Fitness columnist Emmet Rushe reveals why you shouldn't comment on a friend who is trying to better themselves.

When someone starts out on their health and fitness journey, they are faced with an array of obstacles; How do I train? Which diet should I follow? Can I eat out? Do I have to eat things I don’t like?
The questions at the beginning can be endless and because you are just starting, quite often you don’t like asking them for fear of sounding silly.

The one thing that I like to instil in any new member of my gym, is that no question is a silly one.
The only way we can learn, is to ask.

Whenever they do start asking questions, one of the questions will usually be in relation to something that someone has said.

It usually goes like this.

Client – “You know how you have fruit in your smoothies?”

Me – “Yeah, it’s a great way of adding taste to them and getting your fruit and some fibre at the same time.”

Client – “Yeah, it’s just that, Jenny at the office said that if I eat too much fruit, it will make me fat.”

Me – “Fruit makes you fat? How much fruit does Jenny think you are eating?”

This is where we get to our subject for this week.

While there may be many obstacles facing you whenever you start to become a better version of yourself, the one that can have the biggest effect on you, is other people.

Your peers can give you confidence, support and help you to succeed, but more often than not, they can also be your biggest obstacle.

Everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks that they are entitled to voice their opinion.
Sometimes you are, and sometimes you are not. When it comes to commenting on your friend who is trying to better themselves, sometimes you really need to learn when to say nothing at all.

One of these times is usually when you are talking to someone who has started a diet, or has started training.
The reason is simple.
Whenever someone mentions that they are making a change for the better, there will always be this one person, who will have some horrific information as to why, WHATEVER you are doing, is wrong.
(Jenny is fictional and in not based on any person, the responses, however, are actual quotes that were said to some of my clients)

  • Client – “I have started lifting weights, I really think it will help me improve my shape and lose some weight.”Jenny – “You shouldn’t be doing that, I know this one girl who started lifting weights and she turned all manly”
  • Client – “I have started to drink more water. I am really seeing the benefits in my skin and I feel so much better when I’m training”Jenny – “You shouldn’t drink so much water. I know this one girl who drank too much water and she died”
  • Client – “I’m eating more fruit and adding berries to my smoothies. They are a great way for me to get more fibre in my diet and to get my 5 a day”Jenny – “You shouldn’t eat so much fruit. The sugar in fruit will make you fat”

You see ‘Jenny’ hates change.
It makes her uncomfortable.
What makes her even more uncomfortable is whenever someone else starts to change something about themselves.

This change, no matter what it is; weight loss, training, giving up smoking, it highlights all of ‘Jenny’s’ failings.

Every time she has failed on a diet, every time she has started training and stopped a few weeks later, anytime she has tried to stop smoking, it all comes out, when you start on your journey.

Sometimes, they won’t even know they are doing it; it’s an automatic reaction to the discomfort they are feeling, and that is understandable. It’s a reaction.

Other times, however, they will know exactly what they are doing and this is where the term ‘friend’ and ‘work mate’ should be used loosely.

  • Like when they badger you to go for drinks at the weekend, knowing full well that you have given it up to concentrate on your goal.
  • Like when they bring buns and biscuits into work and tell you that one won’t kill you, knowing that you are on a diet.
  • When they bring those buns to work, making it look like they want to share them with their work colleagues, what they really want is to eat buns. By bringing them into work, they feel less guilty because now everyone is eating buns.

The list of these goes on and on.

Starting any training or nutrition program is hard. Trying to change in general is hard, as there is usually some form of discomfort in order for change to happen.

This change is hard enough without a friend trying to sabotage it whether they realise they are doing it or not.

If you realise you are doing it and you are knowingly trying to steer your friend off their respective journey, you have to ask yourself how much of a friend you actually are.

Try to think before you give your opinion and think how it will affect them.
Why not use their new motivation as motivation for yourself and join them?
You will have someone to help you along your journey, which is something you may have been missing in the past.
Most of all, try to always build each other up, rather than knocking each other down.