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Proximal Perceptions

I try as a trainer to keep conversations to a minimum as I like to get as much work (training) done with my client(s) with the limited amount of time we have together.  However, there are times when our conversations are very insightful, and those ‘teachable moments’ so often mentioned in my education training appear.  Most often clients come up with perspectives about their lifestyle, their choices, and the choices they see others make in their own lives.  They often compare their thoughts and habits before they started on this fitness journey to where they are now.

One particular client always comes with great insight into her training, and what she views as perceptions and judgements that others try to place on her.   She is adopting a more healthy lifestyle which includes eating real food, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins, and training regularly. She is often frustrated, or slightly annoyed by the comments others make when she chooses to eat these kinds of foods.  Her issue is that if others around her eat hamburgers, fries, nachos and other items that I would not consider ‘everyday foods’, yet, no one every comments on what they eat.

I should give you a bit of her backstory so that you can understand her position better.

You see she is your long term chronic ‘dieter’.   She trained intensely for a very long time on extremely low calories.  She works in a restaurant and found herself picking at various sinful foods during the day as she thought it ‘would not matter’ to have a bite here and a bite there as she did not eat very much in the first place.  She tried to ‘eat well’ (as most people say), but it was sporadic, and very restrictive.

Since we have been working together we have changed her approach to nutrition, and modified her training. We have increased her calories, changed her perspective on food as fuel for her workouts and extremely active lifestyle, and implemented more a structured eating plan where she will actually ‘eat’ rather than restrict herself.

She is a great place mentally.
She has lost weight. Approximately 20 lbs.
She was a size 10-12, and now is a size 4-6.
Others have noticed.
Others now comment on it.
Others now comment on her eating style.

They say, as reported by my client, “Wow, you look so thin, are you sick?”  Or they see she has muscles, and everyone wants to know what her secret is.

Red Sweet Bell Pepper
Omg – do you mean I am a vegetable?

At work, instead of eating a nacho here, and a French fry there, she pulls out her vegetables to eat, or lean protein and others make comments. The thing is to my client these comments are perceived as judgmental, and negative.

Things others have said to her about her eating:

“Why are you eating that?”

“Your too thin, you need to eat more.”

“You really like eating that way?”

“Why don’t you have some of this [insert food here]”

My client is frustrated with the comments, as she has made a positive change in her life.  Is now committed, consist and has shifted her thinking about food.  These foods to my client make her feel amazing, yet others around her, do not support her and her choices. Or what is perceived as lack of support. If she decided to eat a hamburger, fries, and washed it down with a beer, no one would say anything. If she walked in with an iced cappuccino, from Tim Horton’s no one would say anything. But because someone put cream in her coffee and she refused it as it needs to be with milk, they make comments.

Tomato and Avocado Salad
Warning: this food may come with unexpected comments or suggestions.

Since she is choosing differently, which is outside the norm for others in her life, who may not live this way, comments/observations are made.

It is people’s expectations of you, which need to be adjusted, and for them, it will take longer for them to accept the change. But if you hold your ground they will come around.

This bump in the road always come up at some point.  I empower my clients with what to say in order to minimize the comments.  I want my clients not to view these questions and comments not as judgments, but from a lack of understanding.

It is your reaction and response to their questions, can either come from a positive place or add more fuel to the inquiry fire.  Most times, the comments stem from interest in what they are doing as they see the results, but it is difficult for them, to understand, or accept, as it requires change. My client had already been eating different before anyone really saw a difference in her. So she is in the change, while others are just noticing the change.

The point here is to accept that others will say something once you shift you eating, in a way that requires you to say ‘no’ to certain food offerings if you are trying to achieve a goal. This is not just in a restaurant situation, but also at dinner parties, or spontaneous celebrations or social events with friends or family. With that comes comments, and of course you will have to defuse these comments to allow others to understand what you are willing to put up with and what you are not. Your reaction is putting limits on what others say to you when it comes to your eating and training habits. The point is to give a response that allows the person to understand what you are doing, but not so detailed to welcome discussion of it. I want my clients to be able to put the kibosh on the conversation and shut it down if needed. Usually a change in your eating habits does spark a conversation about fitness, and nutrition, but yet, I don’t want it to be about what my client is specifically doing.

Comments/Response

“You look different.”
Thanks. All in a good way right? 

Why are you eating like that?
It makes me feel good.

You really like what you are eating?
It gives me lots of energy, and I feel strong.

“Your too thin, I think you need to eat more.”
“Are you eating enough?”
I eat lots, but thanks for you concern.

Why don’t you eat some of [insert food here]?
I love that [insert food], it tastes amazing, but I don’t feel like eating it today.
You enjoy.

“You have amazing willpower”
I don’t look at it that way. I still eat everything you eat. Just not everyday.

“You look thinner”
“You look really thin, are you sick?”
I lost weight, thanks for noticing.  I have been working really hard.

“What is your secret, what pill are you really taking, as I need that”
Hard work. That’s it. And a great trainer – go see them. He’s their info.

“Are you working out?”
Yes, thank you for noticing.

“Is this what you wanted?”
Yes, all self inflicted.

If all else fails, blame me.   Blame the trainer.
We have no problem taking the blame.

None.

Say – “I am responsible to my trainer and she will kill me” or something of the like.
This usually works.

A.

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