When you choose to get fit: relationships and change
Today’s blog is about pursuing a fitness journey and how it effects some relationships when you do, although the principles I am going to address apply anytime one person in a relationship chooses to … change.
I’ve been asked and messaged this particular question lately:
“How to deal with when it’s hard on your friends when you choose to get fit?”
It’s a fully loaded question and can go from small annoyances to the loss of friendships, so be prepared, I’m going broad in places.
If we really want to unmask the prominent boss of the culprits at play… we have to address the confrontation of change, most people, in some area have a resistance to outward change. Outward change, for example, having to change your route to work, moving, having to adjust your schedule, someone changing plans on you, etc. These can be frustrating and definitely an opportunity to be flexible but can be easier to communicate about then when a person in a friendship/relationship chooses to make changes that then changes the entirety of the person and how they relate to the world and others.
It can feel imposing and intimidating on the person who hasn’t chosen those changes. They can feel judged by the person’s choice to get fit when it is not the intent nor in the communication of the one changing that they would need to do the same. If a friend struggles with their weight, self-image and identity they may feel a sense of failure inwardly for not pursuing similar goals. Recognizing why we respond the way we do to each other in the event of people changing is key to connecting us to the real issues in our hearts. Relationships are alive and require nourishing and growing to evolve. A lack of identifying why we feel the way we do can lead to avoidance because of fear of conflict and/or lack of communication, which are both life stealers in healthy growing relationships.
Not every thing in every relationship needs to be addressed. Sometimes you can simply train someone how to treat you in regards to your fitness journey simply by how you talk about it and how you navigate the conversation in a way that doesn’t allow for negativity. Most people who are acquaintances or casual friends pick up quickly in conversation subtle boundaries. Usually these relationships because their roots don’t go down deep don’t have the power to hurt you if they don’t agree or approve of all your choices, even thou someone’s idle words can play games with your heart. After a little processing and some grace you can silence the pesky voices.
Then there are relationships that experience “the bunge” (as I call it, like how the skin crinkles between peoples eye-brows when they are perplexed thinking about things). It’s that feeling that there is some kind of underlying conflict that can be felt in the relationship where one or both persons have made a judgment of the other based on the effects of change and how that has made them feel. Most likely neither person can identify or communicate this at first sign of conflict so always remember in relationship to give space for reflection because the goal in working thru conflict is always to remember to use behavior that reflects who you really are and to show mutual respect. Anger, disappointment, hurt are all very real feelings and need to be experienced with God alone where you can hash out all the ugly with Him, so you can come back having separated the ugly from what is beneficial to say to others that offers the hope of growth. Easier said then done, but very doable.
NOW, that I’ve set that foundation … let’s just throw the stuff on the table.
We are human, we struggle, we experience all kinds of yucky feelings and we don’t know why at first. We sure as heck don’t like to give those feelings their proper names like jealousy, discontentment, offense, judgment and comparison. Change, because it shifts the plates of our comfort levels can definitely be the stimulus to some inner earth quaking and reveal things in our hearts that routine life simply does not.
Because if we were honest we don’t like it when things mess with our comfy … we love our comfy … and we keep our comfy safe from the danger of change. So at first we look for ways to place responsibility outside of ourselves, but I believe if we are to live the strong life rooted in God and His ways we must dare to choose a higher way. A way in which we are true to ourselves governed by love operating in mutual respect. That was the nicest way to say what I will elaborate on in some simple boundaries to consider in conflict below .
Just expose it and get it over with
When I say expose it, this is what I’m NOT saying;
- Call another peer and talk through how someone’s choices makes you feel in a way that sets up one person to be more right in a situation than another. When you are exposing yucky in your heart it’s important also not to get caught up in the yucky of gossip (remember: rule of thumb: 2 uglies don’t make a pretty.)
What I am saying:
- First go to God and expose what’s in your heart to Him, most of the time this should be enough. If you need talk to someone to process, find someone that is more mature than you and someone you’ve seen deal with conflict in a Godly way. Ask God for the wisdom to know the difference between what could simply be prayed out and what would need to be actually talked about.
What you give to the light has no power
When you let light in on a conflict and expose it’s root (‘the why’ you feel the way you do), the root loses it power to control you and the situation. Things that stay in the dark fester and before you know it have grown so big you can’t even go back and pin point what started it. Making a habit of letting light in will safeguard your heart from offense that leads to bitterness. Practice believing the best of people even when the best is not what you think it should be. Give as much grace to others as you know you need yourself. Remember the more light you let in, the lighter you live. Darkness is heavy … love is light.
