The expression no strings attached has its origin in the fabric industry. If a piece of cloth was imperfect, a string would be placed there to let people know that there was a flaw. A perfect piece of material, therefore, had no strings attached.
The expression no strings attached is also associated with traps and deception. Elmer Fudd would place a big juicy carrot under a box with a string, Bugs would grab the carrot, a string would be pulled, the carrot would disappear and the box would twap the wabbit. A truly free gift of a carrot, therefore, has no strings attached.
People struggling with eating disorders and body dissatisfaction frequently find themselves tangled up in the strings of their loved ones’, families’, and friends’ support. It’s a delicate subject to address because:
- Their intentions come from a place of love.
- Their concern is authentic.
- The source of their actions is from the heart.
But a bribe is not support.
When someone says, “When you reach your goal weight I will buy you a new wardrobe,” that’s a bribe.
Or, “When you reach your goal weight I’ll give you five dollars for every pound you lost (or gained), that’s a bribe.
Conversely, if someone were to say, “I know you are strapped for money and if you need help buying clothes, please let me know,” that’s support.
Or, “I know money is tight right now and you want to join a gym, so if you need help paying for that just let me know,” that’s support.
There is a huge difference between the two. One is truly caring and supportive with no strings attached. The other is a bribe, completely based on the premise, “If you do this for me, then I’ll do this for you.”
Now I know, people will insist they are not saying that you need to change your weight or your eating habits for them. More likely they insist, “I am only thinking of you and want to help and support you.”
And in my opinion, most people REALLY believe this is true down to their core. In most cases, our families and friends ARE concerned about our health and happiness. Unfortunately they are also convinced that optimal health and happiness are attached to a certain number on the scale. But what happens if I accept the support aka bribe? Does that mean that if I reach my goal weight, you buy me new clothes and I gain the weight back again, that I am unworthy of the support you offered in the first place? Have I used up all of my “help cards?”
So what if we remove the words, “When you reach your goal weight,” and replace them with, “How can I support you in your decision to adopt healthier and happier lifestyle habits?” Ahhh, big difference! Then you are entering into a supportive relationship with your loved one that is NOT outcome based, but process based, on-going, infinite. And isn’t that what loved ones, family, and friends are really there for?
I am not saying this is easy. This fine line between support and bribery, as I mentioned before, is a delicate subject. Extrinsic positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator. And most of us are used to different kinds of reward systems for attaining goals. But when the goal is an ongoing lifestyle change that is not attached to a specific weight or waist size, I’d like to suggest that any support offered or taken have…
NO STRINGS ATTACHED; like a perfect piece of fabric.