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Whose business is your fitness?

January 13, 2012

Photo from Paulh

With the new year, the gym is bouncing full of people, and online I”m seeing a lot more health-related activity as well. I wish all the new healthy living – weight loss bloggers & individuals a lot of willpower to keep up the fight and reinforcement to continue on your journey!

Last week I came back from my own vacation and I was doubly glad I wasn’t starting something new but continuing the trend. I was really excited to get back to the gym.

But I had a very sobering moment.

I hadn’t looked at my SO’s photos of our trip last year to Thailand during the same time period (New Year’s). This is mainly because I’m usually behind the camera myself so I spend plenty of time looking back at my own pictures.

But I finally saw one, and I saw a terrible terrible picture of myself. I was shocked, really.

I remember the trip as being great, and really enjoying Thailand. I knew I was heavier but now looking back at that picture, I didn’t really imagine myself looking like that. Spending so much time behind the camera means I don’t always have a ton of pictures of myself and perhaps as I gained weight I tended to avoid cameras subconsciously. Aside from that picture, I have one in early December 2010 and one in March 2011 which I consider to be the “Befores” – the classic before pictures I wanted to distance myself from as much as possible. Those pictures motivated me to change, to improve, to try. I look at those pictures, and I looked then when I started this journey, and I said no more.

But these pictures were worse. I’m not sure if I had looked at those pictures directly after my trip if I would have been even more motivated…or depressed.

It was really in March, after being worried about myself, and finally some people I cared about also talking to me, that made me realize it had gone too far.  Looking at those pictures from 3 months earlier, I kind of wonder why someone didn’t take me aside earlier and say…hey, what’s going on with you? Those pictures affect me even today and I’m a long ways from who that woman looked like.

And that brings me to the title of the post. Whose business is your fitness? 

When do we, as friends, family, loved ones, keep our mouths shut about someone’s appearance, and when do we offer our concern and help? 

I grew up most of my life being sensitive about my weight and in the United States it’s generally considered a taboo subject and something people don’t talk about. In Italy, that rule is out the window. Even colleagues will say, “have you put on some weight?”

When do we mind our own business, and when do we reach out to those we care for and do something / encourage / challenge them?

BESsBESsBESsBESsBESsBESsFonts by Typekit

Fonts by Typekit

I’m curious what others are thinking. I myself now feel more compelled to reach out, because I know that change is not impossible, and the more support you have, the better it gets, but I’m also afraid at really offending someone instead of helping.

36 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2012 4:07 pm

    I totally agree; when you have a supprotive network around, it makes the impossible ,very possible. Great luck on your transformation and I look forward to sharing more with you:))

  2. mschoenu permalink
    January 13, 2012 5:40 pm

    I saw you in December 2010, and I don’t remember you looking shocking. 🙂 But then I haven’t seen you in “after” mode! Must remedy that! I think it really depends how close you are with the person. I personally would not comment on most people’s weight issues (or size). I grew up with my mom constantly dieting and always fighting a battle with her weight. She’s my own mother, but I don’t comment on her weight because it’s just a sensitive topic and she has told me that when people mention her weight, it only drives her to eat. Sometimes she’ll complain about her weight to me (and I can see how certain things in her lifestyle are contributing to the issue…), but I just keep my mouth shut because I know that even if I were to approach it as “Hey, I’m worried about you…”, it wouldn’t go over well. With people you know less well, it’s hard to tell if their weight is because of another issue (say a thyroid problem – or in my case now, a pregnancy!) so it is really not a topic I’d touch on with probably 99% of the people I know. Weight and money are two touchy topics I try not to get into with people. I have a friend ALWAYS complaining about money when I know that she actually makes a great salary but she doesn’t seem to manage her money well at all, in my opinion. But to say that would be overstepping bounds, I think.

    • January 13, 2012 5:46 pm

      Did we see each other in December? (*scratches head*) I thought maybe it was earlier than that….but anyway, it was bad. 🙂

      Let me know if we’ll be able to meet up pre-baby #2? Not sure how mobile you are lately…

      • mschoenu permalink
        January 13, 2012 5:52 pm

        Wouldn’t the cookie swap have been Dec. 2010? Time is a blur these days (years), but I’m pretty sure it was! Oh, I’m mobile and finally feeling better after a rough first four months or so. Baby #2 won’t be here until mid-April, and I want to cram as much “fun” as I can in before that time so just let me know where and when and I’ll be there!

