Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dealing with Negative Nellies, Jealous Janes and Ignorant Idas

June 2012-  my "extra skin" in a size 6 dress
Have you ever wondered why one negative or insensitive comment can create so much havoc on your weight loss or health journey?

Recently, I came face to face with this exact situation. Two weeks ago, I hit a major milestone- I weighed in at 149.4, which put me in the normal BMI range for my height! Finally I was in the home stretch where all I had to do was keep going until my body plateaued and then I would officially be in maintenance mode. I was feeling great about my body- after all, for the first time ever I was wearing size 6’s!  I headed off to an annual state convention, excited to show off the results of my hard work and perseverance to friends and acquaintances who had not seen me since the very beginning of my weight loss journey.  While most people were extremely complimentary, I was caught totally off guard when an individual grabbed the loose skin of my upper arm and stated “that is going to take a long time to firm up, isn’t it?”  

While I wish that I could say I responded with something clever or confident, the truth is that I was speechless and am not sure that I even uttered a response.  Even though I eventually dismissed the comment and even laughed about it with friends, the truth is that the comment was extremely hurtful and all of the sudden every time I looked in the mirror I was now fixated on my upper arms and the lack of tone in them, rather than focusing on the ways in which my body looked strong and healthy.   (Just as a side note- once you get really big, even when you lose a bunch of weight, the extra skin does not miraculously disappear- however the way I look at it is that extra skin hanging off a size 6 body is WAY better than my old size 24 self).

So true! Dedication is not obsession!
One of the hardest parts of my weight loss journey has been dealing with the reactions (or lack thereof) of other people and learning to not make decisions for my life based on these reactions. Losing weight results in physical changes that are more evident to the naked eye than other life changes, which seems to invite the comments or critiques of friends, co-workers, family members and other acquaintances. Many times these comments were supportive and encouraging, but there were also times during my journey when the words of people in my life actually had the potential to sabotage all of the changes I was making. What I have found is that sometimes the most damaging comments are not necessarily as blatant as the scenario I described above; for me, the hardest part was sticking to the eating and exercise plan that I had determined was right for me, in the face of other people making comments such as “organic is overrated” or “exercising 5 days a week is excessive” or “one extra cupcake won’t hurt you.”  I am sure that some of those  comments were made with good intentions, but other times I truly believe those comments were meant, either consciously or subconsciously, to attack the progress that I had made.

I am definitely not a psychologist, but here are some of my observations of how other people react to someone successfully losing weight:
  •  Negative Nellie: Let’s face it, life is not a Hallmark movie, and there are just some people who are mean-spirited and who for some reason get a kick out of making nasty or negative comments. No matter what you do, Negative Nellie will never be happy and her goal in life is to try to bring you down with her. Even if she won the lottery she would still complain about paying the taxes on it!
  • Jealous Jane: I honestly believe so many hurtful comments are made by people who are secretly envious of someone else’s success at something that they have been unable to accomplish.  Instead of seeing another person's success as inspiring or motivational, Jealous Jane sees it as a reflection of a personal failure.  Thus, instead of asking for help or advice, it is often much easier for Jealous Jane to make a disparaging comment instead.
  • Ignorant Ida: Ida does not intend to be harmful, however she offers tips and advice that are not based on research or knowledge, but rather on what she has heard or the latest fad.  Ignorant Ida is the kind of gal who will tell you that you can eat anything you want and lose 20 lbs in 2 days as long as you sprinkle special powder on your food.  Ignorant Ida is only dangerous if you take what she says at face value instead of questioning her source of information.
When one of these pesky ladies appears in my life, I try to remember the following things:
  •  I am definitely not an expert and by no means perfect and so I need to be receptive to new ideas/suggestions without immediately shooting them down
  •  Hurt people hurt people and often the negative comments are less about me and more about something the person is internally struggling with
  • Our relationship/identity is often based in comparison with other people (right, wrong or indifferent) and when one person in the relationship changes this dynamic it can be really disconcerting for the person who has not changed
  • There have been times in my life where I have spoken without thinking and I need to not automatically assume the person is trying to be hurtful
  • I have done my research and chosen the path that is right for me and just because someone has a different approach it does not mean that my approach is wrong 
  • It is important to not base self-worth on others opinions’- either positive or negative- because the opinions of others can be extremely fickle
So what is the take away here?   I do not have a perfect answer to this question because this is something that I am still working on. However, I think it is important that no matter what the situation, it should be handled with grace, empathy (if possible;), and a balance of humility/confidence.  Except for Negative Nellie- I think you should just kick her to the curb!


  1. Carrie,
    Love this message! It's so true and I have dealt with the Nellies, Janes and Idas all my life. It's just been in recent years that I've been learning to let those comments roll off my back (but not after I've tormented myself with over-thinking about them!) You've accomplished so much and no one else's opinion really matters. Yay you!!

  2. Thank you so much Lori! I appreciate your sweet comments- it is so hard to let them roll off my back, but I'm working on it:)