It’s lunchtime at the office. You’ve been counting the seconds until you can eat your next meal on this cut. You head into the break room to grab your chicken, rice, and broccoli, meanwhile debating if you even want to bother throwing it in the microwave before you devour it. That’s when it happens: Jack from accounting walks in, wrinkles his nose, and says, “Ugh, that again? Don’t you get bored? Why don’t you eat something normal for once? We’re heading down the street for lunch if you want to join us.”
It’s finally the weekend and you find yourself out at the movies. As you walk through the theater you run into an old friend, and after saying hi they comment, “Wow, how can you handle walking around being that big? It must really be hard to find clothes that fit.” We’ve all dealt with them, the co-workers, family members, even friends, who are constantly bugging us about our lifestyle: the health haters. They don’t get why we are so dedicated that we forego happy hour in favor of the gym, or why we have Costco memberships literally just to buy chicken breast and tilapia in bulk. Instead of making the time to understand why we live the way we do, they are there at every turn, trying to bring us down or lure us away from our goal.
We see it on social media daily. That fitness model you follow with the perfect physique has thousands of comments below his photos, most of them calling him “gross” or “too big,” sometimes a person will even tag a friend saying “don’t get like this.” Photos of strong women elicit “ew”s from men and women alike. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in fitness who hasn’t had negativity spewed at them for how they look or the lifestyle they lead, regardless of what their physique looks like.
No matter how rude, uncalled for, or ignorant these health haters may come off, it’s not totally their fault (okay, maybe a little bit if they haven’t figured out “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all” thing yet). According to Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeev of Psychology Today, seeing someone else’s success in an area we have trouble in can “increase our feeling of inequity and accordingly further threaten our self-esteem”(1). This means that while their comments appear hurtful and condescending, more than likely they are coming from a place of fear and jealousy.
True, not everyone you meet is going to want to look the way you do. But seeing that you are capable of achieving a physique that very few others can may make them rethink their own failed attempts to lose weight or achieve a certain “look,” causing them to lash out. As Forbes points out, we tend to play the “comparison game” all too often, creating our own ideas about how a person must act or be just based on the successes we see on social media or on the outside (2).
So next time you encounter a health hater, simply respond with a “thank you.” Although their comment might be hurtful, having someone hate on you generally means you must be doing something right.