      • January 13, 2012 5:57 pm

        You’re right! (doh) I think those cookies contributed, too. I think I was left with a good 100 of them 🙂

        Ok, I am emailing you re: a meetup! I’m gone at the end of the month for a week & here all Feb 🙂

  3. January 13, 2012 6:04 pm

    It’s definitely a touchy subject. As a guy I think it’s 100x easier for me to make mention of something to another guy about their weight. Guys often joke about it with each other. Not sure I’d ever mention something to a gal unless we were the best of friends or it was a close family member.

    • January 13, 2012 6:33 pm

      Ya, guys definitely joke about it; I sometimes envy not having to tiptoe around weight so much as I do being a woman. That being said, it also feels like most guys I know can alter their weight much easier than all the women I know, so (in my mind) perhaps there’s this stigma “she can’t help it / can’t do much about it / might be trying really hard” re: her weight.

      Touchy 🙂

  4. January 13, 2012 6:24 pm

    Being a concerned friend (or daugher-in-law) you can try to tell someone you worry about that you think it in their best interest to get help, loose weight, eat less, drink less, exercise more…but they are not going to hear it or do anything about it unless they make up their mind themselves that they are ready to make changes. You can perhaps plant some seeds, but it totally comes down to the individual coming to the realization on his own to change to a healthier lifestyle, otherwise they will not be motivated and will continually find excuses not to get serious loosing weight etc. Some people all have this idealized vision of how they are doing and many times refuse to really confront reality. So sometimes it takes a personal “ah ha” moment, looking at a really awful photo that finally makes the individual say wow, I have to make some changes.

    Having said that, you may have thought you looked really bad in the photo but maybe you were being super critical. I think it is true that women tend to see themselves fatter and heftier than they really are in the mirror and in photos. A woman can be slim and at a decent and acceptable weight, but just one bad or weird camera angle can make her look like Jabba the Hut and send her into a tail spin (personal experience talking here!) thinking she has to loose a ton of weight. I think other people see us differently, so may not be as prone to step in and say we need to get help. We over think and obsess about own figures, thighs, jiggling upper arms while for the most part, other people tend to remember smiles (or lack of) and personalities (good or bad!).

    • January 13, 2012 6:38 pm

      but they are not going to hear it or do anything about it unless they make up their mind themselves that they are ready to make changes.

      Totally agree. I was just wondering at the value of actually telling someone that’s not ok; if no one ever says anything, perhaps the person themselves doesn’t really realize it. Perhaps the Nth person will be the tipping point for them to care. The risk is you’ll tip them the other way 😦

      I also see what you mean about being super critical…it unfortunately didn’t apply in this case; it really was a picture of what I looked like at the time and didn’t see (or refused to see).

  5. January 13, 2012 7:14 pm

    That’s a tough one! I honestly think I wouldn’t take it well at all to have someone comment on my weight. Believe me. I was more than aware that I had crossed the line from pleasantly plump to woah baby… I too had a jaw dropping OMG picture experience in September that just completely wrecked me and that’s when I got serious about the gym, going to bootcamp, and finally REALLY watching what I eat via WW online. By the way, I failed miserably at the Four-Hour Body….

    It’s a slow and humbling process but by the end of 2012 I really would like to be able to stop untagging myself from “fat pictures” on Facebook. Of course, this means that there definitely will not be quite so many delectable posts on my blog now (Kate Middleton’s birthday Sticky Toffee Pudding … well that was a lapse in judgement perhaps), but the cookie dough, double-stuffed, heavy cream Erin will just have to lose some readers. I really miss my confidence and fitting in my pants.

    • January 13, 2012 7:29 pm

      I think you, probably more than most people, realize the meaning of this site & what it means to also have to make a kind of “personal brand change” so to speak as I had to consider at the same time 🙂 I also am reflecting on this a year later…I really don’t know how the January 2010 me would have reacted.

      I still love food, I still eat food that’s not super-healthy, and sometimes I will blog about it, but I’m not as driven by it, & the blog, as I used to be. I also think the trick to indulging in the kitchen in the future is to make sure you’re surrounded by enough people who can make sure there’s no leftovers afterward – no more making a batch of cookies/muffins/cupcakes for the blog & then figuring out who will eat them after!

