I’ve been thinking a lot about giving people advice and sharing the knowledge I’ve gained about health and fitness. There’s a very fine line between sharing information and giving unsolicited advice, which is worrisome for me. I don’t want to become one of those annoying people who tells people how they should manage their own body.
In the grand scheme of things, I don’t care what you do with your body and I’m not going to police your decisions or actions relating to your body. I think Emmily Bristol put it best in a post she wrote about body shaming last year (for the record, it’s a very interesting and thought-provoking piece – worth the long read):
In all honesty, I give zero fucks what anyone else does as far as exercising, dieting, nutrition, whathaveyou. That’s your business. And whatever you do has absolutely no effect on me as a person. What you have for lunch or how you spend your time is just that — yours.
This doesn’t mean that I won’t express my opinion, but I will try to respect other people’s decisions. As an example, a friend once mentioned that she wanted to try juicing. I tried to balance my opinion, support for her ability to make her own choices and being respectful:
For the record, there’s not a lot of good science behind juicing and most certified nutritionists will tell you just to eat the food you’re juicing so that you get the nutrients and the fiber. That said, you gotta do you. I know a few people who love juicing because they love smoothies and such, so they use it to supplement.
For her, it came down to her disliking most veggies and wanting to find an alternative that would work for her. She knows her limits and needs, and she’s exploring options to help increase her over all health. Am I going to start bombarding her with information or options for increasing veggie intake? No. She didn’t ask me to, so I’m going to let her do her own thing. Just because I’m not a supporter of the juicing industry and would rather just eat the fruits and veggies doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a right to find options that work for her. And, just because juicing is a popular fad doesn’t mean that she hasn’t done enough research to know what benefits juicing may or may not have.
Ditto for all the people I know who use Weight Watchers. Because I care about their well being, I will mention that some nutrition/obesity experts disagree with some of the tools and methods WW uses, but I’m not going to stop them. If they want to know more, I will tell them, but if WW is working for them, I will be supportive.
Where does this all come from? Two things:
- Basic politeness.
- I’ve been there.
I have had my fair share of friends and relatives trying to encourage me to do something that they think is in my best interest. I’ve had people try to push me, shame me, and even bribe me into a healthier lifestyle. Did it help? No. It just left me feeling like a failure that they’d never love or respect because I couldn’t stick to their program/ideas. All I ever needed was for someone to listen and try to help me find out why I was over eating (loneliness, boredom, etc.) or why what I was trying wasn’t working for me. The people who helped the most were the people who shared information and advice, but still respected my opinions and personal limitations (real or imagined). To this day (at nearly forty), I dread the idea of running into certain people because I expect them to start making comments about my weight and making assumptions about what I must be doing wrong. And, I don’t want to be that person.
Yes, I’ve learned a lot and will continue to learn more as I pick through information online and in books. No, I’m not an expert in the field, but I understand that science is dynamic and I practice critical thinking. This is why I share and why I try to share in a way that’s not too preachy. There’s so much misinformation out there and even more bad ideas based on what appears to be, but isn’t, science and research. I may be one tiny voice that only a handful of people hear, but if I’m helping even one person, that’s enough for me.