How You Can Combat Fitness Negativity
I recently received the following text from a now former client: “My friends are calling me self-absorbed and selfish because I no longer want to eat out every night and drink with them. I’m sorry, but I can’t continue to hurt anyone else. I appreciate everything you did for me.” Honestly, her message didn’t surprise me. I’d already heard many similar stories. The pressure from friends to “be normal” causes the well-intended client to crumble. Then they abandon their goals of following a more healthful lifestyle.
One of my clients had a boyfriend who seemed very supportive of her decision to lose weight… in the beginning. After about a month though, he began giving her a hard time. Suddenly, she had become “no fun.” She was preparing a majority of her meals at home which meant they weren’t eating out every night. When they did go out to eat, she limited her drinking whereas in the past, she could match whatever amount he had put down. Rather than go to a bar straight after work to meet him, she chose to head to the gym for a Body Pump class she enjoyed. As she put it to me, she had “cramped his style.”
SOURCES OF NEGATIVITY MAY SURPRISE YOU
These types of stories are particularly rampant among the men and women who make the decision to step on the bodybuilding stage. Competition prep can be grueling. It requires a lot of discipline, consistency, and focus that oftentimes takes a mental and physical toll on the competitor. The process itself is already difficult. It always saddens me to hear stories about the friends, family members, and significant others who slowly tired of the rigorous on-season regimen. They turned their once enthusiastic support into an attitude of “When can you be normal again?”
If you are serious about reaching your goals, then it’s important to realize that your goals may make some of those around you uncomfortable. As a result, you may experience some negative reactions from them. This will have you questioning whether you should continue to drive forward. It may even make you want to throw in the towel.
It makes sense to arm yourself with some ideas that may help you overcome any negativity that’s thrown your way. Negativity can come from anywhere and, it can even come at you from those you love the most.
FRIENDS & FAMILY
Caitlin C. is a bikini competitor. She shared with me that many of her friends stayed supportive of her throughout her competition prep. One of her girlfriends even carried fat–free cheese in her purse so Caitlin could stay within her diet parameters when they went out to eat! As time passed, other friends of hers began pressuring her to eat foods that were not a part of her meal prep. Some would say things like, “Why can’t you have just one bite?” They were insistent that Caitlin gave in. But when she didn’t and snapped at them to leave her alone, they would get irritated.
Some of her friends began to make negative comments about her physique. Even harder to cope with is any negativity that comes from relatives. Caitlin became very disheartened when family members told her that the physique she was trying to achieve wasn’t desirable. “I had some relatives who were super mean,” Caitlin explained. She told me they’d make remarks such as, “That much muscle isn’t even attractive,” and “Why do you even want to look like that?” The taunts from her friends were annoying. But she found that harsher criticism from some of her family members was much more difficult to deal with.
YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER
This type of negativity can be intensified if it comes from a spouse or significant other. I knew one competitor whose husband began to insult her as show time came closer and a leaner, more muscular physique started to emerge. “He’d say things like “That look isn’t sexy’ or ‘You look like a man.’ I was super hurt and almost gave up.”
One client of mine had a spouse who was a little more passive-aggressive in his negative feedback. Although he knew she couldn’t eat out, he insisted that he shouldn’t have to “suffer” just because of her. She would eventually go with him to a restaurant while carrying her own food. But dinner would be a disaster. “I felt he should’ve been happy I’d gone with him, you know, for the company. But instead, he’d manage to throw in comments about how it was embarrassing that I was pulling out my own food.”
So what are some of the best ways to cope with the negative feedback you may encounter as you attempt to reach your fitness goals?
• Stick with those who stick with you!
Caitlin suggested that you lean on those who are being supportive and positive. In fact, this seems to be the most solicited piece of advice. My clients Dr. Nichole King and Heather T. both suggest the same. Simply surround yourself with positive people who are similar minded to maintain the drive you need to push forward.
• Use the negativity to drive you forward!
Another interesting perspective came from Annette B., a member of Team Center Stage Figures and Physiques. Rather than allowing negative comments pull her down, she uses them as fuel. It helps to keep her determination lit. “When those sort of comments come my way, I listen and in my head I’m thinking, ‘Thanks so much for your support. I will now work ten times harder to reach my goal!’”
• Let your results do the talking.
Allan is a physique competitor. He gave a similar perspective by telling me he lets his silence and results do the talking for him. He’s had several people give him a hard time about his training and eating regimen. Yet instead of allowing their negativity take over, he digs in even deeper. This is because now he knows, in the end, that his commitment is a reflection of his character and resolve.
• Do it for YOU!
During my time as a competitor, I did lose a couple of friends. They had a difficult time understanding why I was doing what I was doing. They couldn’t understand why I could no longer drink with them on “girl’s night.” Or why I stopped hanging out at bars or restaurants with them without carrying my meals. I also had some backlash from family members who bemoaned my “too skinny” look. Yes, it was hurtful in the beginning. But what I realized was this: it didn’t matter whether anyone else could understand what I was doing or not.
What did matter was that I understood what I was doing and why I was doing it. I had set a goal for myself, a daunting one at that, and I was determined to prevail. This goal? It was about me. It was about seeing whether I could really accomplish what I had set out to do…and I did!
Don’t let negative feedback bog you down. Stay true to you and your goals. That should be enough drive to get you through not just the small goals, but the bigger, lifetime goals as well.
As Caitlin so very well stated, “If you feel good and you know that you’re doing what’s best for yourself then that’s the only thing that matters. Stay confident and that will drown out the negative people in your ear.”
About the Author:
Elizabeth Anastasopoulos, a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutrition Specialist, spends significant time in the gym training her athletes. However, her time as a figure competitor in the OCB directed her passion towards nutrition and nutritional counseling. She is currently pursuing her Diploma in Comprehensive Nutrition, and she plans to continue her education by obtaining a certification in sports nutrition as well.
Her greatest joy, though, is her family. She is a proud wife, as well as the mother of an 18 year-old daughter and of 9-year old twins. As a family, they enjoy multiple outdoor activities and traveling to various destinations.