Should You Keep your Weight Loss Plan a Secret?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/9/2013 6:00 AM   :  204 comments   :  41,732 Views

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?

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  • 204
    I have people in my life who actually go to the opposite extreme. Instead of sabotaging my efforts, they become overly involved and go out of their way to try to accommodate me. ("Can you eat this?" type of questions) While I appreciate their support, and I know it all comes from a place of love, it make me feel very self-conscious, as if my efforts to lose weight are the most important thing on the planet. So I just try not to say too much about what I'm doing. - 5/8/2016   2:54:49 PM
    I am afraid to tell people , I have had a weight problem my whole life funny thing is when i was in my teens and thought I was over weight I was actually a good weight. my mother watched "every bite" I put in my mouth . and gave me the guilt trip with comment's like: do you really need that? that is too many calories,... FOR YOU! " didn't you just eat?" " you can't possibly be hungry! now I have to tell you my mother could EAT a 300 pound person under the table and she was 80 pounds dripping wet.
    she had a box of chocolates at her bed side even ... and ate several helpings of every thing. I weighed 109 pounds. so I became a secret eater.
    I hate it . my husband is very supportive of me yet like other hubbys he occasionally tells me to not be so strict, I need to treat my self once in a while.
    so I kind of go into things like watching what I eat quietly. he notices my portions are smaller or I am watching calories .
    and is very supportive but the first thing people do when then know your dieting , is can't wait for you to put the weight back on. so I am back to panicking over this so if I don't say any thing I feel I have more control I bet a pyscyatrist would have a field day with me .... ha! and would I say to someone wow are you skinny! you better eat more. (NO) but people say to heavy people all the time , you'd be so pretty if only you'd lose weight.
    why is that?

