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October 9, 2012

Dealing with Loved Ones Who “Just Don’t Understand” Your Fit Lifestyle

I was inspired to write this post after reading an great blog post from Chris Guillebeau, from The Art of Non-Conformity blog. Love everything he puts out (check out his best-seller ‘The Art of Non-Conformity‘), but the blog I read today really resonated with me. It was about letting go of what other people think as it is applies to your career and professional aspirations (hello, disapproving parents anyone?). So I thought I’d take it one step further as it applies to our fat loss journey.

One key aspect of body change is to realize whether conscious or not, many people will not be supportive of your endeavors. Not because they’re mad at you, but simply because what you are doing is different. And that can often make people a little uncomfortable with their own stuff.

In this blog, I run through my favorite tactics for how to navigate the waters when it comes to friends, family and acquaintances who don’t understand your lean lifestyle or who want to inject their own negative views into your healthy ways. We have written on this before (here and here) but it bears repeating.

Here’s the scenario:

You go to dinner with coworkers and everyone is ordering drinks, devouring the bread packet and splitting potato skins and ultimate nacho apps. Ugh. You have “your plan” in place–you know what you are going to order (grilled chicken salad, dressing on the side, please) and you are not joining in the “fun” of eating crap. But you are still doing your best to enjoy yourself and relax.

A snarky coworker gets a drink or two in her and begins commenting about how “you never have any fun” or how she’d “never give up her life and ‘deprive’ herself as much as you do.”

People tend to think that by us making healthy food choices, we are somehow trying to prove that we’re better than them. This of course is not the case. In fact, we are just trying to make the best decisions for ourselves–it has nothing to do with anyone else.

But we all struggle with our own insecurities. And sometimes those insecurities manifest in bristly remarks intended to put us down or make us feel like we are somehow “missing out” or not living a full life. In other words, people may take our healthy lifestyle choices as an affront to their poor choices. Of course, we are just doing our best, and other people should be free to do what they want, too.

So knowing that a lot of insecurities are at play here–theirs about your healthy decisions and yours because you take offense to their comments–how do you navigate this?

Insecurities at play & giving others the benefit of the doubt

First, understand that when other people subtly put down your healthy lifestyle, it really has nothing to do with you. You are simply in their presence making a better food decision than they might be. You can’t be responsible for how they take it. In knowing this, we are able to give them the benefit of the doubt and see that they are not coming from a malicious place. They are talking and acting from a place of insecurity. We all have insecurities… so could you see that they are just self-conscious about their own not-so-good choices?

Second, when we take offense to comments from other people about our lifestyle, we are also showing our own insecurity. If we are 100% confident in our choices, then we understand that what others say means little. And the ironic thing here is that as soon as WE start becoming MORE confident in OUR choices, the comments begin to taper off.

Become the teacher

You may have experienced this this turn-around. When you’ve stand your ground and didn’t take comments personally, but also continued to “do you,” all of a sudden people may have started to understand that you’re just doing your thing and then stopped trying to subtly put you down. And USUALLY, they begin to take an INTEREST in what you’re doing :) They may start asking you diet questions or about their workouts. When this starts to happen, this is good news because it means that they no longer feel threatened by your choices and instead want to find a way to get on board too.

Not everyone is ready, like you are

Think of yourself a pioneer among your friends and family–doing the leg work for them, setting the example. Not everyone will be open to new things, especially if they perceive that it changes the family dynamic or changes how your interact with them.

I remember doing my very first show, and my boyfriend at the time said (about 3 weeks into my prep), “So what, are we NEVER going to go out to dinner ever again??” I can’t blame him for being peeved. I changed what I was doing, so he felt the need to change as well, yet it was a change he didn’t want and wasn’t ready for. People don’t like change. They don’t want to mess with the status quo. And they like doing their “usual” thing, whether that’s happy hour on Wednesdays, Mexican on Fridays or a huge family dinner on Sundays.

When YOU begin eating better and working out regularly, others may feel a subtle pressure that they need to change too. This is normal. But it’s tough because they are not ready for a change. You are. At this point, the only thing you can do is do your thing. Don’t have any expectations for them. If they ask you about it, explain it to them WITHOUT judgment. Everyone is entitled to their own actions at their own pace. If someone says that they are “hurt” that you are no longer indulging, explain to them that it’s not about them, and you are certainly not doing it to offend them or be spiteful. This is an opportunity for you to teach your friends and family how important this journey is FOR YOU, and that you still love them no matter what they do.

For your part, all you can do is provide a passive example of health, but people begin to resent it when you tell them how they NEED to eat or move. Keep it to yourself, do your thing.

And don’t defend or justify yourself to anyone, just do YOU

As soon as you start DEFENDING, you are letting your insecurities get the better of you. If someone makes a nasty remark, laugh it off, who cares! Throw them a bone, who cares! Laugh it off and then do what you were going to do anyway :) Because their comments really are not about you.

Love the quote below from Robert Downey Jr., really sums up how you need to view your own fat loss journey :) No one can take it away from you, just as no one can do it for you. Doesn’t matter how many snarky comments you field. None of that matters so long as you are confident, happy and doing it for you. They will come around (or not) when they’re ready.

“Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were
gonna do anyway.”
–Robert Downey Jr.

Related: Meaning-making machines

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