Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Weight of Lies

"Go and find the people that you know
Show them all your good parts
Leave town when the bad ones start to show"

I love Linda Wells. Whether you read beauty magazines or not, you should open Allure (one of my favorites) and read Linda Well’s Letter From the Editor in each issue. This month, Linda outed herself as a liar in “Pants on Fire. She admitted “for years, I lied to my sons about my age- and not by a little.” She explained that her son was writing a composition for school and asked how old she was, she said 36 and remained “36” for years. And she knows what you’re thinking and said  “what mother lies to her children? Me, clearly, and without missing a beat.”  Before you judge, chances are there’s something you flub, fib or let’s face it totally lie about.

I remember when I was a new RD working in research. I had someone I was counseling as they took part in a study. I poured over this participant’s food journal and couldn’t for the life of me understand why she wasn’t losing weight. I went into my friend Linda’s office for advice. “C’mon Lauren she’s lying on her food journal or as they say under reporting.” I was stunned, it hadn’t occurred to me that someone wouldn’t be completely forthcoming about his or her food, this was research after all.  Years later, I now know there’s “under reporting” when it comes to weight as well. When I ask most new clients how much they weigh, it’s always less that what the scale ends up saying.  I know, I know some of it is clothes, some food consumed that day and some of it is not wanting to weigh what we do, so we lie.

A study in Ethnicity and Disease found women misrepresent their weight more than men and white women even more so than women of other ethnicities. The authors  concluded “this may be because a fixation on thinness is more common in whites” Women fib about their weight ever to those closest to them, to their partners, best friends and even their mothers. A UK study found the average weight lie to be 9 pounds.I always thought of myself as more of a height liar.  I placed myself at 5’2” but did not know that for sure (more on that later). Height lies are more common among men though the lie is usually an inch or less. There’s only so much leeway there. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts several years ago found that 60 percent of people lie at least once during a 10-minute conversation. So if everyone is telling untruths about their age, weight and height, doesn’t it level the playing field? It becomes like vanity sizing. If all the 8’s become 6’s, does it really count?

So why tell the truth? One interesting study split participants into two groups. One was told to tell fewer lies and the other encouraged to lie. Polygraphs were used for verification.  “When participants told fewer white lies than they did in previous weeks,, they reported four fewer mental health complaints (such as stress or sadness) and about three fewer physical health complaints (like sore throats and headaches).” And I loved this from Dr Alex Lickerman in  Psychology Today  “telling the truth motivates us to strive to become all the good things lying helps us pretend we already are”

At the end of the Allure article, Wells says “Today is my birthday. I’m around 50…or 54” I thought I should face the truth, or in my case the tape measure.  I had a feeling I was ½ inch to an inch off...and I was. I’m not 5’2” I’m 5’3”! While I’m not sure what it says about me that I lied in the wrong direction, I hope it’s proof that sometimes the truth isn’t that scary, try it.
Are you more of an age, weight or height fraud? Why do you think we lie about these things? And if you want to stop pretending, spill your actual height, weight or age in the comments (you only get the mental/physical benefit if you previously lied about it). 

31 comments:

  1. Here's the funny thing.....when I lie about my weight, I UNDER report!! Since I was anorexic for so long, I think peope (ahem, my mom) expect me to always be putting on weight or something, so I have to lie (although I AM a normal weight, I promise!).
    I actually had a client on Monday who was eating very few calories, and was about 100 pounds overweight. I swear she was lying on her diary, but I didn't pry too much. It's interesting how lying effects us mentally and emotionally. So I guess a little white lie CAN hurt a bit!

    ReplyDelete
  2. you mean you over report I think, interesting. Maybe tell mom the truth, after all you are healthy now and who knows? you may feel better. I think saying "do you think you did an A job or a B job on journal?" gets some answers without pointing fingers.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I once caught my mom lying about MY age. When I called her on it, she said that she didn't want anyone to think she could be the mother of someone 8 years younger than me. I pointed out that she is the mother of someone 3 years OLDER than me.

    And I, too always said that I stand 5'2", but I recently learned that I'm a touch over that. YAY! I don't talk about my weight with anyone besides health and exercise people, so no need to lie about my weight there -- they can see me!

    PS -- The cookbook is awesome! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Marc's mom does this with their ages. If they're 40 or 45, people can do the math but oh no, what if they do?
    Glad you like the cookbook, she is really good.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is fascinating. Whenever people ask about my height or weight I always find myself trying to gauge their expectations before I answer. Are they implying that I am short / tall / fat / skinny by asking? And I always used to say that I am 5'4'' when I am in fact 5'3.5''! In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter to me much but it still happened!

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's difficult to lie about my age because all the race results are published and so there it is, right next to my name. All my friends know how old I am. I don't lie about my weight or my height, either. I've never thought about why, though. Of course, in three years, I may begin lying about my age! I'm 47, depending on the day I'm about 135 pounds and I am 5'6.25" tall. I also don't lie in my food journal. When I get bored with it, I just stop recording all together. Then I hit about 139, freak out and record everything.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Funny...I wish I was 5'3" and not 5'8." Somehow I don't think I can lie about being shorter though. I'm 36. I'm about 110. I'm 5'8."


    I feel... liberated. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. It is liberating, although somehow ameena you're the last person I would bet has trouble with the truth (even when it hurts).

    ReplyDelete
  9. I think you nailed it Kathy, some lying is based on expectations. Women it turns out lie more to make others feel better/give the "right" answer. Men lie to make themselves feel better, shocker.

