How to Deal with Fit Shamers

This post is long overdue.  I get email after email from clients about how the people closest to them- their friends and family members, even their significant other!- are peer pressuring them to veer off their diet or are making unsupportive comments.

“YOU are on a diet?!”

“You are getting way too thin; it’s gross.”

“Don’t get too many muscles!”

“That is ALL you’re going to eat?”

… and the list goes on but I want to get to the point before it’s 2017.

I’ll receive messages from motivated, dedicated, committed clients who throw their goals out the window after these types of interactions wear them down. “Karey, I just want to be normal.” Seems to be code for “I can’t get these people off my back so if I can’t beat em, I’m gonna join em.”

Why does this happen so frequently?

In my experience, I have attributed the jabs- sometimes in jest or sometimes downright malicious- to come from 3 different types of people but NONE of the comments come from how they feel about YOU, they typically come from how they feel about THEMSELVES.

The number 1 reason I have noticed this happens is that change is hard.

People fear the unknown and change is the unknown.

Many friends and family members like things exactly how they are- they love hanging out with you doing specific things, they like your personality, they like how you can binge watch Netflix together and eat pizza.  They don’t want those things to change.  Now that you are on a weight loss venture to better your health, they aren’t sure if those things are going to change or if they are going to stay the same.  Will you still love them? Will you act the same when you are rocking an LBD or a tight fitted T with new found confidence? They aren’t sure.

I like to show empathy to these people and give gentle reminders that the relationship won’t change just because your clothes size did. Instead of taking it personally and causing you to give up what you want- to be healthy and lose some extra lbs- remember what is at the root of the comment.

The next reason that falls particularly high on the charts is that the person who is judging you is unhappy with themselves.  Maybe they have had a hard time losing weight, maybe they can’t seem to stick to something health and fitness related, and maybe seeing your willpower and success is causing them to feel unpleasant feelings since they fell short with their goals.

“Her quality of life must suck now that she only eats healthy, that’s why I choose to live my life while I can.”

“Family gatherings- heck- every weekend- must be so boring now that he gave up drinking alcohol.”

It is possible that the real reason they are finding all the negative aspects of dieting is that they can’t seem to rake in results themselves, so they want to make it look like it isn’t worth it anyways.

I used to believe I wasn’t living or enjoying myself without a massive amount of food and alcoholic beverages. The truth is that it isn’t just food and drink that makes for a good time- it is spending time with your loved ones and connecting with them, laughing with them, and strengthening relationships.

The human soul needs that- it doesn’t need six margaritas.

And lastly, unfortunately, truth be told, some people are just plain negative.  They very rarely contribute positive comments to any conversation, and that of your diet is by no means an exception.  But, again, that has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them.

Great, Karey, now I know it isn’t about me but I still feel shitty, and I don’t know what to say when I’m talked to in that fashion by my loved ones.  I end up caving to the peer pressure or just scrapping my goals entirely.

What I have found works best for me is to minimize the subject and redirect the topic of conversation.  Example:

“Oh, I bet you aren’t having any pizza in the break room because you are on a diet.”

My response, “No pizza for me today… Did you see Lip Sync Battle with the Tatum?!” (exit the fact that I’m not eating pizza- enter watching something funny on YouTube)

Or some good old fashioned boundary setting:

“I’m happy to chat about my efforts to eat healthy if you are interested but otherwise I’d rather not talk about my food choices if you don’t mind.”

Or respond with something positive that does not have to do with aesthetics:

“I feel so good when I eat this way, and it makes me happy.”

That typically also crushes the whole by- eating- healthy- you- have- zero- quality- of- life thing, too- total win!

My last and final tip is to build a life where the majority of the people you interact with day to day are supportive, uplifting and positive.  (Heck- reach out to us for online group coaching and join our community HERE– we would be more than happy to add to our good vibes).  If the negative comments are peppered among a flood of positive and encouraging comments, it is easier to coast right past them and keep on keepin’ on!

If you find yourself subject to criticism or food pushing by loved ones, I hope this article helped.  I hope you don’t give up on your goals and don’t succumb to peer pressure.  I also hope that if you truly want that dessert at family dinner, you eat it because you want it, not because you got talked into it.