How To Explain Fitness To Your Parents


Once upon a time, in a city just like yours or mine, there lived a young man named Ricky.

Smart, shy, and dorky; with great taste in fiction (house stark) and average taste in caffeine (red bull); Ricky was a good ‘ol authority-respecting boy.

There was one additional quality Ricky had always… carried around with him, you could say:

Ricky was “heavy set

Until one day… he wasn’t.

For six months Ricky labored in the gym four days per week and paid close attention to his nutrition.

His friends gave him praise.

The ladies paid more attention to him.

And his doctor was ecstatic at a recent physical exam.

But during his trip home, a 50 pound lighter Ricky was met with mixed emotion:

“Are you okay honey?? Your face looks a bit ill!


“You really aren’t going to have anymore pie, son? Your mother made your favorite!


“To me, it just seems, this whole ‘macros’ thing is dangerous, probably.

Ricky’s throat dried up during a what felt like a tirade of passive-aggressive comments over dinner.

In a stupor, the usually articulate Ricky fumbled over his words as he failed to coherently explain what exactly this fitness journey meant to him.

Though, I would imagine if Ricky had time, caffeine, and a quiet place to organize his thoughts, this is what he would have said:

Mom and Dad,

First, I appreciate the fact that you guys care!


Seriously, I know that’s what this is, that you are concerned about me.


And unsure of odd phrases like “sumo deadlifts” and “macro counting.”


Different can be scary, but different doesn’t automatically mean bad.


So, let’s start here.


Macros are macronutrients.


They exist in all food sources, and we all eat them every single day.


Right now, I track them. Sometimes with a food scale. Sometimes without one. Sometimes I ask you the % on our ground beef, and sometimes I ask our waiter to put the dressing on the side.


I probably won’t track forever, but it is teaching me a strategy that allows me to eat some foods I really enjoy while still getting leaner, stronger, and healthier.


You will see me eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. And I eat some desserts from time to time.


By the way… about that apple pie, mom. Of course I wanted three slices!


I assure you my irregular pie consumption was no testament to your baking.


This is actually a pretty good video explaining the nutrition philosophy I’m following.


Next, let’s talk about workouts.


To be honest, it bothers me when you guys try to guilt trip out of a gym trip so I can “spend more time with the family.”


We are talking about 60 minutes out of 16 waking hours – only four days per week.


There are plenty of hours in the day for us to hang out.


No, I’m not “obsessing”


And yes, I am fully aware this is vacation.


I legitimately feel better on days I exercise compared to days I miss workouts!


Though, it really does mean a lot that you love me so much you want me around all the time!


Lastly, I want to touch on something a bit weirder than nutrition and workouts.


Part of you may be concerned that this fitness journey is being motivated from feelings of inadequacy or another not-so-great place… you aren’t wrong!

Do I like looking leaner? Yes. Do I enjoy having a bit more definition? Yes.


But let me remind you of two things… first, if a twinkle of vanity exists in my motivation but the outcome is fantastic bloodwork and extended lifespan, was the vanity all that bad?


And second, you didn’t raise me wrong or not pay enough attention to me. Ha! As all this “fitness stuff” becomes even more mainstream in the next 10-20 years, you will see that I’m not as crazy as you think.


Now, I know 12% body fat looks very different than 35%.


My face is much leaner than it has ever been, and you aren’t used to me looking like this!


But I promise, there is nothing unhealthy about the rate or amount of weight I have lost…


I guess what I need from you is this: I need you to trust me.


I need you to trust that you instilled enough common sense, character, and patience in me that I am not doing anything dumb or dangerous.


I’m not taking shady supplements or endlessly obsessing about my body.




And don’t worry… when my lean bulk rolls around, I will have plenty of calories for mountains of dessert!






A lot of my writing stems from personal experience. This post does not.

My parents never really questioned me or doubted my ability to manage my fitness game.

But after receiving too many emails from you guys, I know it’s something many are struggling with. I hope this helps.


Comments for This Entry

  • Glendon

    haha dealing with this exact issue at the moment. Have my Mum visiting (seeing me) for the first time since march 2015 and she won't stop trying to make me eat or look at me like I have an eating disorder.

    July 4, 2016 at 8:33 am | Reply to this comment

  • Lisa

    This is wonderful Mike. Sometimes I find that I have to say these things to myself, only I'm on the weight/muscle gain side of things, because I sometimes wonder if I'm being obsessive. I know I'm not, it's just new and challenging at this phase and will get easier. Thanks. <3

    July 5, 2016 at 10:10 am | Reply to this comment

  • Andrew

    I think its crazy how many people give you a hard time for getting skinny and healthy. Don't know if it helps them justify their unhealthy habits, but it blows my mind. We should be happy when someone hits their goals.

    July 5, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Matt McLeod

    "Ricky" hahahaha love the name! ;) and loved the article. Shared brotha.

    July 5, 2016 at 5:44 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mimi

    Well, for anyone who has come home from military basic training leaner and looking better than ever, most parents are just happy. But when the improvement comes from something you're working at, yourself, some families are really sicko. They have all sorts of hidden reasons why they don't want change! They want you fat, placid, easily manipulated. They want you home so they can push you around and not work on their own marriage. [I was scapegoated and kept my parents together while they found every fault they could possibly imagine in me while ignoring my nice little brother! It was the dinner hour from hell!] Kids still in high school who live with slobby physical examples might seek support from a coach, physician or counselor. Parents can be jealous of their own kids., as can same-sex friends. And the "old folks at home" in ghetto neighborhoods may criticize someone who has had any success. Indeed, some of us sabotage ourselves. Our little rocket ships have a lot of gravity to pull against! Speaking as a female, this is not about "getting skinny" [giggle, giggle] or becoming a fashion model. It's about wellness and becoming the best we can. Macros are a bit new. If parents can't wrap their brains around it, then they need to trust.