    ReplyDelete
  10. love race results, nothing like a bad time and a bad age (sorry that's negative). I wonder what makes some people tell the truth. Is it because you're comfortable or because you're more what people "expect"? Questions, questions.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I shall ponder. I truly never thought of it before, so I don't know. When men talk about weight goals, I'm even honest with them (I've only ever had those discussions with male runners).

    ReplyDelete
  12. lying about your height is just so easy to do, round up a half inch or so, plus you're wearing shoes most of the time, so technically that's a little more accurate....right? :) this post is great, i think it's important to be honest with yourself when trying to achieve certain goals in regards to weight; the more 'real' you are with yourself...the more you're likely to get 'real' results

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great post, Lauren! I definitely lied to myself about how much I ate until Weight Watchers forced the issue. I tell myself there is no sense in underreporting if I'm the only one who sees what I write and I can use it as a tool in the future. Tough stuff, though. But learning that this kind of honesty is healthy is a good motivator, so thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am a height fraud. I'm pretty tall for a woman at 6'3 and used to always round down to 6'2, which didn't seem as tall. Now I'm proud of my height, but when a guy asks, particularly if he is around 6' or a bit less, I tell them 6'0 because so many guys round up;) Sometimes I say 5'0, but just look tall.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have no problem disclosing my height because I find being 4'11" kind of funny (I come from a long line of little ladies with big hair), but if this counts, I once lied to an oral surgeon about my weight—I said I was heavier so he'd give me more laughing gas (or whatever it was). To my (questionable) credit, I was 14 at the time...Hard to say if it worked. Having all 4 wisdom teeth out at once is gonna hurt no matter what.

    ReplyDelete
  16. that's a totally good reason to lie, 14 or not.

    ReplyDelete
  17. interesting, are our lies different whether we're talking to men or women? Jheri, love the height humor too.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Meg, it seems funny that we lie when we are "the only one who sees" but i think many of these lies, even we tell to others, are really to ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  19. love that katelynn "real for real results", especially with weight or something where there's a goal you're working toward or want to achieve.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I am proud of my age 51. Most people guess that I am 41 . My height I have no problem with but I don't like to disclose my weight because it's clearly no one's business but if I have to I will give up the number. :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Andrea@WellnessNotesOctober 12, 2012 at 6:40 AM

    Very interesting questions and comments!

    I am almost 5'11'', but I usually say 5'10''. I am at a normal weight for my height, and I don't lie about it. However, because of my height I weigh a lot more than most people and it can feel weird to weigh "so much."

    ReplyDelete
  22. Love the fact that it never occurred to me how tall other commenters/bloggers were. Also kind of strange that we all lie in different directions. An inch more, an inch less. Some want to say they're heavier/lighter. Even your use of "so much" speak so us all thinking there is a "right" answer.

    ReplyDelete
  23. See...when we think it's good /right we share. I have to say ayala, as I researched this I thought. Maybe we lie because the questions create discomfort. Maybe we should question the question, then we don't have to lie or whatever you call it.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hmmm...just tallying the results of your poll as of today: 7 height revelations so far, 3 age revelations, only 2 weight revelations, & 3 "non-disclosure" comments. Interesting...I have never lied about my height 5'9", nor my age {although I have been vague, as in 40 something, which for the record is actually 45}, but I have been guilty of "rounding down" on my weight. I never weight myself, but I will spill then beans and say that it was 152 at my last doctors appointment...(lots of muscle of course :-)

    ReplyDelete
  25. I think it is so common that women misrepresent their weight. I guess people lie cause maybe some of us are in denial. If we don't say our real age, real weight, etc. perhaps it isn't true.
    I will be honest right here and say that I am 127# I am not too proud of that weight as of now so it takes a lot to report it!

    ReplyDelete
  26. wow...1 lie for every 10 minute convo? I really don't think I fit that statistic at all... but who knows. I will certainly pay closer attention to my white lies from now on. I tend to be honest to a fault and in my experience I find often times that the truth offends people more than fibbing. People don't like to be told the truth all the time. Most like a bit of a buffer. Or so it has been in my experience.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Cameo- how are you? Missed your input/commentary. I hear you about lying to cushion the blow, after all you don't want to be mean in the name of truth. However, I think there's also the question of whether we're as truthful when talking about ourselves as "honest to a fault" about our own stuff...

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thanks Kristen, I think if everyone gave their #'s 127 or 147 or 187 we'd get a sense that the # isn't really that crucial. I recall an old Health mag article where they had 10 women at 140# of different heights, different builds it was really amazing. The "truth" is you look great and people fighting to be let's say 125 may look at you, your blog, and feel sort of liberated. If she cooks and lives her life and looks so fit, why do I have to beat myself up. However, there are also places where I think a # disclosed can be dangerous. Actresses saying they are "100 pounds" can give people with the wrong inclination that # as a goal regardless of height, body type etc. Complicated, right?

    ReplyDelete
  29. How much do I love that you tallied the replies? From that it seems 2 things are clear 1) I have very tall readers and 2)I am/was one of the only ones flubbing height. I use 30-something mostly b/c I don't want a 40 celebration and feel then people will not know when it is (all different kinds of reasoning with being vague). Well done spilling the beans, do you think any of our numbers will really shock anyone that knows us? There is some number shame.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I used to lie about my weight by AT LEAST 10 pounds all through my teen years. Now? I have no shame but I think it's just because I don't feel I have anything to hide anymore. I feel like I'm at a healthy weight so why lie?


    Almost 5'6", currently 143 lbs post-pregnancy (aiming for 135 as my goal til I'm done nursing and then 130-133 which is my pre=pregnancy weight). Oh and I'm 28!

    ReplyDelete
  31. no more lies and almost where you want to be so soon post baby, hope all is well Erin.

    ReplyDelete