We all do it. It’s a part of our nature to compare. At times, it’s even smart to compare and to compete. But when it comes to your body weight, muscle size, weight loss numbers and other physical abilities, it may be dangerous to your mental health to compare yourself to somebody else.
I’ve heard many people say that they’re not losing as much fat weight as their friend or family member who’s on the same diet plan. Then they get discouraged. Different body types with different lean body weight (non-fat weight) amounts are usually one of the reasons why one person loses quicker than another person. Maybe that person losing more fat weight has more muscle and a higher metabolism. Maybe that other person’s activities in their day involve strengthening exercises.
You could be making progress with your diet plan, exercise and weight loss but you’re frustrated and discouraged because you’re living life looking through comparison glasses. Our society promotes unrealistic and unreasonable comparisons through TV, internet and social media. I imagine even the best looking people on these types of media have a body part they aren’t happy with. We never see that side of the story. When you’re feeling that compulsion to compare, take a mindful moment to be thankful for your progress towards meeting the goals you made for yourself, even if that progress is small.
When we continually compare ourselves to others, we can begin to feel that we’re not strong enough, fast enough or just good enough. According to Sara Gilman, Psy.D., a psychotherapist who works with Olympic-level and elite athletes, comparison can lead to mental distraction that can throw off your game (or your diet and exercise plan for those of us that aren’t elite athletes). This can lead to loss of energy and motivation that can also negatively affect your relationships and create anxiety and self-doubt.
It’s time to start comparing yourself to you. Compare yourself to how well you were doing a few weeks, months or years ago. Keep your focus on self-improvement. Be aware of your thoughts and avoid going down the road of comparing unless that comparison gives you hope and inspiration.
Professional fitness trainers have to deal with the trap of comparisons daily as we try to live up to the image that society demands. The fitness trainers that survive for many years have learned how to believe in themselves without comparing to somebody else.
Here’s to you believing in yourself and living healthy. Keep at it!
Jonathan Souder is the Fitness Director at Manor House, an Acts Retirement-Life Community in Seaford, Delaware. This column appeared in the August 2, 2018 edition of the Seaford Star.