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To make matters worse, one day a close friend told a group of girls was claiming I didn't look like any of my photographs on Facebook — that, in person, I was "fat." I was stunned and humiliated.
That hurt eventually pushed me in a life-changing direction. The gym became my stress reliever, and healthy food became my fuel. The excess pounds began to melt away as I began taking care of myself inside and out.
Once I shed the excess 40 pounds, building muscle became my goal. Soon my family and friends started to notice my lean, muscular appearance, and many congratulated me on my accomplishments. But, once again, I found myself dealing with ridiculous comments like, "Don't get too skinny" and "Don't get too big or look too manly."
These statements infuriated me. What gives anyone the right to tell me how I should build my body?
Even during the 15-week preparation for my first bodybuilding competition, I still faced body criticism. At that point in my life I finally felt empowered, and yet people couldn't help but body shame me in person and on social media. I received comments like "gross," "malnourished" and "manly" on my Instagram posts. My heart dropped a bit learning that complete strangers would take the time to write such hurtful comments.
No matter how dedicated I was to working out and eating healthy, there was always someone who didn't approve of my body. At every stage in my life and my fitness journey — overweight, a healthy weight, shredded and competition-ready — I've had critics. Do you know what that's taught me? People who body shame don't discriminate.
At first, I questioned if I'd ever be good enough? But this line of questioning drove me crazy, until one day I realized that I love my body no matter what size I am. And that's what truly matters.
Not all haters are created equal, and the way you react each time doesn't need to be the same, either. You have the right to deflect their negativity and insecurities.
Here are five ways I deal with insincere people:
1. Turn Their Hate Into Your Power
When you read, hear or think about hurtful comments you've gotten about your body, use it as an opportunity to rise above and make yourself stronger. Lashing out and continuing the cycle of hurt won't get you anywhere, but seeing you continue to live your life and love your body can inspire those around you — both in person and online.
2. Use Their Ignorance to Educate
Going through my body transformations, I realized a lot of people don't believe in women being competent in the gym. Sharing my bodybuilding journey has opened the eyes of my family, friends and social media followers. Letting people into my world and sharing the knowledge I've obtained in this industry has become a passion of mine, proving that women are a strong part of the fitness world.
Read more: 24 Celebs' Great Responses to Body Shaming
3. Respond With Assertiveness
There's only so much one can take when being pushed around. Being assertive enables you to stand up for yourself and express your feelings in a respectful way. Plus, knowing you stood up for yourself does wonders for your self-confidence. You're worth fighting for!
4. Take the High Road
Choosing the silent treatment for some out-of-line comments can prove you're above the drama. Regardless of how much you want to go off on someone, the more you ignore them the less likely they are to attack you because they aren't getting the response out of you that they want. You've heard it before, but I'll say it again: Sometimes you just have to be the bigger person.
5. Be Comfortable and Own Who You Are
Treat yourself with compassion, and never lower your standards to someone else's level. Never let someone's comments define you. Know their words are often a distraction from their own insecurities. Do what you do for yourself, and never look for approval. Forget the negativity, and always focus on the positive things in life. Remember — good vibes only!
Read more: 9 Self-Love Tips That Won't Make You Roll Your Eyes