Dear Coach, I’m really trying to include more healthy foods in my diet this year, but my family – and my boyfriend – make fun of me or try to push junk food my way. Instead of being supportive, they actually seem to want to sabotage my efforts. It’s discouraging to say the least. I feel like throwing in the towel. Any advice? Signed, Donna
First let me applaud you for making a commitment toward healthier eating! All steps toward healthy eating are steps in the right direction, but those steps DO represent change. And the changes that you’re personally welcoming may be making your loved ones feel threatened for several reasons:
They might feel guilty or uncomfortable
One reason they might feel guilty is because they see you making positive changes while they are not ready to do so, which means they can no longer feel good about the status quo. In other words, your new behavior may be ‘convicting’ them of their bad habits.
The second reason might be that they just don’t understand your motivations, or they just think it’s silly and it doesn’t matter to change your diet.
The third reason is they may feel you’re going to try to change THEM in some way. Your new eating pattern may be viewed as a threat to their own dietary preferences; or they may believe they’ll be forced to eat healthier foods even though they’re not interested at all.
The fourth reason could be that the changes you’re making may mean a change in your relationships to some degree; perhaps you’ll no longer want to bond by indulging in the high-fat desserts or the deep-fried (fill in the blank) that was something you and that person typically shared.
Lastly, perhaps they’re skeptical because they’ve seen you try and fail at dietary changes in the past.
Frank discussions are in order
Whatever the reason for their disdain, the first plan of attack should be a frank discussion (but not at mealtime). Explain to your loved ones what is motivating you to eat healthier, and assure them they will not be forced to eat as you do. Asking for their help in the situation can open up a conversation without making them feel they’re under attack.
Don’t expect them to know what your needs are – tell them. It may be helpful to make a wish list you can share with your family. Do you want them to keep the junk food stored in a separate cabinet? Would you prefer they don’t discuss your diet at mealtime? Will you be cooking your own meals? Who will do the shopping? Is the family willing to join you at times?
There will be issues of negotiation, but find compromises where necessary (such as where the junk food will be stashed so that it’s not a temptation, and which foods will be cooked when). Other helpful advice on this topic can be found in my YouTube video here:
If your heart-to-heart talk falls on deaf ears, remember that you do not need your family’s support to change your diet. Your ultimate success depends entirely on you, since you are the only person responsible for your food choices and your actions.
In fact, if you are depending on your family or boyfriend to get you through each day, you are already setting yourself up for failure. While it would be lovely to have their support, you do have the power to succeed on your own. You have to want to do it for yourself and take charge of your own life.
Resolve that you will not be bullied or submit to eating unhealthy foods due to peer pressure – and you don’t have to feel guilty about saying no. Nor should you feel guilty if you choose to avoid someone who continually tries to undermine your efforts.
Having said that, losing weight and regaining health can be met with challenges, and having some encouragement can be a huge benefit. Look for a support system outside of your family. Recruit a friend, a co-worker or a neighbor that’s in a similar position (or has been in the past).
Find support on social media; there are plenty of plant-based groups where you can ask questions, share trials and celebrate successes. Visit my resource page to find a few, or please consider joining The “Plan A” Diet private group. You may be surprised at how much less your family’s lack of support means when you belong to a caring, on-line community.
Lastly, I’d love to support your efforts, share recipes, and provide the nutritional education you need to stay motivated. Contact me to be added to our newsletter list and blog so you’ll be kept informed of what’s coming up.
Watch my free webinar here for even more motivation, and to learn how I can help you further!
I wish you loads of success, Donna. You can do it. I know many “divided” families when it comes to diet, and they’ve figured it out. Does it take some effort? Yes. Are there some bumps along the way? Most likely. Will it all be worth it? ABSOLUTELY! And when your family sees that you look and feel great from your efforts, they may be inclined to follow suit!