By Ashley Harvard, BB&W Health and Wellness Editor
One evening last week, I popped into my local grocery store for some dinner ingredients after pounding out a 5 mile run at the gym. I was in my sweaty workout clothes, but since I would be in and out of the store in less than five minutes, I knew it was unlikely that I’d offend anyone by being a disheveled, sweaty mess. However as I was in the produce section picking up some broccoli, an overweight older woman walked up to me and said “Oh you think you’re better than the rest of us, huh? Just ’cause you like to show off and go around in your sweaty gym clothes. You look like a fool.”
I didn’t cower – I said some choice words back to her (I’ve got a little Irish in me) and promptly moved along, not letting her bring down my mood. When I returned home, I couldn’t help but wonder “if she talks to a perfect stranger like that, I wonder what she would have said had I been her own daughter?” The thought sent chills down my spine. Luckily, I have an amazing mother who enthusiastically supports my strong commitment to personal health. But it reminded me of that fact that if we don’t remain resolutely committed to whatever our health goals are, particularly weight loss, we can be easily discouraged and led astray by having to handle other peoples’ negativity, BS and their OWN insecurities. Toxic emotions, whether they emanate from family, friends, significant others, or random strangers can thwart our health goals.
Looking back at my interaction with the grocery store woman, I wish I would have met her words with ones steeped in more compassion and less snark. Because you see, when people around us start noticing the healthy changes we’re making and say unkind or passive aggressive things to us, it’s rarely about us. Many times, it’s about them. Our positive changes serve as a mirror of sorts, reminding that person of all the changes that they want and need to make, but haven’t yet for one reason or another. And that hurts…because let’s be honest, who here among us, hasn’t felt a twinge of failure or jealousy when confronted with someone else’s successes? Some of us take those feelings of failure/jealousy and use them as the fuel to take control of our health once and for all. Unfortunately, there will always be those people who don’t operate at this level and instead want to bring us down and attempt to undermine our progress using a whole host of tactics, not least by lobbing snide remarks like “oh you’re on another health kick, aren’t you? Let’s see how long that lasts…” or “You can’t eat just one cookie? Really?” Imagine being in so much pain that you can’t help but try to hand off pieces of it to people around you like you’re handing out jolly ranchers to kids on Halloween. That’s deep and just serves to confirm the old saying – “hurting people hurt.”
Conversely, there is another saying (from the wonderful Dalai Lama) that goes, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” So this means that when someone spews their negativity onto us because we have/had the audacity to improve our health by losing weight, we have to resist the urge to be negative back to them and as hard as it may be, wish the naysayer well. And I mean wish them really, really well because they’re in a lot of pain. For me this means saying a little silent prayer for that person, asking the universe to bestow upon them the very same sense of happiness and fulfillment that I have in my life. It means asking that the universe gives that person the strength to transform their pain, jealousy, hurt, and failure into the spark that lights their world on fire to help them grow into the person they want to ultimately become.
So rather than speak the words I did to the grocery store woman, I should have said something along the lines of “I wish you unlimited happiness.” Maybe to some of you that seems contrite and, in its own peculiar way, a snarky thing to say. But it really isn’t because I deeply mean it, from the core of my very being. It’s about showing that hurting person that on the other side of change and self-transformation is the chance to be happy, content and free (and that you’re not going to put up with their nonsense).
Finally on a more practical note, never ever, EVER let anyone stop you from doing what you need to do to become a healthy (or healthier) version of you. That won’t make you a happy person at all. And the world needs MORE happy people, not less. Say NO to the guilt trips, passive aggressiveness, snarky comments and whatever else people do to try to deter you. You are so much stronger than that.
Ashley Harvard lives in the Washington, D.C. area, holds a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College, and is currently working on a master’s degree in nutrition fromMaryland University of Integrative Health. As a nutritionist-in-training, she meets with clients, both in-person and via Skype, from all over the country to help them regain control of their health. When she’s meeting with her amazing clients, you can find her whipping up new smoothie recipes, training for her first 5k, or working her way through her latest Netflix addiction, Pretty Little Liars.
To schedule a Skype-based nutrition consultation or to ask a question, email her at [email protected]