Navigating the social aspect of your healthy lifestyle
Congratulations! You’ve decided to make some healthy changes to your lifestyle. You may be tempted to keep this decision to yourself, however a key aspect of your success will lie in the accountability that comes from sharing your decision with close family and friends. Friends and family can be your biggest support, or they can do the most food bullying. Sharing ahead of time makes the difference.
You’ve found the right diet or exercise program. Now it is time to create a system of support, accountability, and encouragement. Ignore this step and you will negate your efforts AND put friends and family in a position to sabotage you.
I’ve coached a lot of people over the years and a common theme is a belief that “I just want to lose weight/get healthy on my own. I’ll tell people later once I get results.” Or “This is all about me right now. I need to take care of me and be selfish.”
I’m here to tell you that this is actually a sure fire path to failure AND, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can get healthy AND continue to build healthy relationships.
Changing your diet
Years ago, I discovered I had a gluten sensitivity. When I removed gluten from my diet, I felt immediate relief. I didn’t realize how bad I felt on a daily basis until I felt good. My husband Jim quickly got on board. Our home kitchen immediately became gluten-free. It was great to have his support and as long as we were at home, it worked perfectly.
Then, we had to learn to navigate restaurants and social settings. I quickly learned always to have a plan and a backup and to offer full disclosure up front. If we were going to a restaurant, I looked at the menu ahead of time or called ahead to see what my options were. If we were invited to a meal with family or friends, I immediately let them know that I was gluten-free. It then just required a little bit of education on my part to let them know not only what my food options were but also why it was important that I ate this way.
If you are embarking on a healthier eating plan or lifestyle, I recommend telling as many of your friends and family in advance and along the way. Some will join you. Some won’t. But in letting them know WHY you are investing in a healthier lifestyle, you will find you receive more support and encouragement.
We have either done the food bullying or been on the receiving end:
- Oh, come on! One bite won’t hurt you!
- You’re no fun anymore since you don’t eat burgers & fries.
- I don’t know how to relate to you since you don’t drink ____, eat ____, or do ____.
- I can’t wait until winter when I get my friend back, and you won’t be able to ride your bike.
- Do you ever eat a cheat meal?
- Be bad with me.
- I could never be vegan, paleo, gluten-free, _____.
- I’m too much of a foodie to do what you’re doing.
Show love another way
Do you know people who show their love through food? These are the people who feel insulted when you turn down their home-made dish-of-delights and these are the people that are especially important to have a conversation with ahead of time to let them know of your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Let them know what foods are and are not part of your plan.
You are not bulletproof
Asking for this support is important so that we protect our friends from sabotaging us, but it’s also important to protect ourselves from becoming the saboteur. You are not bulletproof. You don’t suddenly have a steel willpower. What you are doing is tough and your friends and family can CHOOSE to respect it and make it easier, or they will inevitably make it harder.
As part of your willpower, you have only so many “no’s” in a day or given social setting. If your dear family member asks 3 times to try their favorite cookie, that is 3 no’s you have to use, and you may only have 2 left.
Again, getting buy-in ahead of time and asking for support is key. And, thank you, but no that support does not include sending decadent desserts home with me for later.
Stand your ground
I have found a couple key statements to be powerful in social settings.
- I don’t eat that
- Eating that is not consistent with my goals.
Practice saying them and then shut your mouth. You don’t need to go on and on explaining or defending yourself. A simple smile will do. And rest assured, if you have a moment of weakness later on, your new found accountability partners (those who are doing the food bullying) will catch you and remind you of your commitment that you “don’t eat that!”
We all win
This is not a battle for who gives in first, this is a battle to be our healthiest and have the highest quality of life. There is room for all of us to win!
Explain your goals and your reasons for making these healthy changes. Explain that the beginning is the hardest part and you could really use their support and encouragement. Tell them you’d love for them to join you, but if not, that’s ok, but if they could please be aware of their words and actions, it would be greatly appreciated.
It Comes from Fear
Often, food bullying comes from a place of fear. Your friends and family fear you or your relationship is going to change (which is, actually, the goal). Reassure them that while you are changing, you still care for them.
If your relationship has always been about a meal or wine or dessert, tell them you will be taking a break temporarily until you hit your goals. Ask if there is another way you can support the relationship without food. Perhaps a walk, exercise, a class, or learn something new together!
Bless and Release. With Love.
There may be one or two peeps that don’t want to get on board and continue with their food bullying. At times, we have to let go of these “toxic” relationships. You can do so with love. You can bless and release them, or at the minimum, spend less time with them. This is especially important when you are most vulnerable and in the beginning stages of making change. When we bless and release with love, we keep the door open to them joining us and catching up to our healthy lifestyle in their timing.
Be open to new relationships and support systems.
There are billions of people on this planet. Many who don’t use food bullying to relate to you. If you look around, I’m confident you can find your tribe, a group of peeps that support, encourage, and cheer you on! You are welcome to join mine!
People don’t know. Educate them.
People admire our finished results and they love the finished product but so many have no idea of the hard work it takes in the gym and or to cook and eat clean. They don’t know the process. We can make things easier by educating them and letting them know. You have goals and dreams. It’s cool if the go with you but if not, perhaps you can hook up later. This is important. YOU are important. You are changing your life. You love your self and your body AND you want to change it. You are a new person in the making. You are making sacrifices to build your new, healthiest self.
I can’t tell you every step will be easy. I can tell you, it’s worth it. YOU are worth it!
For more support and guidance check out these blog posts:
- Healthy and Versatile holiday meals
- Labor Day Health Tips
- Decide ahead of time. The power of rules.
- Active Relationships. Nurturing relationships through fitness.
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