Can you keep a secret? It may be just what you need to lose weight
(Pierre Bourrier/Photographer's Choice)
1. Eat 8 ounces of food every three hours.
2. No sugary drinks.
3. Do not skip meals.
4. Do not tell anyone what you're doing.
Now 242 pounds lighter, Mills credits that last tip for helping her through the most difficult months of her weight-loss journey. Not having someone questioning every bite or trying to persuade her to relax on weekends helped her focus on the goal.
"It's so much better to walk into a room and have someone say, 'Hey, did you do something different?' than to announce, 'I'm on a diet,' and have people pointing fingers at you," she said.
The advice seems counterintuitive. Weight Watchers and similar groups tout support as a major reason for their programs' success, and studies have found that accountability is important in accomplishing a goal. But telling family, friends and Facebook about your diet plans could have a detrimental effect, some experts say.
Mills' doctor, Jon Walz, gives all of his weight-loss patients the same rules. He blames the need for secrecy on the culture of obesity. Since childhood, he says, we've searched out people who look and act like us, and obese people are no exception.
As human beings we have a difficult time with change, Walz said. So when someone we love alters his or her lifestyle, we have a problem dealing with it — even if that transformation is positive. "(They) will try to change them back to what the culture tolerates," he said.
There are other reasons to keep your weight-loss plans to yourself.
Dr. Peter Gollwitzer, a professor of psychology at New York University, studies how goals and plans affect cognition and behavior. In his research paper, "When Intentions Go Public," Gollwitzer describes how spilling the beans — and the resulting response — can change someone's actions.
Everyone has what Gollwitzer terms an "identity goal" of some kind, whether it's to be a good mother or a better scientist. In the case of weight loss, that goal is to be a successful dieter.
To reach an identity goal, you need indicators of your accomplishments. For a scientist, it's published research papers or a boss's recognition. For a dieter, it could be pounds dropped or praise from friends/family when they see how great you look. Gollwitzer's studies found that when you tell people what you intend to do, and that intention is acknowledged, the recognition qualifies as an indicator of accomplishment, lessening the urge to follow through.
There are a number of ways to avoid this phenomenon.
"One is simple — you can keep your mouth shut," Gollwitzer says. "Another one is to form different kinds of intentions, not only say what you want to do but also when, where and how you want to do it."
The third way, Gollwitzer says, is to tell only one or two people who hold power over you (metaphorically) so that they help you stick to your intentions.
But whether you choose to share your diet plans or not, it's important to remember exactly who you're losing weight for.
Fitness and nutrition expert Bonnie MeChelle, author of "Accountability Is Key," says: "If you're losing weight to please other people, your motivation will not be sustained to keep going when the going gets rough."
If you do tell
Select those people carefully, fitness and nutrition expert Bonnie MeChelle warns. People with negative energy or a trainer that doesn't fit your style, won't help.