1. You Nag Too MuchMost of us have the best intentions when we nag - we want the people we love to live healthy, happy lives - if they would only just do what we say! Naggers tend to:
- Never let up - Asking, "Are you going to workout?" is one thing. Tweeting, Facebooking, texting and sending smoke signals all day will send them running for cover.
- Be controlling - "Here are the workouts you should do each day - this PowerPoint presentation explains everything."
- Make everything about exercise - "Why don't you jog as you're taking out the trash? Maybe you'll burn a few calories."
Stop the Nagging
Realize that nagging may actually backfire. Encouragement and praise for the healthy things they are doing may make more of a difference than badgering them.
2. You're Self-RighteousBack in college, my roommate and I were digging into some chips when my friend, a fitness freak, walked in and gasped, "Oh my gosh, I would never eat those." We looked at each other like we'd just discovered we were eating a handful of dog poop.
Fitness freaks can make others feel bad about their choices by pointing out our perfection:
- Using the word 'always' - As in, "You didn't workout because you forgot your shoes? I always exercise, even if my feet bleed."
- Using the word 'never' - As in, "I would never eat anything with sugar in it, even with a gun to my head."
Get Off the Pedestal
Pointing out how perfect you are only creates distance. Sharing your struggles may encourage friends to open up as well, giving you an opportunity to help.
3. You're JudgmentalBeing judgmental is another trap we sometimes fall into. Some things a judgmental fitness freak might say:
- "Should you really be eating that?"
- "Oh, you're ordering that? I call that a heart attack on a plate."
- "You mean you never do any high impact workouts? How do you live with yourself?"
We sometimes shame people into making better choices, but no one likes to feel bad about what they're doing. Some gentle nudging (e.g., "I had this salad last week and it was phenomenal.") without harping on calories may be enough to get them to think twice. If it doesn't, there's not much we can do about other people's decisions. Focus more on being a good role model and offering support when it's appropriate.
4. You're a Know-It-AllAs fitness freaks, we have a huge database of fitness knowledge inside our brains. The knowledge helps us make good choices, but it also may encourage us to force those choices onto others. You might be a know-it-all if you:
- Toot your own horn: "Do you know about the effects of fatty acids on metabolic function in ischemic myocardium? Because I do."
- Use big words - "You should dorsiflex as you abduct to work the vastus lateralis."
- Give unwanted advice - "I noticed your legs are kind of skinny. Have you thought about doing more squats?"
Zip Your Lips
While fitness freaks know a lot, we don't know everything. Wait for someone to ask for advice before giving it and don't be afraid to say you don't know something. People respect honesty.
5. You're InflexibleSome fitness freaks have an all-or-nothing approach to living healthy. Take it too far and you not only annoy others, you may not be enjoying life as much as you could. You might be inflexible if you:
- Bring carrot sticks to every party - If you're on a special diet, that's fine, but turning up your nose at every dish might offend others.
- Are the resident calorie counter - At a birthday party, you're the one who shouts, "I read that one piece of birthday cake has 947 calories."
- Refuse to eat anything you haven't had analyzed in a laboratory.
Bend a Little
Being healthy means making healthy choices most of the time. However, allowing some indulgence from time to time can enrich your life and make you more approachable to others.
6. You're One-DimensionalAs a fitness freak, I love talking about exercise, sometimes to the point of annoyance. Sharing enthusiasm is fine but, if it's all you talk about, other people may avoid you like the plague. Some signs to look for:
- When someone asks about your weekend, you have no idea what you did besides workout.
- You dominate the conversation - Steering every topic back to your marathon training or your deep love of flaxseed oil may cause instant eye-glazing.
- The last 8 books you read included the words "exercise," "health," "workout," or "training" in the titles.
Fitness is important, but trying other things, like photography or travel, is invigorating and makes you more interesting. Finding balance is something we all have to work at.
7. You're Self-ImportantSome of us fitness freaks are so proud of what we've accomplished, we may come off as a little full of ourselves. We all need a pat on the back for our hard work, but forcing compliments can turn people off. Some things to avoid:
- Bragging - "I did 76 pull-ups today and I barely broke a sweat. Man, I am awesome!"
- Showing Off - At every party, you challenge everyone to a one-arm pushup contest.
- You Repeat Yourself - You always tell the same story about how you wrestled a grizzly bear into submission with your own strength.
Toning it Down
There's nothing wrong with being proud of our accomplishments and telling others about them but, sometimes, actions speak louder than words. Being healthy, strong and confident shows who you really are.
8. You May Be Insensitive"You'd be beautiful if you lost weight - You have such a pretty face!" We've all heard that cliche, and fitness freaks can be just as insensitive sometimes by:
- Oversimplifying - It's not helpful to say, "Why don't you just eat less?" to a person struggling with the scale.
- Condescending - Saying, "You can't keep up? You really should work on your endurance," to your friend will not inspire more workouts.
- Dismissive - If you get what you consider a silly question ("How do I use a treadmill?"), dismissing it ("What? Everyone knows how to use a treadmill!") ensures they won't ask another one.
We fitness freaks forget what it's like to be a beginner. Remembering our own struggles can help us empathize and give encouragement when needed.
9. You're IntimidatingMany fitness freaks have been exercising for so long, we forget that other people don't have the same knowledge or the same stamina we do. That may creep into the advice we give, sometimes without us realizing it:
- "I think you'll burn the most calories doing a 90-minute spin class. I do it three times a week, along with my marathon training, and it rocks!"
- "My favorite exercise is handstand pushups - they really work your shoulders!"
- My workout schedule?" (Checking your watch) "How long do you have?"
it's great that people come to us for advice, but we don't always know what other people can handle. Remind advice-seekers that they may need different workouts when they're just starting out and that what you do may not work for them.
10. You're YouSometimes you annoy others simply by being the healthy, fit person you are. It can be hard being around someone who has it all figured out and your very presence may remind them of that fact. There are some people who will be annoyed no matter what you do but, if there's someone who constantly picks on you because you're a health nut, you may feel like you have to defend your position.
Remember that being healthy, fit and strong isn't something to apologize for. If you're engaging in some of the behaviors listed above, you may have some things to work on. However, if you're simply living your life the way you like and you feel good about yourself, then that's what matters. Keep up the great work!