There was an article recently on the “Fit Mom” getting temporarily banned from Facebook for comments she made about plus sized models. She didn’t feel good about endorsing or normalizing obesity. This led me back to a struggle I’ve had for years.
First, I don’t like to see anyone beat themselves up about anything. I don’t think we have to be happy where we are at, that discontent is a strong driver for change, and as a fitness professional, I know that change doesn ‘t happen without a strong driving force. Having said that, there is a strong and distinct line between being discontented with your behavior and hating yourself. Self loathing isn’t even a very good motivator for change. I know people who routinely beat themselves up for whatever they feel they are doing wrong, and it does not lead to change. From what I see, change only occurs in the positive. “I’m going to exercise three times a week” works better than “I’m going to lose all this ugly fat by Christmas”. The second might work, but often, since there is no positive framework to tie it into, people slide back into old behaviors soon after achieving their goal. I think people have the mistaken notion that hating themselves is a good motivator or necessary for change. “If I don’t hate myself, I’ll stay this way forever!” That’s just wrong.
On the other hand, I don’t think we are benefitting ourselves by making excuses. “I’m just big-boned.” “I have a slow metabolism.” “Some people aren’t meant to be thin.” It is true that everyone isn’t meant to be a size 4, or even 8. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be very fit. I don’t hear people at the gym making excuses, even if they are “fluffy”. It’s the people who are reluctant to change that I see making the excuses.
So where is that line? Should people stop challenging each other, in order to not hurt anyone’s feelings? When does it stop being a challenge and start being a put down? I’d like to see everyone challenging themselves, but that isn’t the case. No one likes to be called names, and name calling is not beneficial to anyone. However, if you don’t want to be called fat, or in any way referred to as overweight, you do have the power to change it. I’m NOT saying it is easy, but it is doable. Any time you tell someone “You need to change ‘x'”, it will hurt their feelings to some extent, since it means you are not accepting them, as they are, 100%. None of us like that. I can say I need to be more organized, but if you tell me I’m disorganized, I won’t like it. Is saying on face book, “I did it, so you should have no excuses” the same as saying “you’re bad”?
Some behaviors are counter productive. Should we never mention to anyone that maybe they should stop/start doing something? Is it bad to say “I’m doing ‘x’ and I think you should too”? If you feel bad about yourself, you’ll take everything as a put down, but has anything you’ve read motivated you to change?
I do think we should put everything in the most positive light possible. You are far more likely to exercise if I invite to come work out with me, rather than if I say “you should go work out”. Motivation is the hardest part of any endeavour. People climb mountains and run triathlon if they are motivated enough. Without motivation, there is no getting off the couch.
So what are your thoughts? Do you have a list of do’s and don’t’s for motivating others? What’s worked for you, or on you? If you are on the road from fat to fit, what got you started, and what things would you like people to never say again? Let me know