    - 2/24/2016   1:58:37 PM
  • 202
    I have one person in my life who will hand some junk food saying, "You have to try this. One bite won't hurt," and in the SAME breath says, "Should you be eating that?" Are you kidding me?! I'm not sharing my goals with anyone but my soul sister (best friend), not even my husband. - 12/31/2015   10:32:38 AM
  • 201
    I keep it to myself unless someone I know who's on the same track wants or needs a "buddy." Sometimes it's motivating to be in it along with another person or a group but I don't shout it out to everyone. - 9/1/2015   9:51:07 AM
  • 200
    I prefer not to share my goals. This is something I am doing for me and I like keeping the effort as something for myself alone. It's my ME time. However, I think some people do well sharing the changes with others. It's a personal preference and everyone must do what works best for them! - 9/1/2015   7:35:31 AM
  • 199
    Unfortunately this article is true. I used to share my goals with people, especially my family. But when my weight loss reached a plateau or I ate something that was not deemed healthy, I would get negative comments ie "I thought you were working out" or "Is that on your diet?" Instead of feeling supported, I felt like I was being scrutinized for every pound lost (or gained) and any slip-up. So I've learned to really only share it with one or two girlfriends and that's it. - 7/29/2015   11:06:39 PM
  • 198
    I share my weightloss goals with my hubby and my mom and that's it. No one else seems very supportive and sometimes will make comments to sabotage even if it's unintentional. My Husband will bring home junk or ask me to skip a workout to hang out with him and my mom will let her jealousy of my success show when she isn't feeling as successful with her own goals. But I do rely heavily on Sparkpeople community for day to day support, to celebrate the wins and for honest advice! They are all reaching for a similar goal and now the struggles we face from less than supportive people around us. - 7/29/2015   5:38:31 PM
  • 197
    I do both. I share with those I know will support me, but don't say anything to those who feel threatened by the changes I'm making. Ironically the one who wants me to lose weight and is one of my biggest supporters (my husband) is the one that tries to sabotages me the most. (One little bite won't hurt... Come on. You need to eat more... You know you want it...) I don't think he does this intentionally, but because change scares him. - 4/25/2015   8:39:49 AM
    I never tell anyone. Every time I have, I've either gotten a non-stop stream of questions, or a bunch of negativity. Just because I told you I was trying to be healthier does not mean I want to call you on a daily basis and report everything I ate, every step I took, and how many pounds I lost since last night so that you can analyze it and tell me what I did wrong. Nor do I need someone to tell me how I look so sick at this weight, here, have some cake, you can see all my ribs. I'll stick to posting on Sparkpeople, and leave the real life people to notice on their own - which they haven't yet, in spite of me having lost over 50 pounds! - 4/21/2015   7:29:53 AM
  • 195
    I agree that it is better kept to one's self. I get tired of folks trying to be helpful and recommending fad diets and other well meaning advice. I've been at this a while and know that I am more informed than many of them. Rather than be rude, its best not mentioned in the first place. It is really no one's business but mine. - 1/12/2015   6:00:08 PM
  • 194
    I want to try again.I have friends I can tell,but my family does not understand.I need to take care of myself.I have been eating myself sick for days now,and can't stop.I hope this will help.I have trouble sticking to a plan fro more than a few days.I end up eating stuff I am addicted to,and soon I am out of control again. - 12/15/2014   10:52:12 PM
  • L0LITA92
    I try to keep my plans a secret, it makes it all the more sweeter when I reveal my slimmer and healthier me to all of the "haters". I do weight training and I've started noticing some definition but instead of good comments from my friends I get "Oh, you better stop because you'll end up looking manly". I even get it from my mum sometimes who tries to make me feel bad for passing on the cake, or asking for a smaller portion when she makes me dinner. It's just things like that, that make me think no... I'm not going to stop because you're insecure. I just like to think that I have goals and I'm making positive steps to reach them. - 11/3/2014   6:48:04 PM
    I think your body is a PRIVATE matter. I have been a serial dieter and yo-yo-er and each failure crushes you a little more. Having the negative judgement of others on top of my own just makes it harder. I have better success when I do this by and for myself. It is act of self-love. It also keeps the sabotagers at bay and there are plenty of them out there, especially those that supposedly love you. Advertising it to everyone makes you more accountable to others than to yourself. When you do it for and by yourself the success is much sweeter, the results last longer and the looks of envy and disbelief on your friends and family are priceless. - 8/28/2014   11:28:33 AM
  • 191
    I'm a private person so I like to keep it to myself; why put more pressure on an already stressful time of making changes unless those people are affected by my changes? The others will know soon enough when I start losing weight at my own pace, not the pace that people think I should have lost the weight. I also hate being asked how much I've lost. It seems a little personal. I never tell, no matter how much I'm pressured. Except on Sparkpeople. :) - 8/26/2014   12:08:19 PM
    I feel like I rather tell everyone here on Spark who will support, encourage, and refrain from judging me since we all have a shared goal with ups and down--because, telling my friends and family have brought out the green eyed monster more times than I care to recall. - 8/24/2014   8:58:46 AM
    In my experience, I have experience both. At first I didn't tell anyone except 1 of my sisters, who was very supportive. After my weight loss became evident, I expressed to a few people I wasn't "dieting", but had decided to make some changes to improve my overall health & the weight loss was a benefit of those changes. Most people were supportive & encouraging, but a few I had thought would understand & be supportive were quite the opposite, sharing negative comments. I believe if you are making changes for yourself you have to be willing to believe everyone is entitled to their opinion but you are responsible for yourself & your actions. - 3/30/2014   1:10:58 PM
  • 188
    I've found that if people are my true friends they will be more than willing to have my back. My best weight loss success came when ALL my friends knew about my goals and were holding me accountable. My biggest struggle are my parents, who are so set in their food-related ways that its hard to make them understand I'm cutting back (plus- they're food is SO GOOD!! lol) - 3/30/2014   10:20:17 AM
  • XTINA56
    I told my friends and family. It is irrelevant what they think or what they say or do, as this is MY journey. Of course, it has been supportive 100%; I am blessed. I create my own reality. I go out to eat. I do not read or buy "guilt free" anything and refuse to reinforce that thinking. NOTHING is off limits. I have lost 87 lbs since 1/2013. I am training to run the Maui marathon and plan to be down the last 50lbs or so by then. I watch my calories and nutritional balance. I started my journey eating the daily calories I will need to eat when I hit my goal, so there won't be ANY transitioning or "going off my diet." Just isn't part of my gestalt any longer. Good luck everyone! If I can do it, ANYONE CAN. Trust me! - 2/24/2014   3:05:33 PM
  • 186
    For the most part, I didn't tell anyone except my sister and husband. The more people you tell, the more they try to keep tabs on your status.