      I never really started with 4HB, though I still try to reduce the “whites” – white bread, white sugar, white rice, potatoes, etc. as he recommends, mainly because I think that it’s super repetitive & not very interesting (perfect for guys! no imagination or culinary creativity needed!) & I didn’t like the “cheat day” concept as a way of “rewarding yourself” or saving up bad choices all for one day. Not very sustainable.

      • January 13, 2012 7:54 pm

        4HB killed me. Trying to eat beans and eggs every day for breakfast was revolting and I was always grumpy or hungry. There’s some sound advice in the book but I absolutely agree that it’s very much a manly man geared manual. Also, being on this diet with my boyfriend and doing weigh-ins together was incredibly frustrating. He’d lose 6 pounds in a week and I’d lose half a pound and then I’d drown my sorrows in white wine on the cheat day. That was a fun month! lol…

        I really think that your 80/20 rule is the way to go and that’s how I’m doing things these days 🙂

  6. January 14, 2012 1:02 am

    Thanks for writing a post about this! My husband and I have a blog about trying to lose weight together and deciding whether to mention something to your spouse about their weight is incredibly difficult! I’ve found that men can be just as sensitive as women, and I learned the hard way that if you want to tell your spouse they’ve put on a few pounds, don’t joke about it! My husband was offended when a made a joke about his little tummy, but an honest conversation about it actually went pretty well.
    Sara from

    • January 16, 2012 12:02 pm

      Wow, blogging together! That’s a good way to face it together. I definitely think jokes are not the way – we (making the joke) may think it makes things lighter but it probably just undermines the emotion behind those few pounds.

  7. Nezlee permalink
    January 14, 2012 5:20 am

    That is definitely a tricky one. I was raised in New Zealand where you wouldn’t dream of mentioning someone’s weight. But half of my family comes from Zambia where the culture is a whole different kettle of fish. Where someone, anyone, will just tell you that you’re looking fat. They don’t mean it in a malicious way. To them it’s just an observation. I always found it super challenging to try and balance these contrasting approaches.

    • January 16, 2012 12:03 pm

      Sounds similar to my US – Italy differences 🙂 I used to resent the emphasis on weight here in Italy, but in essence it’s made me more cognizant of my own (in a good way).

  8. January 14, 2012 10:20 pm

    Yeah i def. wish we could be more blunt about these things in the US! When I studied abroad in Australia, people had no shame in telling a friend to watch their weight and it never came across as rude! I think the best thing is to just be encouraging about eating right and maybe even get them to start working out with you or so on. But if they are your real friends, they should not get mad at you when you are just looking out for their health! Check out my blog on health and wellness! You might find some good pointers 🙂 Good luck!

    • January 16, 2012 12:04 pm

      Yes on trying to suggest ways to exercise / be active together 🙂

  9. January 15, 2012 5:58 am

    I’m weird. I hate it if someone comments on my weight either bad (“Wow, put on a couple, huh?”) or good (“You look great, have you lost weight?”). In the first case, well that just sucks, but with the second type of comment, I’m always left thinking that I looked like crap before. It’s been so bad that once I lost a lot of weight and my family went on and on with the compliments, that unfortunately after I re-gained it, I couldn’t even bring myself to visit them. Best to omit the weight comments entirely.

    • January 16, 2012 12:05 pm

      Ah, I can see what you mean re: good comments also being slightly negative. I don’t mind good compliments b/c usually it means I’ve been working hard to make a change, and someone noticed.

  10. January 16, 2012 10:33 am

    Hi, it is so great to hear that you want to reach out and help other people, I would like to do the same. Obtaining support from family has not been easy for me, sometimes family does put you down.

  11. January 16, 2012 11:20 pm

    That’s a tough situation. I think, if it was a family member or close friend and they were having weight-related health problems I would sit them down and say I was concerned about them. We all want our loved ones to live full and healthy lives. A lot of it is an addiction mind-set. They feel they HAVE to eat certain foods or eat a certain way to feel good, self-medicating if you will …with food. If I had an addiction that was equally crippling and damaging to my health I would want someone to confront me about it. you said..there is a certain “taboo” about weight-related comments. One approach could be toinvite them along to play tennis, go jogging, go for a walk, etc. They don’t need someone telling them they are overweight, they need someone to help them do something about it until they are able to do it on their own.