Make it your goal to communicate in a way that honors who you really are
It’s often our initial response to want to defend our actions or ourselves when we feel we are being judged. Consider instead of arguing what you feel is unjust or a lie by presenting the truth. I’ll give you two different examples:
Ex. in marriage: “You never pick up your socks, I feel like you just don’t love me or respect me when you do that!”
Ex. of defending: “I just picked up my socks the other day, I just don’t know what you’re talking about! You always do this, what about the stack of dishes you haven’t done in the kitchen, no ones asks me how that makes me feel!”
Ex. of presenting the truth: “I love you and it is my goal to let you know you are respected, it is not my intention on the days my socks don’t make it to the hamper to communicate anything less to you. It’s highly possible that I’ll forget to pick them up again in the future but please know that it doesn’t reflect my love for you just shows I may need more grace as I continue to work on that.”
Ex. in fitness: “I feel like you always talk about your workouts and weight loss goals, I feel like it’s obsessive and selfish. All you do is post pictures of your progress, never can eat what everyone else eats and seems like you care more about what’s going on with you than others.”
Ex. of defending: “I don’t always talk about my workouts, just yesterday we talked about that new movie that is out and I really just workout three times a week. And I do care about others you would know if you stopped judging me and saw what I did for so-in-so last week!”
Ex. of presenting the truth: “I really value our friendship and care about what is going on with you. I’m really excited about the decisions I’ve made about my health lately. These decisions have required refocus in several areas of my life and I’m still finding my groove in what that looks like. I work really hard in my workouts to stay motivated and determined so I enjoy getting to share that with others. It’s always my intention to be equally excited about what is happening with my friends and family.”
It true Ris (Marissa)-style I’ll leave you with a couple of challenges;
Here is the challenge for the person changing to keep in mind:
Regardless how big your weight loss or fitness goals are making a change in your life in this area is going to require some purposeful intention and hard work, it requires you be a little of the good selfish to give to your body what it needs to run well for you and respect the vehicle God gave you to do life in. The bigger the goal or medical necessity it may take up a lot of your focus to retrain yourself. You may have to encourage yourself with inspirational quotes and pictures daily, this may be a big change for others and that is ok. Put God at the center of this journey and ask Him to continually pastor your heart in right thinking, guard your heart from the temptations of quick weight loss tricks or over the top workout regimens that promise quick change but don’t teach you how to have a balanced life of a good clean diet and a lifestyle of fitness.
Once you find what works for you, be careful not make people feel like your way is the only way and they need to do it that way. No one stays fit that ever feels pressured to be fit, it has to be a personal decision of quality if it will become a life change. It is everyone’s right to choose when that decision is right for him or her. Always be the change you want to see, using the least amount of words .
Always be considerate of medical conditions that make it harder for some to lose weight or the sensitivity of fitness to some. People are always more important than what we believe about a subject, but never be afraid to ask for the grace to change instead of just expecting it.
Here is the challenge to the person reacting to change:
It’s important to always identify why we feel the way we do so we can own our reactions and behavior in a way we can be proud of. I’m not a minimizer, it can be really hard to relearn how to be in a relationship with someone who changes even if the changes are good. It’s totally appropriate to experience some disappointment that a way you experienced life together has changed, especially in families where they bond around food. It literally feels like a loss or a death and may need to be grieved as such without guilt. Sometimes there can be shame in not being happier for people than we are, so the challenge is first to get the shame in the light so it loses it’s power, grieve any loss you have experienced in the relationship and then to ask God ways to genuinely see the other person in the fullness of their new self and be a part of encouraging that change.
A part of loving people in a healthy relationship is giving space for growth of every kind; none of us should be the same next year as we are today.
So I attempted to address the question of, “How to deal with when it is hard on your friends when you choose to get fit?” but conflict and change really is no respecter of life categories. I believe some of these simple keys can help any relationship when you have the right attitude of mutual honor in dealing with conflict. I would not share them if I hadn’t had my own practice in conflict, and here in lies the beauty of all conflict; it has the same opportunity to bring people closer as it does the ability to bring a great divide.
It is my encouragement as much as it is in your power: