Most people who decide to make a lifestyle change will tell at least a few others about their intentions. All of a sudden you’re buying more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and you’ve dusted off those gym shoes to go for a walk a few times a week. Something is up, but how many people do you tell? Do you tell anyone at all, or just let them figure it out for themselves? New research shows that sharing your goals could negatively affect your behavior and success.
Researchers at New York University explored the idea of an “identity goal”. “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 dieter it could be pounds dropped or praise from friends/family when they see how great you look. 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.” The theory is that the sense of accomplishment makes you feel like you’ve already reached a goal. This feeling then gives you less incentive to follow through with it. Do you agree?
Researchers suggest creating an action plan to help you stick to the goal. Instead of just saying “I want to lose 20 pounds”, develop steps along the way. That way the sense of accomplishment isn’t complete until you’ve “lost 5 pounds by January 15th, 10 pounds by February 20th and 20 pounds by April 30th.”
Other researchers suggest that because human beings naturally have a problem with change, those around you will try to sabotage your efforts (consciously or not) by changing you back to what you once were. One successful dieter said that she received comments such as “I liked you better as the fat friend,” from people she expected to be supportive of her goals. Because of these reasons, some experts suggest keeping your weight loss goals a secret, or if necessary, only telling a few people.
I think everyone needs to do what works best for them, but I’m skeptical that keeping your goals a secret from everyone is beneficial for most people. If you know that your family and friends won’t support your goals, reach out to others- like your friends at SparkPeople! It helps to share the ups and downs of a healthy lifestyle journey, especially if it’s with others who are going through the same thing. Surround yourself with those who want to see you be happy and successful.
Do you keep your weight loss goals a secret from certain people in your life? Do you find that telling others helps or hurts your progress?