In order to achieve anything in life, especially fitness goals, you need to have a good support network. It’s only when you go through change do you realise who is truly there to support you.
As a trainer, it’s very interesting to watch people embark on strength and fitness goals, only to have spouses, friends and co workers try and sabotage their efforts. These people are what you call ‘toxic’.
I touched on the topic of toxic people in this edition of strong and lean titled Be Ruthless but it needs a little more exploration. I first stumbled upon this info reading from Coach Chris Shugart years ago. He refers to these types of toxic people as The Saboteur. There is a good chance you’ve met a few. I see them all the time
The Saboteur is out to sabotage your training and diet program. He or she can do this overtly or covertly, and through physical or emotional manipulations. Here are some examples:
- Co workers or family members who know you’re not eating gluten but offer you the bread at dinner saying you should “live a little”
- A friend drops seemingly casual but negative comments about your goals:
- “Yeah, you’ve lost some fat but you ain’t exactly Brad Pitt in Fight Club!”
- “Yeah you’ve lost weight but there’s this girl I know who did it faster”
- “Sure, you’re getting big, but all that muscle will just turn to fat when you get older.
- A co worker who leaves the lolly jar on your desk when you’re out. (I actually had a client have this happen to them!) This office saboteur has been known to wave croissants in your face in a “joking” manner. He or she may also refer to you as a “health nut” or “fanatic.”
- Your spouse complains you are eating too much protein or “why do you take all those pills, you’re going to turn into a fish”
Parents can be the worst.
I had one client who after 2 weeks lost 4kg and 3% bodyfat, her mother said to her “you’ll always be my little chubba”…Talk about a demotivator!
Why do they do it? Sometimes its a conscious thing and sometimes its an unconscious thing. People sometimes don’t know they are saying or doing shitty things to you. Some people flat out do! It can be done out of hatred or competition, but the usual culprits are plain old jealously and fear.
You DOING something about your health and fitness reminds them they are NOT doing anything about theirs. Especially when you get results. And it makes THEM feel bad as you’re a constant reminder that they are not working as hard as you are.
Your results shine a light on what they already know and that is, they themselves wish they could get your results but are too lazy or don’t have the discipline to do anything about it. Your results, success and happiness make toxic people feel bad. So in turn they try and make you feel bad to make themselves feel better.
It’s boring, it’s lame, but it shows you who is truly in your corner.
Human behaviour is strange sometimes huh?
How to Deal With Toxic People
Chris Shugart writes a few things to keep in mind regarding the Saboteur:
#1: Watch for poisonous patterns.
Not everyone who offers you a slice of pizza or suggests you skip a workout is a saboteur. What you’re looking for here are consistent patterns of behavior. How often does the person do this? How many different ways does the person try to do it?
#2: There are no “casual” negative comments.
If someone regularly makes nasty remarks, even in a joking manner, they could be a saboteur. Remember, saboteurs can be awfully subtle and polite about derailing your progress. They employ the “death by a thousand cuts” technique. And their tongues are wicked sharp. The closer the person is to you (Spouse or parent), the deeper the cuts.
#3: The Saboteur is the one with the problem.
It’s easy to take these attacks personally, but you shouldn’t. The Saboteur is the one with the “issues,” not you. Their insecurity, jealously, and self-loathing are forced on you because you represent the opposite. Even though you don’t mean it, you’re a symbol of their failings and shortcomings.
#4: The Saboteur is seldom seen by you as an “enemy.”
Although they can be, the actions of a saboteur are seldom overt. And the saboteur himself is seldom a person who obviously has it in for you. The most prevalent saboteurs come from within your own family and close circle of friends.
#5: Sabotage often comes disguised as concern, a favor, or a nice gesture.
Co workers that say you’re too skinny or you’re anorexic when clearly you are not is a good example. They often say they are just joking but you’re climbing out of the box they put you in and they are uncomfortable with it.
#6: Dealing with the Saboteur: A co-worker can usually be ignored. Once you learn to recognize and interpret these attempts at sabotage, you can see them for what they often are: a sign that you’re accomplishing something. Take it as a compliment. Eat it up and thrive on it. When dealing with close friends and family members I find direct is best:
- “Why are you offering me a biscuit when you know I’m dieting down for summer?”
- “Why do you try to keep me from going to the gym? This means a lot to me and you’re making it harder for me. Can you please support me in my efforts”
This is especially effective when the Saboteur doesn’t even realize what he or she is doing. Remember, these are often delusional people wrapped in a security blanket of defense mechanisms, and a reality check is just what they need. It’ll be very difficult for them to continue with their sabotaging ways after you point out what they’re doing.
#7: Sometimes the “saboteur” isn’t.
This is an important caveat. A 35kg bulimic whose hair is falling out because of malnutrition will often attack those trying to help her. In her muddled mind, they’re just out to sabotage her. The 17-year old juicer may be convinced that the people telling him he’s too young to use steroids are just jealous. These are obviously not cases of sabotage. So, you have to be careful when labeling someone a Saboteur. You might be the one in the wrong.
My advice to clients now is to NOT tell other people they are changing their lifestyle for the very reason toxic people can come out from under the bed too quickly. Getting some quick noticeable results is easier when no one is watching you like a hawk, trying to commentate on everything you do
It’s shit, humans can be arseholes, but be aware of those around you as some people may be consciously or unconsciously trying to halt your progress, and like I wrote about being RUTHLESS – don’t let anyone stand in the way of doing what makes you happy. You need to get rid of these people. Go after and defend what makes you happy……ruthlessly!
See you in the gym!13
Personal Training – Bondi Junction