You decided to start a fitness journey this year, and you never for a second expected that you would catch any flak from it. Yet that’s exactly what has happened. Some of your peers don’t support you, or perhaps it’s friends or even family. How do you handle this kind of strife?
In some cases, making major changes like becoming more health-focused can lead to outgrowing friends and family. Consider reducing your time with these people or cutting them out entirely, especially if their influence on you is particularly negative and causing you to second-guess yourself.
I’m excited to delve into today’s topic because it’s so incredibly important. I have clients all the time who deal with unsupportive friends or family after prioritizing their fitness, and it can be very hurtful.
This guide will tell you what to do and when to say enough is enough!
Why Am I Getting So Much Negativity for Starting My Fitness Journey?
You had hemmed and hawed for years, telling yourself that next week you would start the diet or next week you would join the gym.
Maybe it took reading this blog or finding my podcast, or perhaps it was a totally different set of circumstances, but you decided to finally prioritize your health and wellness.
This time, for real, you started your fitness journey, and you couldn’t be prouder of yourself just for getting started. Yet to your astonishment, your friends, family, and peers gave you pushback. Why?
Here are some reasons.
You’re Forcing Them to Change
It’s no secret that the average person doesn’t like change.
Change is uncomfortable. It forces us out of our everyday routines and shakes up all the things we know and love, rearranging them randomly. It doesn’t feel good, and it can often take some introspection and growth to get through it.
Some experts even believe that we humans are hard-wired to avoid change. We hate it that much.
So what do you think is going to happen when you tell your girlfriends that you can’t go out to eat with them every Friday night unless they want to start going to healthier places?
Or how do you think your friends will react when you skip a few bar nights with them to hit the gym?
The answer? Not well.
It’s one thing if you make the choice to change yourself, such as you did by deciding that you were going to start exercising and eating better.
It’s another thing entirely when change is foisted upon you by someone else.
That’s how the people in your life will feel. Their lives were going along swimmingly, and then you decided to step in and change the dynamic. Now girls’ night won’t be the same or your family get-togethers won’t be as gluttonous.
Part of the reason that change is hard is that you’re letting go of a former way of doing things and forging a new path.
Those days of you seeing your friends and family in quite so carefree a fashion might not come back, and they may not be okay with that.
You might not be either, but at least you’re becoming healthier for it. Your friends and family aren’t benefitting though.
Highlights How They’re Unhappy with Themselves
Misery loves company, isn’t that how the old saying goes?
When you and your friends or family get together and make bad decisions regarding your diets, it’s a lot easier to justify those decisions because of the group environment.
Internally, you can say, “well, she’s having a double cheeseburger with extra cheese and large fries and a drink, so I can too.”
Now try justifying that same choice when it’s just you at the drive-thru line. It’s a lot harder to do, right?
So I’ve established that you can experience negativity in fitness from those you love because you’re making them change, but you’re also doing something else.
You’re shining a big ole spotlight on how unhappy they are with themselves.
Maybe your friend tried and failed five fad diets or your colleague at work has joined three gyms over two years but hasn’t found one he’ll go to often enough.
These people wish they could change themselves, but it hasn’t worked out.
It’s not something they like to think about. Now you’re making them do just that by deciding to prioritize your health. No wonder some of the people in your life have begun to be resentful.
Am I in an Unproductive Environment? How to Recognize the Signs
Whether it’s your friends, your family, your colleagues, or even your significant other, if these people feel bitter toward your fitness journey, you’ll soon find yourself slipping into an unproductive environment.
Here are some ways you can be sure you’ve reached that point.
No One Takes Your Fitness Journey Seriously
You’ve become very passionate about following a regimented diet and exercising, but whenever you talk to the people in your life about your fitness journey, they don’t react the same.
They might act incredulous and ask you when you’re going to give it up and come back to pub night or girls’ night. They could treat you snidely and tell you that you’ll get tired of the diets and exercise and that in a few months, it will be right back to the same old, same old.
Unfortunately, they could be right. A lack of support can make it that much more tantalizing to give up when the going gets hard. You need a cheerleader who’s rooting for you, and you don’t have that right now.
They Don’t Want to Hear About Your Successes
Woohoo! You checked the scale this morning and you’re already down seven pounds.