    • January 16, 2012 11:41 pm

      If I had an addiction that was equally crippling and damaging to my health I would want someone to confront me about it

      Wow, when you say it like that, it actually is really clear to me. Not everyone will have such an extreme situation, but it can be considered a form of substance abuse / addiction for many people.

  12. January 17, 2012 7:27 am

    I have been trying to lose weight since Jan.2 🙂 and that’s a day after the long holiday of indulgence to food.

  13. January 18, 2012 3:20 am

    I think fitness is YOUR business! No one can tell you what to do (unless you hire them)… you have to get yourself motivated enough to do it because it’s a LIFESTYLE change. You have to make it part of your routine, like brushing your teeth every morning!

  14. January 18, 2012 3:35 pm

    Interesting question – whose business is it anyway! If pushed about some negative choices, I tend to get defensive – how does a friend guide me back to the straight and narrow?? Perhaps it is something that we (I) have to see for ourselves. Friends can be supportive – once a decision is made to get back on track – their help can be instrumental, but in our society today – is the topic so sensitive, so taboo, it is best not spoken – or are some so insensitive in how they approach this subject, that it makes it worse!!! I think, in the end, it is the business of the person who is looking in the mirror. Whether it be old photos or trying on an old pair of pants that no longer fit – only when that individual is ready to deal with the issues are the real changes going to happen. It will have to come from within (but support from friends at this stage – also crucial!!??) I have struggled with weight and related issues since my teens – would love to know the answer! For now – just have to try to figure it out! Interesting question for thought. Thanks.

  15. January 18, 2012 10:05 pm

    I always wonder why when I acknowledge a bit of weight gain on myself, people around immediately tell me I’m wrong. I know how my pants used to fit and how they fit now, but perhaps they’re trying to save my feelings? I wish we could all be a little more open about weight and how it makes us feel – that’s the first step in getting support towards a healthier life and healthier habits! Great post!

  16. January 20, 2012 8:40 pm

    Great topic, Sara. I think my weight and my fitness level is my own business. I dropped a lot of weight last year due to some health issues and every time someone said, “you’re so thin”, it made me cringe. I’m sure it’s out of concern, but I’m pretty private and if I want to discuss my weight with someone, let me bring it up first.

  17. January 21, 2012 2:25 pm

    Great post, it wasn’t until I also saw photos with myself and thought, I need to do something about it. I got onto the Slow Carb Diet and lost 30 lbs!! Most people don’t really know how to the 4HB diet, so I also developed a Blog about it. Best of luck with your journey!

  18. January 21, 2012 10:38 pm

    I always feel it’s best to empower people with positivity. If they go to the gym, I tell them they are doing a great job! If they reach a short term goal, I will really let them know I think that is fantastic. When I really get into working out, it’s fun and I think it should be aimed that way right away. So keep it up Sara, you can always better your best!

  19. January 22, 2012 4:01 pm

    Interesting post. think it depends on the person and what you know about their sensitivities regarding weight/food/body image, coupled with what kind of relationship you have with them. I used to be 70 pounds heavier, so I know how it feels when people make blunt comments, ask questions, etc: overall, I was shocked at how rude people can be! So, I think it’s best to approach each person in a way that’s best suited for their personality.

    For those who I know are super senstive about the issue, I prefer helping them without necessarily coming right out and saying so – cooking a fun, healthy meal together, getting friends together for a walk – things like that. I try to put the emphasis on the fun/friends rather than get all serious (and likely bore them to tears) with portion control/fitness talk.

    Then there are people who are comfortable patting their bellies and openly saying they need to get in shape. If someone’s that open about it, I see it as them inviting me to engage in some conversation about the topic, and we just go from there. In any instance, no matter how much a person jokes or anything, I’m always careful to never criticize or become sarcastic.

  20. calmyourbeans permalink
    January 24, 2012 3:42 pm

    Good points! It can be a hard subject to discuss.

  21. January 24, 2012 6:23 pm

    This has really resonated with a lot of you! It seems like the comments are just as split as I am – it can be a good or bad thing 🙂

    • whyyyjen permalink
      January 28, 2012 6:52 am

      I am with you in your journey to fitness. It will always be a journey! *sending good vibes*

  22. July 15, 2014 7:46 am

    In France people are really public about it. They will say outright “Well, now you just need to lose the baby weight!” and the like. It can be confronting, but I think it’s better than staying quiet. When people are quiet it’s easy to let yourself go.

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