How to Transform the Naysayers

by Coach Stevo
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How to Transform the Naysayers

When you start a health and fitness journey, people will start asking you pointed questions. You’re eating differently, spending less time on the couch, and maybe doing weird things in strange places with people you’ve never met before. When you are getting started, you probably see all this change as great. Change takes change and you’re finally making progress! But the people in your life might start asking you new questions:

  • “Why are you doing that?”
  • “How long are you going to be eating that stuff?”
  • “When are you going to be fun again?”

Sometimes these questions can hurt, especially when they are asked by people we love. But it’s important to know that most of the time, these questions aren’t intended to offend—they come from a place of fear. It can be scary when people in our lives start changing suddenly, even if it’s for the better. In fact, when you look at the motivation behind these questions, they’re all pretty much asking the same thing: Are you going to change so much that we can’t be close anymore?

They see that you’re ready to change when they might not be ready to change themselves. It would be easy if we could pick people up and carry them with us on our health and fitness journey, but some people are not ready to change yet. Psychologists have studied this phenomenon for decades and outlined 6 “Stages of Change” in what’s called the “Transtheoretical Model”:

  • Pre-contemplation Stage: “Shut up, I’m all good.”
  • Contemplation Stage: “OK, maybe I’m not all good.”
  • Preparation Stage: “Yeah, I’m making a plan about how to get better.”
  • Action Stage: “I’m doing what I need to do to get better.”
  • Maintenance Stage: “I’m better, but still working at it.”
  • Termination Stage: “I’m pretty good now and, man, was I fooling myself back then.”

If you’ve started your journey by logging your food and activity in MyFitnessPal, you’re in the “Action” stage and you might actually be four stages ahead of the other people in your life. What’s more, these stages aren’t linear; people might “try out” an Action for a few days (like food logging), then go back to Preparation, then try food logging a few more times before they decide to have a go at it. And some people just aren’t even ready to think about it yet.

There are, however, things you can do (without really doing anything) to help reassure the people in your life and help them move closer to changing their unhealthy habits. You just need to be yourself and meet them where they’re at.

Remember that as frustrating and angry as the questions mentioned above can make you, they are coming from a place of fear born from how much these people care about having you in their lives. Remember that they’re not trying to stop you; they’re trying not to lose you.

5 Ways to Comfort the Naysayers

  1. Talk about other stuff sometimes. If they’re afraid of you changing, you can demonstrate how much you’re still you (just a leaner, better you) by talking about the books, TV and cute guys that you talked about before you started your health and fitness journey.
  2. Listen as much as you talk. Maybe this is just good friend advice, but always talking about your CrossFit classes to your sedentary friends is not great friend form.
  3. A lot of times when people are complimenting how hard you work, they are clandestinely convincing themselves they can’t do it. So when people recognize how hard you’ve been working, be gracious and tell them how easy that first step was. Maybe it was as easy as downloading MyFitnessPal.
  4. When someone says he or she wants to try, but struggle to start, compliment him or her for trying. Guilt, shame and torment don’t work (for long). Persistent progress happens when we learn, even from our struggles, to start. So if your loved ones say they want to eat healthier, but keep ordering cheeseburgers, remember that they might just be trying out what change will feel like (the “Contemplation Stage”) and you can reward them for that.
  5. Model, model, model. Don’t be afraid to be you around your friends and loved ones. They are looking at you to see if change is possible. Be honest about the struggles, but be even MORE honest about the process. You can lead by example, but be sure to leave breadcrumbs.

About the Author

Coach Stevo

Coach-Stevo-Logo.pngCoach Stevo is the nutrition and behavior change consultant at San Francisco CrossFit. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and an MA in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. He teaches habit-based coaching to wellness professionals all over the world and he contributed to Intervention by Dan John in 2012. 



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