large before. I can't believe that there's been such a big difference that people are noticing right now. What did they even think about me before? Did they think that I was fat before? The fact that they're noticing now, what does that even say about before? So we'd like to think that we'd have positive thoughts, but it's amazing how often we have negative thoughts. Again, that's something that's really good for us to work through and just recognize what are the thoughts that are coming up for you. Another thing though is that a lot of times people are jealous. People are like, oh my gosh, how did you do it? People always ask that as a weight loss physician. People are asking me that question all the time, and it's like, wow, how can I possibly explain this in what is inevitably going to be a two minute conversation? So you get to be the judge of how you handle that and how you respond, and you may respond differently for different people. You can imagine that if your college roommate, your best friend and you are having this conversation, you may be comfortable going into a little bit more depth, talking about medications that you've taken, talking about working with me as your weight loss physician. You can imagine that in the way that you would share more intimate details of anything else going on in your life with one of your closest friends. You may also be willing to share those details with them about your weight loss journey. Compare that to your neighbor, for example, down the street who you're pleasant with, but you're not great friends, each other's names. You say hi when you see each other in walks, and that is the extent of your relationship. You don't owe them any sort of long explanation or anything like that if you want to, by all means that is available to you. But a lot of times it feels really personal. It's not something you necessarily want to share in great depth to someone that you don't know well. And I want to give you permission to not to. You can say whatever you want to. When someone says, wow, you've lost a lot of weight. You can simply say, thank you so much. It's something I've been working hard on. If they want to ask you how you do it, you can say, I've been working with a weight loss physician. I've been making some changes. They've slowly been building up over time. You can say whatever you want to. You do not have to get into a five or 10 or one hour long monologue about all of the things that have happened. You can simply say thank you, and you can move on if they are pressing you. Remember, this is because it's about them. If they are pressing you, it's because they have also struggled with their weight. Or maybe they know someone who has struggled with their weight and they are looking for the answer. So if there's a lot of questions, remember, it is not about you. It is about them. That still does not mean that you need to answer their questions. You will have to see how these situations play out and see. Maybe you navigate it amazingly, but other times, see what happens. If you're awkward, if you stumble over your words, no big deal, that is an opportunity to sit down, write down what happened, think about what happened. And then imagine if I were in that type of situation again, what would I say? And honestly, the more simple you can say, the better. It's really none of anyone else's business. It's not their business. If you took weight loss medications, it's not their business. If you worked with a doctor, you would not necessarily share that information with them for anything else going on in your life. And so you do not have to share that as part of your weight loss journey. So I am interested to hear what you think. Other people are going to play a role in our lives. We don't live in bubbles. We may live with other people. We're surrounded by other people. We work with other people. It is important to figure out how to navigate your weight loss journey, not just for you, but how do you do this in the context of the rest of your life? You want to be able to fully function in your life without your weight loss journey getting in the way. So if this is something you're working on, if you live in Illinois or Virginia where I'm licensed to see patients in my telemedicine practice, I would love to see you in my practice. Come on over to my website at and fill out the form on the individual visit page. We can set up a free meet and greet visit, talk about you and your journey and what it is that you're looking for, and see if you would be a good fit for my practice if you live outside of those states. No worries. Keep following me here on my podcast. I've got a great TikTok at Conquer Your Weight. If you're looking for some short tips and tricks and ideas, I would love to see you over there. Thank you so much for joining me today. I'll see you all next week. Bye-bye.
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