    What really helped me this time around versus previous unsuccessful times is just what the article said. I'd determined to reach my final goal weight and no matter what compliments came my way... I knew the race had not been won until I got to my finish line. Previously, when I received compliments, it was start of weight gain again. - 2/24/2014   3:02:59 PM
    I agree to keep it quiet. I have family that look at me if I give my self a treat that it is so horrible they cannot believe that I am doing that. I will get comments do you really think you need that or what happen to your diet, then will turn around and ask you out to a restaraunt they is even worse for you. Very confusing I prefer to keep it to myself. - 2/24/2014   9:22:28 AM
    I wish I had kept my goals to myself. Many of the people who know either want to overly praise me for minor results or tell me I'm trying to lose too much weight. I should have kept it to a few close people. - 2/24/2014   6:26:08 AM
  • 183
    I do tend to keep my goals to myself or very trusted acquaintances. It is something I am doing for me and on my terms. Maybe the people close to me are just too meddling. They tend to jump on board and give advice, think they get to monitor me, or point out any slip ups I have. It creates too much stress to share my goals with people close to me and makes me feel I have lost control of the situation. I prefer to share on social media with people who are like-minded and supportive. Occasionally, and usually after a mile-stone, I will share in person if I feel it is going to help me progress. - 2/19/2014   6:26:44 PM
    I'm sharing my goals with my husband and my close friends but colleagues and acquaintances can figure it out when the changes are noticeable. - 2/19/2014   10:45:05 AM
    Just beginning today, well actually tomorrow. Just found this site @6pm. I really believe this is what I have been looking without negative input, other people who understand the struggle and the tools to succeed. I will be posting results, etc. during my journey to health. - 12/27/2013   6:13:37 PM
    I think that the only people who truly understand are Spark People. I get all the understanding and motivation I need right here. Friends and family may mean well, but they don't want or need to hear every detail. I'm going to let the results speak for themselves, especially since I'm older and it's taking a much longer time to see results. - 12/27/2013   9:58:37 AM
    I live on my own, geographically around 300 miles from my closest friends and family; my neighbours are friendly and pleasant but not "friends". So I told a couple of long-distance close friends, who made encouraging noises in e-mails every now and then, but beyond that I went out on my own. There was nobody to monitor what I was doing, nobody to interfere or saboutage me, no accountability, no encouragement and no discouragement: it was down to me. I think overall this was easier than if I had been enmeshed with close friends/family who would have wanted to comment daily on what I was doing. As it was, when I had lost my target 60lbs and drove 300 miles to visit friends and family, everyone fell over themselves being surprised and kind and praising me! - 12/17/2013   7:33:11 PM
    Interesting question... I have told people before, but this time I have only really told my partner, my sister and my Mom (though since my Mom knows I'm sure a lot of other people know as well!) and of them only my partner is in the same geographic area so no one else sees what I am eating or doing on a regular basis.

    Losing weight is hard for me (hypothyroid, insulin resistant) and there are so many expectations that if you're doing it "right" you should lose quickly (which a lot of success stories reinforce) - so if it takes you a while then you must be doing something wrong... which then also means that the one time you indulge is taken as 'proof' that you're secretly cheating all the time. It took a long time to educate my partner about the difficulties and he still doesn't fully understand the need to be as strict as I can (which does lead to indulgences - I've just gotten better at weaving them into my overall eating plan). That's why I have avoided telling too many people - no one to judge your commitment based on your lunch choice (as they ignore the fact that your lunch choice 9 out of 10 times is a salad) leading to you feeling bad about your choices... no one to wonder why it's taking so long, so no pressure from anyone but myself.

