Learnings from my Fitness Journey: ***Nipping Negativity***

Negativity can come from within us or from outside. Usually- when one begins a fitness regimen - one has conquered their internal negativity to a large extent and has decided to focus on positive outcomes. Sometimes however, the embarking of health initiatives is followed by subtle or in-your-face negativity by people around us, intentionally or unintentionally. Women and especially mothers who want to do something purely for themselves are sometimes made to feel guilty about it in some way or the other.For example, when I used to head to the gym, some people used to ask me - Where are the kids? Who is looking after them? It is OK if this is done once or twice. But I faced this one too many times!Initially, just the mention of this question used to put a tinge of guilt in my head while on my way to the gym.

However, I soon realized the pattern and had a standard answer ready for such situations. Below are some of the ways in which people may intentionally or unintentionally derail you/ sow seeds of self-doubt in you when you embark on your personal fitness journey. I provide you with some ammunition and self-interest protective perspectives which you may find useful.

1. “Are you sure you have the time and energy to do this? How will you manage: work, kids, family, husband, studies and so on- with this?

Your Mantra: This is a negative vibe trying to sow self-doubt in your mind that you will not be able to cope up with the demands of the people/ situations which need your support. These questions always used to get to me- until I realized their underlying negative messaging and I actively diffused the doubt by staying firm to my goal and of course trying my best to fulfill the responsibilities which I found important and required.

2. “What will happen if you start eating “normally” once you stop this diet (for most people who ask this- normal means “junk/carb laden food” ? They will confidently say “You will gain much more weight back when you stop this diet.

Your Mantra: What I eat is none of anyone’s business. Also if I choose to eat healthy, it should make people who love me happy instead of questioning my choices and talking about imaginary far-flung consequences. When you stop eating healthy, you might add on some of the weight back- so does that mean you should never eat healthy? Does that mean you should never workout? This is really an illogical argument.

3. “Eat this cake- just a small bite- It’s so tiny- it won’t be a problem at all.”  Some people always try their level best to feed you junk food when they know you are on a health mission. Your Mantra: I have had people stuff cake and junk food in my face when they knew I am trying to become healthier by eating well and exercising. It was almost a mission for them to have me eat junk food. At office, when I don’t eat cake at a cake-cutting – everyone has questions about it. Such things lead to peer pressure and usually to people giving in just to avoid comments and questions about their chosen health journey. A trick to overcome this is to eat something healthy before you go to social situations . When I am less hungry, I find myself making better choices with food. Also in order to avoid unnecessary attention to your health goals and journey, hold a piece of food (pizza slice/ cupcake/ whatever) in your hand without eating it just to shut others up.

4. “Don’t lift weights. You will become manly and bulky. If you stop strength training- muscle will turn into fat and you will put on not only the lost weight- but oodles more.

Your Mantra: People need to do some research before making such baseless statements. Muscle cannot become fat. Ever.  And vice versa. Also, women do not make enough testosterone to become as bulky as men whilst doing the same exercises unless they take external hormones/steroids etc. Strength training is a necessity for women: it will not only tone you up and help you lose weight; it will also keep osteoporosis, obesity and hormonal imbalance, PCOD etc. at bay. Everyone (men and women) should lift to get fitter and healthier. Our ancestors did that a lot albeit out of necessity- we should too because we are built to lift.

5. “Enough- you have now lost a lot of weight- stop exercising so much- you will look sickly if you lose weight any further”

Your Mantra: A fitness regimen is for life and not just a short term goal. Such statements by well-meaning people disguise their envy and make you think that you can take it easy on the fitness goals. It is nobody else’s business to tell you to stop working on your health and happiness.

6. “How can you eat that? This is cattle food! You live only once- please eat real food”

Your Mantra: Again- such statements make you feel like a fussy pariah when the whole world is apparently enjoying life to the fullest with tasty food. Tell such people that India is the diabetic capital of the world and you would rather eat healthy food and live well for longer than join those morbid statistics.

7. Some people take a personal offence if you speak about your exercise regimen or healthy eating habits. Recently, I was telling a someone about the harmful effects of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). While talking I happened to stand up which she mistook for my zealous fervor – and she  ended up talking in a condescending manner that we are only talking about food and asked me to calm down.

8. Another example is when a fellow guest at a party started unnecessary trying to one-up me when someone commented that I train hard in the gym. This lady clearly did not work out and had met me for the first time ever- But she had very precise and specific ideas about why I train hard in the gym.

These are just a few examples. There are plenty more. All in all, if you let such nay-saying and negative vibes get to your head- you won’t last long on the journey to get to a healthier you.Because the more you succeed- the more negativity will increase around you, trying to sow seeds of self-doubt in your head. But thankfully..... there is a way out- In the form of an inflection point : where negative people simply give up!  They do not attempt to influence you beyond this point and may even begin understanding your perspective on health and fitness and may join you if you are lucky. Here it comes! This infection point is when you incessantly display your ”I don’t care- I am sticking to my health goals” attitude, no matter what.When you really stop caring about what negative people say and continue to work on your health goals- it shows. It makes such people realize that no matter what they do- you will not deviate from your chosen path and its best that they employ their energy elsewhere. It’s a simple but potent mantra- and it requires a good amount of mental toughening up on your part. But once you do that- you will become a “Fitness Jedi”  and be able to ward off negative vibes from others with precision, efficiency and least amount of overall-damage. By all means, care about what people who matter in your life say: If people love you, they will want you to be happy, healthy and fit to enjoy life to the fullest. The next tip I have is: Do not talk a lot about your health goals, progress, hurdles etc with everyone. Not everyone will get you- worse they may try their best to dissuade you for whatever reason. Health goals and your journey is a personal quest for a better, enriched life. Let your progress speak for itself. Let the select few who encourage, help and motivate you in on your plans and keep it to that circle only. Try it and enjoy the peace that comes with it. And you are welcome :-)

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