    July 5, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Reply to this comment

  • John

    A great way to attack an age old problem Mike. I loved the story. But it is also very tells why so many baby boomers suffer from lifestyle diseases because they are just sitting; resting and rusting. I have some active ageing clients who are afraid to tell their friends they go to a personal trainer for fear of what they will say. I would love some ideas on how this type of mindset could be reversed. You would think the penny would drop when statistics show 90% of people over 60 are on some form of medication with the larger percentage of these being caused by some form of lifestyle disease that is easily preventable. Cheers - John (the active ageing activist).

    July 5, 2016 at 8:46 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Niccole

    Thanks again Mike! My mom is more on the side of : you're at the gym all the time and you eat healthy but you're still fat! You should try the medical diet (keto). To her, a 40 lb loss isn't important. She expects me to lose 100 lbs in a few weeks. SMH! The truth is, I can care less what she thinks. I am not doing this to get skinny, but to lose fat and get healthy. However, I'm going to try this approach... maybe if I explain fitness to her, she'll get a better understanding.

    July 5, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Barbara

    I am obviously not those parents. My daughter teaches me and I have always been totally supportive of her food and fitness regimens. Since she was in university she has carted around bottles and containers of her own foods in unusual combinations. She is teased by her fellow athletes but they cannot deny her health and fitness levels, or her charisma and joi de vivre. I wish I had been as health and food conscious when i was her age, it is too late for me but I eat healthy now. Right now she and I are working on macros although she has it all figured out and I think I have been doing it (more or less) for awhile using different words. I have struggled with my weight all my life and see my kids with their very healthy ways never developing my problems. That is success in my books and I won't nag them about what works for them so well.

    July 5, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Reply to this comment

  • John

    My parents are still like this.....and I'm a middle aged man! They'll always treat me as a child!

    July 6, 2016 at 4:30 am | Reply to this comment

  • Rose

    I think it's a gift to have parents that are worried to see you suddenly change your body and your eating habits. I've seen a few friends start out well and then go into eating disorders before their parents realised what was happening; never take a family's love for granted, please.

    July 6, 2016 at 5:05 am | Reply to this comment

    • Mike Author

      I wholeheartedly agree, Rose. And I considered putting that caveat in this piece. Because there are situations where fitness IS an obsession and IS a problem. However, what I have come to realize coaching clients, is that what you are describing is the exception rather than the rule. For every one girl who was already too thin and wanting to get thinner, I have seen hundreds of instances of the opposite - an individual loses 30 pounds the right way and because that person behaves "differently" than they used to, it comes with all kinds of guilt/negative comments.

      July 6, 2016 at 8:02 am | Reply to this comment

  • Albi

    I thought this post was gonna be about getting my parents to start working out. But I definitely have gotten the concern over my lean looking face in the past. It probably did have some kind of subconscious effect on me, but I did brush it off verbally.

    July 7, 2016 at 11:38 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jess Robertson

    I LOVED this article Mike! It just said everything that you'd want to say if you weren't being inadvertently guilt tripped into doubting yourself and your reasoning, without all the haze. I'm only 21, but counting macros and training hard has brought me to being the healthiest of body AND mind I have ever been. I've never been happier, and this article brings all that across in a way that's easily understood, and not a bunch of garbled nonsense- or worse- an overly detailed and complex explanation that just leads to more misunderstandings and doubt.

    July 11, 2016 at 4:50 am | Reply to this comment

  • Marie

    I love this post! My mom thinks my kidneys are going to shut down from my protein consumption. I seriously have not felt this good in years! She also thinks I should limit my carb intake to 15-20 carbs a day...which is crazy and that I shouldn't lift weights because Im going to turn into Hulk. I have been lifting for 5-6 years and yet to have turned into the Hulk. I just havent been eating right until I found OTR. I have had to push through so much of the judgment of people and my diet. Thank you for everything you post.

    July 12, 2016 at 11:08 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Justin Gordon

    Mike, this was awesome! I've always enjoyed the story-telling nature of your posts and what you're doing in the fitness world. While I don't have the same situation as this story with my parents I have seen this with clients of mine in the past. It can be a struggle. Thanks for writing good stuff man!

    August 10, 2016 at 8:12 am | Reply to this comment

  • Daniel Sempere Pico

    This is gold, Mike. Good stuff and thanks for your writing. It's great as this could be also be applied to any time that someone is skeptical about you trying something different.

    August 19, 2016 at 12:13 am | Reply to this comment

  • Luke Cafferty

    Haha! I like the uniqueness of this post and I'm sure it's very relatable for a lot of people. Anytime I get noticeably leaner friends and family would say how I'm getting very skinny and need to eat!

    September 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Reply to this comment

  • DJ Duve

    This is awesome. I personally went from 22% body fat to 7.5%. My mom just made me two appointments this week. One for annorexia and another for depression. Sent this article to her and thankfully she cancelled both. I can't fault her for caring.. but understanding advancements in nutrition is something I want to help her with. Any good ideas on how to do this?

    May 2, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Annie Jones

    So interesting Mike. but all I need to do is to tell my mom "Mon, your husband does not like a fatty wife" and so does my husband.

    May 8, 2017 at 12:10 am | Reply to this comment

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