So you have decided it is time to change your lifestyle and become healthier. Maybe you have already begun to exercise, and eat healthy. Or, maybe you have been considering it and have finally made the decision that it is time to start. A key part of a fitness journey is building a circle of support, so you’re excited and go to share your goals with your family and friends.
Hopefully, all of them will be happy for you and will have positive things to say. But what happens when they don’t? Or even worse, when they react negatively instead of positively like you had hoped?
This can be disheartening and make you second guess your decision. Understand your health is your responsibility. Your motivations are a deeply personal thing. While there are many things in this world that someone else can do for you, taking care of your health is not one of those things.
Still, you want their support. What can you do when those who are close to you are not in the same boat when it comes to health?
Building a circle of support is about communication
Yes, it is easy to get upset with them and argue about who is right or who is wrong. At the end of the day, will this help do anything but solidify each of your mindsets?
Understand that this person might think they are showing you they care about you. People like to take care and spend time with those they love and care about.
When you tell someone that you are not eating the foods you did in the past, or will be spending an hour at the gym a night, there is a good chance they hear something different.
To them you could be saying you no longer want to eat with them (eating together is one of the most social and vulnerable things you can do). Maybe they hear that you no longer want to spend time with them due to being at the gym for an hour.
For many people, food is love
We all probably know someone who considers food to be a reflection of love. That person in my life was my dad. Food was a direct expression of his love for you. He would spend hours preparing and cooking food. He wanted to make sure you not only had plenty to eat, but that you had leftovers too.
So, when he would offer you something he knew or thought you liked, it was his way of saying he cared about you. When I would say no thank you, to him I was denying his love. This might seem a bit extreme but think of it this way.
Our caveman/animal brain has evolved, but not past the point of realizing that food is a life source. We only share it with those we care about. By doing so, that part of our caveman brain is saying, “I care about you enough that I will sacrifice something that could possibly keep me alive”. That is pretty wild to think about!
So listen to them. Calmly assure them that while you are wanting to be healthier, it doesn’t mean you love them less. Yes, there might be some changes but they need to understand that this is important to you and you want to better yourself.
Next, invite them to join you
Building a circle of support doesn’t have to involve new people. You can incorporate your family and friends and pull them into this journey with you.
Ask them to try cooking a new healthy recipe with you. Or, invite them to go to the gym with you and workout together. They may not want to, but they will see you are wanting to include them.
Sometimes friends and family see you changing and feel afraid you will leave them behind. They have known you for years and they have liked/loved who you were. When they see change happening it scares them.
Inviting a friend or family member to get healthy and active with you can be beneficial for both of you. It can help keep you motivated, and it can help them start becoming healthier. Plus, if there is something you both enjoy doing it together will be so much more fun compared to doing it alone.
Ideas for building a circle of support with people you love
- Join a recreational sports team together. This could be soccer, volleyball, ultimate frisbee…
- Order a meal service and cook a healthy meal together
- Go to the new local healthy restaurant that just opened
- Train to run a 5k together
- Take a weekly hike/walk
- Join CrossFit together (duh…)
Whatever you decide, inviting them to join you in whatever you are doing will always be better than not inviting them.
Lastly, realize that it is your life and your decision
Maybe this person who says they care about you actively opposes you being healthier. They pick a fight when you are about to leave for the gym. Or they try to convince you to eat unhealthy foods. The worst are those who are trying to get clean and overcome a drug addiction and their “friends” keep trying to get them to use again.
Hopefully, by now you know you need to take your health seriously and do what is best for you. Allowing someone who is supposed to care and love you convince you that being unhealthy is the best decision is selfish and manipulative. Do not give people this power over you. Build your base of health so strong that it can not be broken by anyone.
You have total say in how healthy you want to be. Maybe you just want to tone up a little, or maybe you want to make fitness your profession. Whatever it is, when you make that choice don’t let anyone stop you until you reach your goal.