Why is the statement ‘Focus on being healthy’ so annoying? People who say it not only mean it, but they usually care about you. It comes from best friends and family members. Unfortunately, it’s not well said.
What People Really Hear when Others Say You Should ‘Focus on Being Healthy’
I had a wonderful dinner with two of my best friends. One was happy about her weight loss journey and had shared a picture of her gains or rather losses. She looked great! You could see that she carried less mass and that she was happy. I was happy for her! So, I made a comment about being skinny. My other friend piped in with a look of concern on her face and told me I should really “focus on being healthy”.
I could not fathom that this statement was anything but a slap in the face.
They were and are still some of my best friends. I don’t know why hearing that was so hard. It was though. I mulled over that statement for so long. Clearly, I mean, I even wrote a blog post about it… The thing is I didn’t understand what she really meant. I’ve heard this statement before. In my mind physical fitness and health were synonymous. So, to hear that wasn’t as helpful as it was intended to be. Then again, maybe in a backward way it was because I’m still thinking about it. I knew I wasn’t making the healthiest choices I could be. Change is hard though. I’m still working on those changes. If you’ve been told this by someone close to you, or anyone really, know that they mean it with the best of intentions and they are trying to be helpful.
Intentions vs. Impact
At that moment I heard her all wrong. I was defensive and irritated. I thought to myself… “Weren’t we just celebrating our other friend’s weight loss? We weren’t celebrating her new healthy choices?” So, why was my comment given so much shade? I inferred “You’re not doing it right.” without hearing any “This is how to fix that.” in her statement, which I abhor when it comes to food talk. I’m beyond over the “don’t list” and would rather see a “do list”. Even if she was right how could I focus on just being healthy when what I wanted was to be thin and fit and beautiful. Those things that I felt I’d lost since my C-section. I still feel this way sometimes. It’s a journey…
Hearing that statement was, in my mind, akin to saying “You need to embrace being overweight. It’s who you are now.” I’m not the only person who has heard those words and felt frustration and confusion. The person I was physically at that moment was not what I wanted to be the “new me.” I wanted to bounce back as I did after my first child, and I wanted to feel sexy again. That statement felt like she was telling me to just throw in the towel. Totally Not. My. Style. With a whole culture obsessed with beauty and image and my own personal and very deep-seated need to be attractive again, I could not fathom that this statement was anything but a slap in the face. Now, I no longer view that phrase with such animosity, but I still don’t like it. I feel like it doesn’t quite fit the bill of what people are trying to say. So… What do they mean?
What People Really Mean When They Say You Should ‘Focus on Being Healthy’
If you’ve heard this I can almost guarantee the person who spoke those words cares about you in one way or another. What they meant to say is this: Change takes time. People are impatient and then give up before the results start showing up. The best thing to do is to take it one habit at a time. Make and keep a new habit every week, or whatever time scale works for you. It may not always be easy but you must compound your good choices. Eating a salad every day for lunch is great. Adding in a workout every day is also great. Don’t stop eating salads on days you workout, though. Your changes have to create a compounding interest in your “health bank”. I’m currently dabbling in fasting. More on that later!
What Should We Say?
What people should be saying is saying what they really feel instead of repeating soundbites they’ve heard. There’s just too much room for interpretation or confusion when you dumb down a nuanced conversation to something that can be easily put on a T-shirt. It’s just like the stereotypical comment “I don’t see color”. Drives me NUTS! Unless you’re color blind… You DO SEE color. What you should be saying is that you don’t let skin color dictate your behavior. There’s a BIG difference between those two statements. It also requires more words to articulate your meaning. Which makes it hard to memorize and spit out during a real conversation. So speak from the heart and think and say what you truly feel. Find your own words to express yourself. Isn’t that the whole point of expression and freedom of speech? Digression aside, if you absolutely need something soundbite worthy then say something like this:
Your body is a physical representation of your choices.
Live the life that gives you the body you want.
Embody the change you want to see.
Okay, so that was three soundbites and they kind of go together, but they are more true to what the comment “focus on being healthy” is trying to say. It basically all comes down to the idea that you’re a human being and you’re more than a number on a scale or a silhouette to be admired. As a person, you really need to assess what you want and enjoy. Create your ideal day, week, or vacation. Think about the things you want to accomplish physically. What daily habits would support these dreams and ideals? Imagine what body shape would result from those actions. Maybe make that body your ideal. If you can live your best life and not focus on your appearances you’ll be much more fulfilled. Align your day with the goals and outcomes you want to have and give up all of the negative self-talk and thoughts.
The Next Step: Taking Action
Now that we are all on the same page I bet you’re wondering “OK…so, how do I DO that?” and “What does that even look like?” Well, start asking yourself questions.
Consider the following:
- How active is your job?
- How much movement do you get in your free time?
- What are your favorite hobbies? Are they all sedentary or solitary or are they more physical and team-based?
- Do you have any hobbies or physical feats that interest you? What type of movements do those hobbies and feats require?
- What is holding you back from taking more action? Is it food prep? Is childcare leaving you feeling like you lack the time?
After you’ve set a baseline of your current activities and your interests then you need to consider how and where to add new healthier habits into your life. If you’ve been on the receiving end of “focus on being healthy” and were upset by it I hope this was able to help you work through that and understand what the other person was trying to say. Alternatively, If you’re the person who said it and received backlash for doing so I hope I was able to help you see the perspective of the recipient. Let me know in the comments if this helped you! I’d love to hear how you handled hearing/saying these words and what the end result was. Don’t forget to share if this changed your perspective!