It’s inevitable that shifting your lifestyle will invite questions and opinions from anyone and everyone, whether they have any business discussing it or not. Making positive changes can be difficult as it is, especially if you’re trying to undo decades-long habits, so it’s important to guide friends and family on how they can support you.
Not to be a Negative Nancy, but it’s more than likely gonna happen. I’ve noticed that people weirdly take offense to your new habits, as if it’s a judgement of their own habits. Even if you’ve said nothing about what they should or shouldn’t be doing, your new choices can really put the spotlight on their own insecurities. Keep in mind that this is their mindset issue, not yours to take on.
Ideally, friends and family will respect your decisions and you’ll avoid pushback and the peer pressure that comes along with it, but not all situations are perfect.
We can be teased, tempted, guilted—remember why you’re on your path and how you want to feel and stay firm. Depending on what it is, it’s okay to treat yourself when it’s intentional, but feel free to tell people to buzz off, too.
(By “depending on what it is” I mean, like, if you have Celiac, treating yourself with the gluten your friends are eating obviously won’t be okay. If you’re not avoiding something for medical reasons but are prone to emotional eating, intention is important to avoid the cycle of guilt!)
Avoid Giving Unsolicited Advice
That being said, do NOT tell people what they should or shouldn’t be doing. Not unless they explicitly ask for your opinion.
Making changes that support your health feels really good. Really, REALLY good. So much that we want to shout it from the rooftop and tell everyone all about it.
But some people don’t want to hear it, or aren’t ready to, and being self-righteous isn’t going to do anyone any favors. Most people know what they could be doing better, preaching to them won’t make them want to do it.
Also avoid receiving unsolicited advice or comments!
As a nutritionist, I constantly get unsolicited comments from friends and family about what we’re eating when we go out.
- “You must be getting the salad, har har harrrrrr.”
- “YOU’RE eating PIZZA? I’m going to tell Facebook!”
- “You must think I’m such a pig.”
- “Don’t look at my plate… it’s not healthy.”
- “I’m getting the nachos… don’t judge me.”
I literally could not care less what you’re eating (unless I want a bite) and I don’t want anyone commenting on what I’m eating either. You’ll probably feel this way, too. And if you’re the person saying these things, please stop.
These comments can also be triggering to those who are trying to get out of the diet mentality and make choices because they FEEL good not because it’s part of a diet. Especially when you do decide to forgo the salad and get the food they’re talking so much shit about, how bad does that make you feel??
I also have friends who constantly talk about their weight and how much they hate their bodies. It’s hard not to internalize that if you’re sensitive to it (like I am!) and you have to be clear that body talk isn’t wanted.
If you’re starting a journey of getting out of the diet cycle, or are struggling with body image, it’s important to take care of yourself first.
Explain If You Want To
You don’t owe anyone an explanation for the decisions you make with your health, but when it comes to your loved ones, I imagine you want them to know!
In reply to the comments above, you can make some boundaries and ask friends and family not to comment on food choices or bodies, yours or theirs. You are very welcome to let people know that those kinds of comments aren’t helpful or wanted, if you feel ready.
Hopefully you feel comfortable enough being vulnerable with these people to share a little bit about what you’re going through. You can divulge as little or as much as you want. Some examples:
- “I’m trying something new for my health.”
- “It doesn’t make me feel good.” (This works for me when I’m ordering gluten-free and get questioned… whether I want to explain that gluten makes my hair fall out is dependent on the company.)
- “I’d appreciate it you wouldn’t make comments about what we’re eating, I’m trying to have a more relaxed relationship with food and I’d rather not focus too much on it.”
- “You know what, I’m working on having a better relationship with my body and I wish I could support you on this right now but I’m focusing on my mental health around it.”
- “I’m not dieting anymore and don’t really want to talk about it.”
If you want to elaborate and explain the changes you’ve made, feel free, but remember to make “I” statements. Share how these changes have made you feel better or improved a symptom, and that’s why you’re doing it. It’s hard to argue with someone whose decisions make them feel awesome.
Ask For What You Need
For folks with dietary restrictions, like gluten-free or dairy-free diets, we often have to advocate for ourselves. People won’t always remember that you can’t eat certain things, so make sure to speak up, like when a restaurant they choose won’t work for you, for example (but be ready to offer alternatives!). If you’re going to someone’s home for dinner, let the host know what you need, and offer to bring a dish that works for you to help out.
When you can, be in charge of the plans! Find restaurants with menus that suit your needs as well as your friends’, host your own get-togethers, invite friends to go to a yoga class or out for tea instead of drinks, etc.
If you’re struggling to make this work with a partner who isn’t on board just yet, communication is really important. Be clear about your (remember, no preaching) needs, including your emotional needs, and share why it’s important to you. Also, this is a two-way street, so make sure to listen to their objections and try to figure out a good compromise.
Leading By Example
It can be hard when a partner or your friends aren’t on the same path as you, but it’s not your job to tell them what to do. The best thing you can do is just to keep doing what works best for you.
When we’re consistent with our decisions, the positive effects add up and people around you begin to see the changes. Quietly leading the way is a much better motivator for others than preaching to them. Some people may come around and start to ask you questions or join you for a class or in making a new recipe, some may not. Who cares! Keep doing what makes you feel good, that’s what’s most important.
Do you have any advice for sharing your new habits with friends and family? Share it in the comments below!
Very well said and well written! Excellent advice/suggestions. Thank you, Kristen.
Chris Byers says
Love this! Thank you for sharing!