Fitness Anxiety: Are Other People Better at Weight Loss?

Do you ever look into the mirror and think if you’re enough? You know, if other people are working out more than you, or are losing more weight than you. You’re so busy looking at other people that your own health and workout goals can seemingly go unnoticed in a sea of potential bad judgments and self-doubt.


This article will review the facts on how other people are not necessarily better than you and why this anxiety is actually counterproductive to reaching your full health/fitness potential. The term “fitness anxiety” was originally coined by Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of social medicine at Boston University. To paraphrase what he wrote in the article: new research suggests that people who are obsessed with others’ lives and aims are less likely to work out themselves.




Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study found that people who are obsessed with other people’s health are less likely to work out themselves. LiveScience explains, “People who perceive other adults as more fit and healthy are about half as likely to engage in leisure time physical activity than those who believe they are about as fit and healthy as others.”


The first part of this report seems to strike some truth from all observations over the years. This could explain why we’ve seen many friends give up their weight loss goals because they were seeing how others were achieving them. Now, we’re not saying that you are less fit, healthy or even that if you don’t achieve your goals that it’s your fault. What we’re saying is that you will never actually know if you are enough unless you have a health, fitness or weight loss goal to work towards.

You can’t see yourself from the outside, that’s the folly of human nature.  As long as another person is achieving what you want, you’re always going to feel that you’re behind in life as compared to your family, friends and colleagues. We put this obsession with health and our own goals down to other people’s lifestyle and manners being our barometer for success.


The article continues:


Every day, we’re barraged with news reports and television shows about other people’s life, their fit bodies and nutritious diets. We may think they are more fit and healthy than we think we are. According to the study, this perception can lead to feelings of sadness, isolation, guilt and anxiety. For example, if you see someone at the gym working out six days a week while you only work out three times a week, you might feel sad that you’re not meeting your own standards for yourself. You might also feel isolated because you believe that other people are more fit than you even though they may be just normal adults who are much like other people.


Furthermore, you might feel guilty because you think you’re not meeting your health goals and that you should be better off than others (or even just as good). Lastly, if you’re obsessed with others’ habits and diets , it can lead to feelings of anxiety because of comparing yourself.


If this is in fact true, then we are creating an entire generation of “fitness” anxious individuals who may only succeed by comparison. This is a pretty scary outlook and one that we should definitely avoid.


The Solution to Fitness Anxiety:


  1. Stop comparing yourself to other people and their success. You’ll never know if you are enough until you set a goal for yourself and begin working towards it.


  1. Focus on your true goals, not the person beside you or someone you know who is “doing it better” than you.


  1. If social media is a source of anxiety for you, then limit the amount of time you spend looking at it or simply avoid it completely (at least during your health/fitness time). Weight loss is a mindset, and is something that you should be doing just for YOU. 


  1. If your anxiety is brought on from friends that have different habits and health/fitness goals than you, respectfully decline the invitation to do things besides your usual routine (if it’s a repeated problem). Don’t socialize with unhealthy individuals, or people who take away your energy,  if you want to be healthy.


  1. Realize that we are all individuals and you don’t have to look like the person next to you or even the person on TV. Social media makes it seem like everyone else’s life is better than yours but in reality, they are just projecting what they want out of life and not necessarily what they actually have.


Hence, in conclusion, stop comparing yourself to others. You keep hearing this everywhere, but why should you actually do it? Because no one can see who you truly are underneath your outside appearance. You’ll never know if you are enough until you set a goal for yourself and begin working towards it. And fun fact: you only need to be “enough” for yourself. If your healthy lifestyle and nutrition goals are more personal than others, not just like everyone else’s, then just embrace your life and do what YOU want to do.


If you’re more interested in helping others succeed than being fit yourself, then by all means help them out but don’t allow that to be your barometer for success. Simply put, fitness/health anxiety can be counterproductive when the person experiencing it is someone who has no health, fitness or weight loss goals of their own. So find a healthy means of meeting your goals that won’t cause you anxiety because in the end, other people will still get there and achieve their own personal health goals before you do.


What’s your fitness anxiety like? Are you able to set your goals and move past those who are on the same path as you towards a goal or do you constantly compare yourself to others? Take out some time for personal self reflection and growth as you think about this. 


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