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How to respond to negativity

We all have our own unique health, fitness & lifestyle goals, especially at the start of a brand-new year when we’re fresh out of the festive season and ready to get after them like never before. One of the keys to sticking with any New Year’s resolution is having a solid support system of people around us, whether that’s family, friends, teammates or colleagues. We do, however, come across those occasional rude comments, questionable behaviours or back-handed compliments that put a real downer on our motivation to succeed. We caught up with three people from our community — Ludovica, Jaysri and Maartje — to share the not-so-enjoyable moments in their journeys and how they chose to respond to negativity, take control of their surroundings and rise to the occasion. Read on for tips, advice and inspiration to stay motivated and focus on YOU in 2022.  

Ludovica, a gym gal, runner and avid basketball player

Ludo is a friend of Body&Fit whom we recently reconnected with, and upon seeing her after months of no contact, she looked fitter, happier and had a bright, healthy glow on her face. It turned out that she'd recently gone through a harsh break-up, which kick-started her new-found love for health and fitness.

Ludo: I’ve always been sporty, but these past 2 years, I kind of lost track of it. So, after breaking up with my boyfriend, I figured why not get back into the swing of things? I’ve always wanted to be a little slimmer, so I started going to the gym and it was so rewarding every time. Especially the day after, when you can feel your muscles are sore and you just go — “I did something good for my body”. I soon started to lose weight and feel good about myself.

Of course, most of Ludo’s friends and family were super supportive, yet she did come across some negativity in the first few months of her journey. Comments like:

“You’re ordering a salad again, aren’t you?”

Most people know this comment all too well. You’re at a restaurant with friends and you hear a snarky comment as you opt for the healthy dish. It can feel like you’re being judged just for being good to yourself. Our advice — don’t let it get to you. Say, “I’m just in the mood for it” or ignore it. You don’t want to be draining your energy defending something as small as your meal choices.

“You’ve lost so much weight; you look so beautiful now”

A short comment as backhanded as this one can feel triggering and make you wonder: “how the hell did I look before?” Soon enough, your mind will be playing flashbacks of your old self and speculating how others must’ve perceived you. It’s a dangerous spiral, but you know whatyou looked fine before and you look fine now. Think of it as a compliment on all your hard work and progress!

A gamechanger for Ludo was surrounding herself with like-minded people (she recently started going to the gym with one of her friends who taught her how to deadlift), but in the end…

Ludo: …it’s your journey. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody. If you’re trying to achieve goals for other people, it’s going to be difficult to succeed. Do it for yourself and be happy with those little bits of progress. It doesn’t come in a day, but one day makes a world of difference, which you will eventually see for yourself.

Jaysri, a 21-year-old vegetarian from South India

Born into a religious family, vegetarianism was a big part of Jay’s upbringing. In India, vegetarianism is a popular lifestyle choice, yet not everyone was so accepting.

Jay: I used to have people in my class bring their lunches with meat in and try to mix it up with my food. They would be like: “Just eat it, you’re going to be malnourished if you don’t eat meat”. As I got older, I understood that negativity can manifest in more implicit ways. In some cases, it’s best to try to understand where people are coming from. Maybe they’re just confused because it’s different from their own lifestyle choices. They might even be a little curious, but just unsure how to express their interest. Or perhaps they feel a little judged. Your mindset is key in detaching yourself from negativity and looking at the situation more objectively. You’ll see that most of the time, it’s got nothing to do with you.

When she graduated high school, Jay decided to move to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to study Psychology. Living so far away from home gave her the opportunity to eat whatever she wanted to, but vegetarianism had become such a strong aspect of her identity. Throughout her time there, Jay has met all sorts of people who don’t share the same dietary or lifestyle choices as she does. Even some of her friends would feel uncomfortable eating meat around her.

Jay: I went on a trip to Paris recently and I knew it was famous for escargots. Obviously, I wanted my friend to try it (she’d been talking about it for like 2 weeks). So, I found a restaurant where I could have a delicious French onion soup and she could try her escargot. I remember she asked me, “are you not grossed out that I’m eating this in front of you”? I told her that was not the case. We were there to try the cuisine. I mean, we were in Paris!

