AIM: Is Vanity Fair?


Something I read somewhere made me wonder if vanity played a fair role in weight loss maintenance. Or was vanity just one factor that got people started in losing weight? Most conventional wisdom would say that vanity is NOT a good long-term weight loss motivator. So following through on that thought, one would presume that by the time you got to weight loss maintenance, vanity would have long since flown the coop.

But has it? The day after I proposed this topic to our AIM group, my BF and I had our usual daily conversation. She mentioned that at her quilt club meeting, someone said something about the wonderful goodies in the snack room. And my BF just said, “well, I wear a swimsuit year round (she is a scuba diver) and so that is a good motivator for me to stay away from the snack room.” I hadn’t even mentioned this topic!

The next day I had some friends over for lunch. One of the women only ate half of the [most worthy] cake that I served. She is my age and has the same sweet tooth that I have, but is fashion model beautiful. She periodically goes back to Weight Watchers to maintain the thin weight that she believes looks best on her. For her, vanity is a major motivator in maintaining her weight.

But what about the normal run-of-the-mill weight loss maintainer? What about a short dumpy arthritic wrinkled middle-aged woman who lost 100 pounds but is still overweight by all conventional wisdom? SURELY, vanity wouldn’t play a role in her weight loss maintenance?

Ha! As I thought about this topic for the past few weeks, and tried to objectively observe myself, I came up with a few observations.

  1. One of the reasons I go to the gym and work out hard is so that I will still “look good” in the clothes that I enjoy wearing.
  2. When the weather finally warms up in the spring, it takes me a long time to talk myself into putting on my swimsuit so I can exercise in the pool.

I kept thinking about this vanity thing. At first I thought, well its hard to be an American and not have vanity play a major role in your life. But then I thought about the women (and men) I had met in the slums of Nairobi and Port au Prince, and you could see that they enjoyed looking their best. A little bit of nail polish, a little hair product was gladly received. The young girls wearing little more than rags did their best to be “stylin’.”

Maybe its just human nature.

The problem with vanity being the MAJOR motivator for long term weight loss maintenance happens when it comes with a secondary presumption. When you believe that “looking good” will bring you joy, or contentment, or self-esteem, that is when vanity is no longer fair. That is when maintenance becomes a grand impossibility.

To see what other long term weight loss maintainers think about this topic, click on over to visit my AIM (Adventures in Maintenance) friends:

Lynn @ Lynn’s Weigh

Lori @ Finding Radiance

Shelley @ My Journey to Fit

Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

7 thoughts on “AIM: Is Vanity Fair?

  1. You don’t know how gratifying it is for me to hear that your model-thin friend has to turn down (some) cake and actually work at it…in my head, all those thin people are just lucky to be that way. Good to know they struggle, too (I want to say “the poor dears” but I will resist).

  2. I remember one of my early trainers asking what size I’d like to be, and I had no idea. I had no concept of what the physical result would be, only that it would be smaller than I was.

  3. LOL at Shelley’s comment.
    I don’t think you’re vain Debby. First, to me the word vanity has a very negative connotation. It’s more than just wanting to look one’s best, it’s becoming overly absorbed with looks or pride in a skill or whatever. At my current obese size, do I prefer to wear a nicely fitting top versus one that I’m stuffed into like a sausage, or one that has stains on it? Yep. I could be wrong, but I don’t look at that as being vain. That to me is showing I care about myself. So, I don’t think you’re vain at all. (Then again, I don’t know you very well. Teeheehee. Sorry, just couldn’t resist.)

  4. I remember losing weight one time and I was supposed to get down to 102 pounds, according to the charts (I know, right?) and how great I would looked. I got down to the 150s and the leader said I must be very close to goal and I told her I still was supposed to lose 40 more pounds and she just stared at me. 150 doesn’t seem so overweight, but I felt like such a failure because I had to lose so much more – so I didn’t and gained.

  5. Oh, for sure, I think vanity is a factor. I’m not on maintenance now (seeing as how I regained), but I have been in the past. And, I just think it is perfectly natural to want to look “good.” I know I’m not going to look like a model — or even like I did when I first got to maintenance over 20 years ago — but I want to look the best I can reasonably look (the word reasonably is key there — it has to be in a way that is sustainable).

  6. My BFF is thin too and she excercises and eats healthy to stay that way. She just had a baby and has her old figure back already. But what she does is the same like your friend: she takes half or says no if she knows she’s going out for dinner that same evening. She makes choices, something I still have to learn.

    About vanity. It’s not the reason I want to lose weight although I know I will look better then. My main reason is my health and growing old in a good fysical condition. By I am vain in that way that I do want to look good, especially when I go to work or have private appointments. Today I’m very happy with the way I dressed and it doesn’t even matter I carry a few pounds to many with me.

  7. I think you hit the nail on the head….when the desire to look “good” (read: thin) becomes the path to joy, then it is not healthy. If being just vain enough to know that extra treat isn’t beneficial to our health then I think it’s fine.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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