    24 pounds lost and haven't seen any of my family or family friends since I started losing, so will be interesting to see if anyone notices (it's only really been in the last week that I've even noticed clothes feeling/ looking different) - 11/27/2013   7:59:15 AM
  • 177
    I talk to my boyfriend and my sister about it. I never talk to my parents about it. They make things worse, before I fell off track and was doing really well, I told my mom I'd lost 8 pounds and her first comments was, "Make sure you don't gain it back this time" I don't need that type of commentary. My boyfriend is super helpful and my sister is supportive, but I'd prefer for the rest of the world just notice that there is less of me than there was before. - 11/18/2013   8:57:28 PM
  • 176
    I don't tell ppl anything until they ask. When you're losing weight, ppl (esp. other women) are inevitably going to ask how you're doing it. Ppl who get on a "health kick" and start to critique and advise everyone around them drive me nuts. Ppl knowing what you're up to can help and hurt: on one hand, there's motivation to keep it up and succeed--after all, ppl are watching you and curious to see how you do. On the other hand, that added pressure can get heavy and cause you to give up or make unwise/unsafe choices to save face. It can also prevent you from reaching out for support for fear of looking weak. Lastly like so many have mentioned, there's the inevitable sabotage that comes along with anything that might make you thinner, healthier, prettier, or more successful than someone else. That's when you just have to cut off those relationships (poisonous co-workers) or draw clear lines with friends and loved ones. For me, if a discussion of my efforts comes up, I just always make sure I finish the conversation with, "I just want to be healthy and feel better, for myself and my family." I try to avoid, "I'm trying to lose 40 lbs" or "I'm going to be a size 4 again" or any other really specific goals that others will feel compelled to hold me to. - 11/18/2013   5:53:39 AM
  • 175
    I don't tell people so that then they aren't expecting to see a change when there might not be one by the time I see them. - 10/29/2013   10:05:16 AM
    I don't tell others (except my family who notices anyway) because I worry about failing. Luckily, I found SparkPeople so I have plenty of support now! - 6/21/2013   5:06:08 PM
    In the past, I've told friends & coworkers about my health and diet/exercise plans ... and I've usually regretted it. People either sabotage or shame.