Much like Jay’s experience, the best thing you can do in this kind of situation is provide lots of options for your friends. Offer to eat at a restaurant that has both meat and vegetarian options. Introduce them to your favourite recipes when they’re over for dinner. Above all, let them know that there’s no prejudice around your differing lifestyle choices.

Jay: It sounds obvious, but if you’re trying to follow a particular diet and no one around you is being supportive, the best thing you can do is share it with them (without being pushy, of course). Serve them the best food you’ve ever cooked — they’ll soon change their minds, hopefully!

Maartje, a student and lacrosse player from the Netherlands

We caught up Maartje, who’s been playing competitive sports since the age of 5, to get a breakdown of what she’s learned while navigating the unsupportive terrains of competitive team sports. After dealing with aggressive hockey coaches, losing her confidence and finding it again through Lacrosse, we learned how she transitioned to a more positive sports environment.

Notice the difference between constructive criticism and unnecessary negativity — then, set some boundaries

Maartje: I had a hockey trainer who was very harsh. I remember during one game, he pushed me, and I fell over. He started mocking me and calling me weak, which was super upsetting. I didn’t want to go to the training sessions anymore. Even months later, I felt ashamed because it seemed like the whole team was judging me. I couldn’t cope with it anymore. I lost all my confidence. It was like I became a different person.

It’s no secret that competitive sports can be intense. While it’s important for coaches to communicate feedback in a way that inspires passion and commitment, it should also help you improve. Noticing the difference between constructive criticism and plain negativity involves recognising your limits, trusting your gut, and communication. If you find yourself starting to feel scared and self-conscious of asking questions, or the feedback starts to feel personal, it’s probably not a good sign. You’re a team player, not a punching bag, so don’t be afraid to assert your boundaries. Remember, respect goes both ways.

Maartje: Over time, I learned to use this negative experience with my hockey coach as motivation for training sessions and games. In sports like hockey, you need this kind of fuel to get the best out of your performance, but at the same time, you should know your boundaries. If it gets too bad, try to speak up to your coach. There’s less chance of you dwelling on a bad experience in the long run like I did.

Understand what your fitness goal is and why you want to achieve it

If you’ve been playing the same sport for years, it’s often good to re-evaluate where you stand. Ask yourself, “why am I still doing this?”. It’s perfectly normal for your answer to change. Maybe you’re looking to stay fit rather than compete or enjoy the social side more nowadays. If you’ve grown into a different mindset or goal, it can create some gaps between you, your coach, teammates and the sport. At a certain point, it’s good to check-in and see if it still makes sense for you to continue. 

Maartje: I started playing so young that I didn’t really have a specific goal. It was my parents that got me into hockey at first, and at a certain point I became very good at it. Once I started playing competitively, I just didn’t like it anymore. Then, it became too harsh for me. They pushed me hard, while I didn’t care for the sport enough to do that. As I got older, I really did it just to stay in shape and socialise. It’s an important distinction. If people do it because they want to be the best, it creates a gap between you and other people.

Don’t be afraid to switch sports or change the way you train

Maartje: I got into lacrosse because hockey wasn’t making me happy anymore. It was such a good choice! Now I feel like I’m learning so much and exercising outside of training is part of my daily routine now. I haven’t been playing long, so my coaches and teammates make it clear they’re trying to help, and it feels very validating. It’s a safe environment to ask questions and improve. It makes me want to be better because I want to be good enough to help them win.

The bottom line is simple

If you get to know your boundaries and prioritise your own health and happiness, the rest turns into background noise. It might take a little time before it feels effortless to do this, but as always — practice makes perfect! As the new year begins, we wish you good luck in all your health and fitness goals. Check out the rest of our blog for even more advice, recipes and workouts. Plus, stay tuned @body&fit_official for our latest sports nutrition products — from leading protein powders and bars to high-quality vitamins and weight loss supplements — to keep you going throughout the year. Most of all, from everyone at Body&Fit…

Happy YOU Year!