Of course, your first inclination is going to be to call or text your loved ones or maybe make a semi-bragging post on social media. You have good news to share, after all, and you want everyone to hear it.
The people in your life should be proud and congratulatory. If they don’t even want to discuss your weight loss (or muscle gains, or whatever your health and fitness goals are) or they actively dismiss you, that can leave you crestfallen.
You want the approval of your favorite people, and you’re just not getting it.
They Actively Try to Derail You
The real problem arises when the people in your life go beyond words and try actions to stop you from living your best and fittest life.
Maybe they order a juicy cheeseburger and eat it in front of you or they show up at your house one night insisting that you and the rest of the group all go out together.
You’re being derailed here, and it can cause a lot of confusion and upset feelings.
What to Do When Your New Lifestyle Change Brings About Negativity
You’re feeling deeply hurt lately and unsupported by the people who matter most to you. These kinds of difficult situations can cause decreased motivation and even depression. You might lose interest in all your hobbies, not just working out and eating right.
Although none of the suggestions in this section are going to be easy, they’re what you have to do. You can’t continue pretending like the mean comments and disregard for your health are okay.
Try this instead.
Make Your Feelings Known
Get in touch with your friend or family member and ask to sit down and talk at a time that’s mutually agreeable for both of you.
When you meet up, calmly explain that for the past several weeks or months, you’ve stood by as this person has made rude comments about your health and fitness journey.
Tell them that you tried to brush off what they said, but that they keep saying it and that it’s very hurtful for you.
Explain exactly how their words have made you feel, whether that’s confused, angry, sad, or even a combination of feelings.
Try to Work It Out
Once you’re done speaking your piece, wait and let the other person talk.
It could be that they had no idea their words or actions were hurting you so deeply. They may regret what they said. It could be that they realize that having you in a lesser capacity is better than not having you at all.
Hopefully, your friend or family member tells you that they won’t make those kinds of comments about your fitness journey going forward.
However, they may ask you to compromise as well. Perhaps if they’re struggling with their own health and wellness, they may ask that you don’t talk about that part of your life with them as much.
If you can agree to those terms, then fine. You two have worked things out, and hopefully, you’ll have a better relationship moving forward.
Know When to Walk Away
Although ideally, the scenario above would transpire, we all know that we don’t always live in a perfect world.
Your family member or friend might have said they’d be nicer, but it didn’t stick. Or perhaps they never agreed to be more supportive, and so the relationship has continued to degenerate.
Here’s the thing that I think a lot of us don’t like thinking or talking about, especially as we get older.
We go on different paths in life, and the people who were once our friends aren’t always. We can outgrow them.
Whether it’s the first guy to get married out of a group of single bachelor friends or the first lady to have a baby among her girlfriends, major life milestones can cause us sometimes to leave friends behind.
You shouldn’t feel bad about that. Your new life in fitness presents many opportunities to make new friends, friends who will truly have your back and support you as you grow and thrive. They won’t hold you back or resent you for changing.
Now, it’s not easy to walk away from friends, but it’s even harder to walk away from family.
Unless you’re living under the same roof as them though, you don’t have to accept your family’s poor treatment of you. Whether it’s your immediate family or a relative, you can sever ties.
If that’s just temporarily or permanently is your choice. You have to take care of yourself, so make the best decision.
Can You Forgive Old Friends or Family Who Held You Back?
Perhaps some time passes and the friend or family member who you decided to cut ties with comes back to you feeling apologetic. They realize that fighting over your health goals was silly and that they miss having you around.
Since you’ve removed them from your life, you’ve found more supportive influences who believe in you and encourage you to do your best. You don’t want to backslide, but you missed this friend or family member too.
Should you take them back, so to speak?
You could conditionally work on a relationship but be wary. The first time they make a comment that you deem out of line, don’t stand for it.
Remember, outgrowing friends and family happens. It’s not always comfortable, but sometimes it’s what’s best!
While eating healthy and exercising is altogether a very great thing, you can sometimes get negative reactions from jealous friends or family who are unhappy with their own bodies and struggle to lose weight.
For your own mental and physical wellbeing, you can’t allow negative influences in. If that means taking a break or ending a relationship with a friend because you two are on different paths, then so be it.
This is a very tricky situation to navigate, and I hope this post gives you some pointers on how to handle it!