If we’re being honest, you could replace the word “skinny” in the title to strong, thick, fit, overweight- whatever you want. Someone not supporting you is something everyone has dealt with!
This February I set some high goals for myself to stick to a new healthy eating plan. I am usually all about moderation and enjoying life, but I decided to see what my body could do. I also wanted to practice what I preach in regards to nutrition. I quickly discovered it was hard to find someone who supported me or was happy for my journey.
Women of all shapes and sizes, close friends and new acquaintances had something to say. I know most had good intentions, telling me that I had nothing to lose or ate well already. However, the wording usually came out more like “Shutup! You’re tiny.” Or after mentioning my saddlebags “Oh quit it. You look great.” Some comments were less sugar-coated and contained the words “stupid” or “ridiculous” and had a thick layer of sarcasm.
I’m pretty resilient when it comes to my goals and my drive, so none of this knocked me off track. However, the comments were hurtful and usually made me sad. I noticed it was happening all around me:
- Women who just had babies and had semi-flat stomachs
- Thin women starting up exercise plans
- Women who had already lost a lot of weight
- (This list could go on, but you get the drift)
At best they were not encouraged, at worst they were verbally attacked for wanting to improve their health. I rarely heard a supportive conversation. It was unsettling.
And I want to reiterate, this is from women of all shapes and sizes. So I’m not talking to a specific body type, but an entire gender. If you’re a woman, listen up!
Insecurity Is A Mindset, Not A Number On The Scale
Just because someone is a healthy weight does not mean they are confident. Confidence is mental and has little to do with your pants size or how small your muffintop is. Unfortunately it is something a lot of women lack.
As a trainer, I feel a lot of pressure to be super fit and skinny, and sometimes struggle with the fact that I have flaws. Just because a mom lost a lot of pregnancy weight doesn’t mean she’s not struggling with how her body has changed. Just because someone is really thin doesn’t mean they aren’t insecure about it. Women who look great may not see themselves the way others see them.
What You’re Actually Doing
Don’t get me wrong… I’ve also wanted to punch people for saying they’re fat when they’re obviously not. I’ve been guilty of this too. Since becoming a trainer, I’m more aware of and concerned with creating a safe place where people can share their goals and insecurities. I want people to feel accepted and not judged. I don’t think this is just the role of a fitness professional, though, but also the role of a friend.
By not allowing a friend to talk and share we are telling her she doesn’t matter.
By not valuing the goals she is working toward, we are communicating her goals are lesser.
By not allowing her to share her insecurities, we are telling her since she only weighs ____ pounds, her insecurities aren’t valid.
We Are All In This Together
Being a woman is tough. We have enough obstacles to overcome as it is.
It’s time we stop sabotaging one another’s self-esteem. Let’s recognize that if a person is sharing a goal, dream, or insecurity they are open and vulnerable. They are also showing they recognize your value by choosing to confide in you. The least we can do is treat them with respect. You don’t want to be the person who stomps on someone’s dreams.
We need to learn to think before we speak. Listen to the real person talking, instead of just looking at her waist size. Instead of saying the first thing that comes to your mind (ie: your raw, emotional, irritated reaction!) try to see things from her point of view. Try to build her up instead of tear her down.
Some examples of positive reactions might be:
- “You look great, but I’m excited to see how great you’ll look once you reach your goals!”
- “You’re already so strong! You’re determined so I know you can do it!”
- “You’ve already lost so much weight, and I’m so proud. Keep going! Maybe I can join you!”
- “I know starting an exercise program from scratch can be intimidating. I know there will be ups and downs but I believe you can reach your goals!”
- “You don’t look like you just had a baby! I’m glad you lost your pregnancy weight quickly, but I know stretch marks can be hard to deal with.”
Exercise is a great way to cope- maybe some women are turning to fitness to fight depression, deal with a divorce, or because they overcame an addiction. Or maybe they just want to prove to themselves that they can reach a challenging goal. Whatever it is, show them some love.
Exceptions To The Rule
Let’s be clear: I’m talking about supporting and encouraging each other and fighting insecurities together.
I am NOT talking about:
Fishing For Compliments or Badmouthing Yourself
If you are guilty of this, try to examine your motives. When you talk about yourself this way you’re not just voicing insecurities, you’re putting them on a flashing billboard. It’s OK to be real, but remember that there’s only one you. You matter, and you are beautiful no matter your struggle.
If you know someone who does this, think twice before you answer them. Don’t feed into it and reinforce this behavior. If you’re a close friend, maybe it’s time for a good heart to heart.
I think this also needs to be said: stop saying your fat on social media. Just no. Don’t do it. Put that negative energy into a good workout! :)
If Someone’s Goals Are Impossible
It’s OK to tell someone their goals may be a bit far-reaching for the time-frame they have set. Don’t be afraid to help them set something more realistic.
If You Suspect An Eating Disorder Or Mental Health Issue
I’m not prepared to help someone with this struggle and chances are you aren’t either. If you seriously suspect something is up, refer to this amazing resource and search for a local expert:
Friends, I’m a believer in small acts of kindness doing big things in this world. I encourage you to take my words to heart and break this culture of how women normally treat their friends. And you don’t have to share your dreams with people who will put you down. Share them with your close circle of friends, mentor, or family member who you know will support you but will also be honest with you!
The Fit Tutor
If you need accountability, encouragement, workouts, or nutrition advice, I’d love to help! I’ve created an online fitness product that teaches you how to strength train, and has pre-made workouts for you to help you reach those awesome goals you have! Strength training is the best way to lose weight and gain strength- sign up for your free trial today!
If you can relate to this post, have any similar stories, or wonderful ideas on how to encourage friends, please share in the comments! :)
Cheering you on!