    That's why I like the spark community - I feel like I can be honest about my plans, my struggles, and my victories! - 6/21/2013   7:53:22 AM
  • 172
    I only talk about my goals to the Spark Community and anyone who approaches me to ask. For one thing talking about what I eat and how much I exercise has got to sound like a giant narcissistic bore to anyone who hasn't first expressed interest, and I can find more interesting things to converse about--like them. Of course, I tell anyone who's trying to get more fit about Sparkpeople. - 6/19/2013   10:58:54 AM
  • 1954MARG
    It really depends on WHO you tell. I found it difficult at one place that I worked at years ago, because it seemed that once the girls I worked with knew, their only topic of conversation became food and it really is no help at all if you are trying to distract yourself from thinking about food except at mealtimes and shopping trips if the people you spend most of your time with are talking about it all the time. They weren't doing it deliberately to make it difficult for me. They just couldn't help themselves. - 6/17/2013   7:23:59 AM
  • 170
    Most of the time I tell too much. This time I'm just doing my spark thing, saying nothing. In time people will notice, keeping quiet seems to be working for me because I'm doing it for my health and nothing else. - 6/14/2013   10:20:25 PM
  • 169
    I mentioned my goal to my "friend" and immediately got shot down. My husband is supportive to an extent -- he doesn't mind my eating differently and says he wants me to succeed because he doesn't like me moping around when I don't meet a goal. Gee thanks. I agree that really and truly the other people on Sparkpeople are the people who really understand and care about our successes. - 6/12/2013   10:38:43 AM
  • 168
    So true! - 6/9/2013   10:51:29 PM
  • 167
    I don't like telling ppl especially in the beginning. I don't want people to judge me if I fail. Sometimes all of a sudden they become my food warden. "I thought you were trying to lose weight?" or "Are you sure you should be eating that?" Its makes you feel guilty. Which can crush weight loss efforts. - 6/3/2013   1:19:09 PM
  • 166
    I am talking about it a little bit and I have got good feedback on my weight loss but I still like to keep something's to myself - 6/3/2013   10:56:05 AM
  • 165
    I don't like to talk about it, but it's pretty obvious so I do get comments. I usually kind of blow off the comments/questions. When people ask me directly, I usually lie and just say I've been spending more time at the gym than usual (that's the truth, but I've also been weighing every bite of food and sticking to 1300 calories/day -- I NEVER tell people that). If someone sees me passing up food at a social event and comments, I say (truthfully) that after having my gall bladder removed, there are many foods I can no longer eat. I hate to talk about calorie counting with people except my husband. It gives me the creeps. - 6/1/2013   5:07:41 AM
  • 164
    I'm keeping it a secret. If i tell, the plan going to fail.... - 5/12/2013   9:50:23 PM
  • 163
    I've been sabotaged in the past, and from people I thought would be supportive. I've learned who to tell, and who not to tell. This time I've told the two people I know I can count on to encourage me, and be happy for my success. The others will eventually figure it out, but hopefully by that time I will be able to protect myself from any negative reactions they have. - 5/12/2013   2:51:24 AM
  • 162
    When I was most successful, I didn't tell anyone and waited for my weight loss to be apparent. It took about 30 lbs for people to start asking and some people waited longer (mostly male coworkers who were concerned about workplace etiquette). I think its an individual decision whether to tell anyone or which people to tell. For me, I'm okay with succeeding in public, but I'd rather fail in private. - 5/10/2013   3:51:12 PM
    I don't say anything to other people about my weight loss. Many have complimented me, but I think weight is such a personal issue that I discuss it on an individual basis. - 5/10/2013   10:33:51 AM
  • 160
    I've found that telling people helps me to hold myself more accountable - because I want to show that I can do it. But when I don't reach those goals, I do feel more let down that I've told people & not been able to follow through - so it's a difficult balance, & I haven't found that right answer for me yet. - 5/10/2013   9:59:52 AM
    I share RESULTS with those around me: no one wants to here a whole bunch of 'I'm gonna's'! If you share too early, people do love to be negative, and who needs that? I do share my goals in here, but then, this is created to be a safe place :) - 5/10/2013   9:46:16 AM
  • 158
    I feel like it is no one's business but mine. I share with my husband, and if people ask me about my weight loss I will enthusiastically tell them about SparkPeople and how much I love it. I get a lot of community support here at SP from people who are kind and supportive, and my husband is wonderful about it. But I don't tell protect myself from self-sabotage. - 5/10/2013   8:24:48 AM
  • 157
    I am always tempted to show my cards too soon, but in the past, that has invited sabotage from some people. They want to argue with me: "You don't need to lose weight! Have some cake!" For me, it's better to save the weight-loss talk for SparkPeople.

    - 5/10/2013   7:41:29 AM
  • 156
    Oh this is so interesting! I am a huge blabber mouth, so if you know me, you probably know a lot of my goals and aspirations.

    I do understand the need for a time frame within which to reach a goal. In fact, I wanted to take a trip that involved a LOT of preparation, planning, convincing (Himself - my travel partner). I had a deadline of spring 2011 and I told all my colleagues in the fall of 2010 because I was excited about it and, of course, I had to claim the vacation time. As the WORK involved with planning began to feel like it was all too much, I really considered quitting - not planning - but the fact that I'd "bragged" ahead of time, shamed me into doing the work - and oh my, it was the best trip Himself and I have ever taken. That's one for sharing your goals.

    But yesterday I heard, for the first time, "Don't lose any more weight" from a friend and I started to explain about my goal and then had an overwhelming urge to just keep it to myself. She won't really know if I lose that last 5 lbs or not ... we don't need to talk about it.

    Very interesting. - 5/10/2013   6:20:13 AM
    I love my secrets. I find that once I reveal them to others, I lose motivation. So no sharing for me. - 5/10/2013   12:55:44 AM

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