Comments and Kindness: Loving My Body (And Yours)

The problem with social media (that I knowingly accept) is that sometimes opinions from people you’d normally ignore get thrust right into your face.

the struggle was real.

the struggle was real.

So, I was looking at the photo (right) that my boyfriend posted of me last night. After some joking, wespontaneously splurged on a giant, ridiculous sundae to share while out to dinner (surprisingly well priced!) between the two of us. Obviously, we didn’t finish it, but it was pretty darn good and a rare indulgence that made us laugh. We looked at the series of the two photos next two each other and laughed even harder.

The next  morning, there was a comment that the sundae was loaded with “unwanted calories,” (my reaction) and that I should “try a kale salad instead” to feel better.

Oh.

Now, sure. Eating healthy is really important, and I don’t dispute the claim– eating healthy really will make you feel better over time. I eat pretty healthy. I love kale, I drink green smoothies (my 9th graders often comment on my “salad drink”), and if you know me at all you probably know that I like working out a lot.

Still, something about the message really annoyed me. While there’s always room for improvement, I think I’m in pretty good shape. Also, what’s wrong with indulging sometimes? Nearly any dietician or nutritionist will tell you that the occasional indulgence is part of a balanced life. While it’s important to be healthy, life is short, so I firmly believe that we should enjoy it. Sometimes that means going nuts on a giant sundae on a random Wednesday.

Why did this bother me so much? I don’t know this person. Their opinion doesn’t matter to me. I have every rational reason to ignore it.

Then, it hit me: despite all my reasoning, the comment still made me feel bad about myself. I felt guilty for eating the sundae. I took a little longer in the mirror this morning and asking if I looked okay. Like a lot of runners and (unfortunately) women, I can be a little neurotic about my weight and body. This post only made me think about that more. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten the sundae. Maybe I should’ve said no.

And some of that is on me. Guilt is a choice we make. Disliking yourself is a choice. I know I can (and hopefully will) brush off these comments. I was mad at myself for not living up to my own standards of loving your body and, frankly, brushing off the negativity.

This is where I think empathy is such an essential thing– both for me towards this commenter and for whoever makes the comment. I don’t doubt they had decent intentions in saying this. Or maybe they don’t think it’s a big deal. So I want to let it go.

It points out something that I think we struggle with in the fitness community though. There’s a trainer I love at my gym  who prefaces much of his advice (when asked) with this (paraphrased): I don’t know everything and you can do whatever you want. When you get to be good at something, you want to start sharing that with other people. You get excited and hyped and when you see something that you feel you know about, you want to share that knowledge. I get it, and sometimes do it too. But unless I were someone’s specific doctor, nutritionist, coach, or they asked for advice, telling someone how to live should probably stay off-limits. We don’t know what that other person is dealing with, how much progress they’ve made so far, previous medical history or frankly what they need. I can give my best guess on, let’s say, running advice based on years of anecdotal evidence, but fitness and how to “be fit” is a relative benchmark and  topic that is still hotly debated, even amongst people who ARE experts.

Finally, it reminded me that we should be thoughtful about the things we say to other people, and it’s even harder to do online. It’s easy to quickly and breezily type and post a comment and not think how it will affect the other person– we don’t see their face or their immediate reaction to it. Even with good intentions, it’s hard to read what a person will be willing or is able to hear if you’re not in front of them. So, even if you meant it to be helpful, you may end up doing more harm than good.

So, all I will do is smile, and not beat myself too much about the sundae I had or the way I feel after. I spend much of my life thinking about calories, fitness, running, and body fat percentage, and appreciate the break to just enjoy an indulgent thing with someone I love. Instead, I’ll just focus on how much the evening made me laugh, and how blessed I am to have so much love in the world.

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