Fitness Naysayers: How to Cope with People Who Try to Bring You Down



Over the holidays, a few of my clients went home to visit extended family. One by one, they faced onslaughts of negative nonsense.

“Are you still working out? When are you going to stop that?”

“Why do you lift weights? You’re going to look like a man.”

“You’re not eating cookies? Don’t you want to celebrate Christmas?”

It makes my blood boil.

The ironic icing on my rage-cake? In most of these cases, the extended family members have their own issues with obesity and other weight-related health issues.

The truth is, one of your best guarantors of success while pursuing a fitness goal is to have friends and loved ones who support and encourage you on your journey. If you have that—people in your life who are relentlessly positive and make you feel great for your healthy choices—you can celebrate.

Unfortunately, you are in the minority.

Here’s a tough truth: Most people do not experience such support. Most people will have to overcome the opposite: saboteurs and naysayers. You can spot them, can’t you? The friends who say, “Come on, a couple beers won’t kill you.” The relatives who warn you that lifting weights will injure you or make you “too bulky.” The co-workers who tease you for packing a healthy, whole-food lunch instead of buying fast food.

Maybe they don’t realize the effect they have on you, but the result is the same: It makes pursuing your goal infinitely more difficult.

Here’s another tough truth: You’re not going to change those around you. But, luckily, you can change yourself and the way you cope with such negativity.

Here are some principles that will help you deal with the people who tell you—explicitly or otherwise—that you can’t reach your fitness goal.

1. You owe way more to yourself than to them.

Ask yourself, what do I owe the naysayers?

Take a moment and really think about it. Are these people going to help you raise your kids? Are they going to come over and shovel your driveway? Are they going to take care of your parents as they age? Are they going to make you feel attractive so you can enjoy your relationship with your spouse?

You want to get strong and healthy for your life.

What could possibly be at stake for them?

2. People who undermine your determination need you to fail.

People who make unhealthy lifestyle choices need to justify those decisions. So what does that have to do with you?

If you succeed, the naysayers might feel worse about themselves.

Your success is, in this way, dangerous to a naysayer’s worldview. They have convinced themselves that they categorically cannot be healthy or in shape. So why try? But if you succeed? You threaten their sense of reality by proving that it can be done.

You are a walking, talking, squatting-and-deadlifting refutation of their excuses.

3. Naysayers aren’t evil, they’re just insecure.

A great majority of the time, naysayers don’t even know the true reasoning behind their comments. Most people aren’t aware of their internal struggles, or that they’re fighting to preserve a comforting way of life.

Odds are, you’re a good person and want to minimize their suffering and insecurity. I don’t want to make my friends and coworkers feel bad about themselves, you might think.

Your peers, like you, are responsible for their actions and how they think about themselves. Just because insecurity is unearthing difficult feelings doesn’t mean you’re responsible for these feelings—or for mitigating them.

4. Remember the why behind your goal.

Fitness comes down to values, and the pursuit of a goal. Next time someone makes a snide or negative comment, ask yourself, why am I doing this?

If your answer is “health, strength, and a long life,” then soldier on!

Not everyone will support you.

Thankfully, you don’t need them to.


Marshall Roy is the owner of RISE gym in King of Prussia, a kettlebell and barbell studio offering personal training and group strength & conditioning classes. During his career he’s trained rugby players, triathletes, news anchors, Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters, middle-aged men and women, the obese, and even figure competitors. Learn more about what RISE has to offer at

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