Friday, December 4, 2009

Emotional Battle Series: Battle #3: Managing the Emotions of Feeling like You Don’t Fit In

I think that a big desire we as humans have is to feel like we fit in with the world around us. It is in our nature to be social by forming relationships with others and ultimately grouping together to form smaller communities within our society structures. So what happens when you make a lot of changes to better your health and you begin to feel like you no longer fit into the community and the larger society structure around you?

This is one of those battles that I think probably derails a lot of us from the quest to better health and that is the reason that I think it is so important that it gets talked about. I think that this struggle happens because, like it or not, we as a society have trouble accepting and embracing people who are different than ourselves. For the purpose of this discussion when I refer to society I’m generally talking about the society of the United States, however some of this I think is global. From my observations, we are quick to ostracize those who are different and because of this we relay a message that being a true individual is not in your best interest. This can be seen clearly in all kinds of ways in our society through things like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. I don’t think there is one person out there that hasn’t at one time or another felt like they . didn’t fit because of how others have reacted to things that made us different. I have much more I could say on this but I want to move forward.

On my journey, I have struggled with the emotions that come with feeling like I don’t fit in anymore because of the changes I have made to better my health. After several months into my journey, I started to feel like my new behaviors, thoughts about health, and my new lifestyle were so different from those around me. It has been one of those battles that is one I am still developing skills of coping with it but I feel like I have gotten much better at managing it as time has progressed.  Below are 4 lessons that have been key when it comes to me managing these feelings.

Lesson # 1: My feelings aren’t always the best predictor of reality.

Ok, so I hate to say it but sometimes reality and my feelings can be polar opposites. I’m not saying I’m crazy because it happens to all of us sometimes. Think about it for a moment…how many times have you felt like something was impossible but were able to do it? How often have you swore up and down you would never get over your feelings of hurt and loss when something goes wrong only to see months later that you are totally over it? How often have you sworn someone did something with malicious intent just to hurt you just to see later that it had nothing to do with you? Well when it comes to feeling like I wasn’t fitting in because of all the changes to my health sometimes it’s been my feelings not matching reality. I was fitting in, I just was overly focused on worrying about what others were thinking about my choices.

Lesson #2: It’s cool to not be normal when it comes to my approach to health

So it took some time for this one to sink in. I realized that what is classified as “normal” when it comes to approaching health in the United States is not an approach that leads to good health. The Standard American Diet (SAD….it sure is sad if you ask me) seems to be leading to all kinds of increases of poor health diseases and conditions. The lack of regular physical activity that also seems to be normal also doesn’t support good health either. Add in what is viewed as normal for sleep, stress management, and other factors that affect health and I am proud to say I’m not normal!

Lesson #3: Not everyone has my best interests in mind
In the beginning when I would get feedback about my new way of life it would totally throw me for a loop. When I would get feedback that seemed to be negative about my new choices I would feel like I was not fitting in. People have encouraged me to indulge in unhealthy foods, have called me too healthy, have made comments that I shouldn’t loose any more weight, have accused me of having food issues, called me boring because I go to bed at a decent hour, and many other similar comments. Took me a long time to realize but I started to see that most of these comments have been made because of the other person’s own guilt about their own choices. For example, several of those who made the comment I shouldn’t loose anymore weight are those who are overweight themselves.

Lesson #4: Those who really matter are those who accept my healthy lifestyle

During my journey I started dating again after having been in a long term relationship for several years. Boy, was that a whole experience in itself which I will post about at another time but I wanted to point out something I learned during those dating experiences that relates here. I dated several women who struggled with my healthy lifestyle. My healthy lifestyle was one thing I wasn’t open to negotiating. I recognized that once they couldn’t accept it or it was triggering their own issues with their health choices that our relationship was not going to progress.  It was realizing those relationships weren’t going to work that I recognized that those who really matter in my life are ones who accept my healthy lifestyle. Luckily, about a year I met someone who does accept my healthy lifestyle, and we have been together ever since.

Well I will leave you with the following question:
Do you ever feel like your healthy lifestyle triggers feelings of not fitting in and if so how do you manage it?

Quote of the Day:
“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?” ~ Fanny Brice


  1. Hi Erica!
    I'm new to your blog- but find your posts to be very truth-filled, and inspiring.
    I have had some of the same experiences you have listed here- people telling me that I should indulge in unhealthy foods "live a little!" and encouraging me to stop trying to become more fit -"you look great as you are!". And your right, many of these people are overwieght themselves. But, I have found that more often than not, people have the desire to be healthy, but don't know where to start, or think its too hard to do- and when they see me trying to be healthy, they begin to ask questions.
    Thanks for the post- definately something to consider as we all strive to be healthier people!(visit my blog if you have a momement too- I would love to hear your insights as someone who is training to be a personal trainer!)

  2. Great post!

    Boy, I feel like my healthy lifestyle is actually frowned upon sometimes. Truly. Sometimes I feel like people consider me some "health Nazi" who is against all things good. I can't stand that image. People assume because I eat healthy, and preach health and wellness, that I am against anything that is "good" or even remotely "sinful". It's so far from the truth. It's crazy.

    Lesson number 3 is one that I totally relate to. IT's crazy how that works.

  3. I used to spend a lot of time with a small group of women that I had known since college. Our socializing usually took place at restaurants. Whenever I ordered vegetables instead of fries, invariably one of them would make some comment. It got irritating. Eventually I stopped contacting them all together. I didn't comment on their bad habits, why should they comment on my good habits?

    I still see all of these women from time to time. Each one of them is now severely overweight. It pains me to see their struggles.

  4. Great post!

    Yes, there are times where I feel "singled out" because of my healthy habits. Like when others are eating junk and I abstain, jokes are made. Ummm....what's so funny about treating my body right?

    I think people assume if you're trying to eat healthy that you're only trying to lose weight. I've gotten comments like, "You can eat it, you don't need to lose anymore weight." The concept of lifestlye changes vs. diets is so foreign to people.