Naysayers are everywhere. From your friends and your family to your coworkers and colleagues eventually they are going to find you. And, sadly, when they do you can expect inquiries, questions, judgement and insults, dismissiveness and put-downs about your Paleo lifestyle.
Diet saboteurs are easily the most under-discussed issue in health and fitness, both on the personal level, and on the societal level. Here’s how to make your social life support, rather than sabotage, your health goals and ensure you can peacefully continue on your Paleo path.
Keep It To Yourself
Naysayers are the worst when first starting out. When first embarking on your Paleo journey, there is no need to tell everyone (as much as you want to!)
At first, avoid posting a whole crop of photos of your food on social media or make daily posts about how you have discovered your healthy path.
Of course, you can privately tell individuals who you know will be supportive. Thinking that someone who “wants” to get healthier but never actually tries at it will be supportive is often deluding yourself. The people you should confide in are the ones who are already doing what you’re doing. For example, when starting your Paleo journey, definitely share with and tell that friend who’s been eating paleo for a while.
Social media also has a way of diluting your motivation. Talking publicly about your goals can give you a sense of accomplishment similar to what you’d get from actually working towards those goals, thus taking away some of the impetus to actually work on them.
Keep it to yourself at first. Once you’ve been consistent with your Paleo lifestyle for a few months though, things change. Talking about a lifestyle shift you have been making rather than ones you’re planning to do, will build motivation via cognitive dissonance, by reinforcing your self-image as a healthy person.
Furthermore, the longer you continue on, the less you will find yourself having to deal with diet saboteurs. They tend to do their best work to try stop you from getting started, but once you’ve built momentum they usually start giving up on sabotaging you.
Lead By Quiet Example.
"Actions speak louder than words" Your results will speak for themselves. After the first few weeks, when your energy has sky rocked, your skin is clear, your aches and pains are gone and you’ve shed some fat or built some lean and mean muscle, people will notice, and they will ask you what you’ve been doing. It can be challenging to doubt the method when the results are right there. Allow your experience to shine through, answer questions if asked but there is no need to waste your breath trying to convince, cajole or persuade others before they are ready. Simply be a living example of what this way of eating could potentially do for them.
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Pick Your Battles.
Unfortunately, you can easily (although unknowingly) make someone feel bad about themselves by simply being at the lunch table. The way you eat may very well remind someone that they are not choosing to eat what they think they should, or could, or might want to. This has nothing to do with you YOU - it's THEM! They are on the defensive the minute you place your salmon and vegetables next to their microwave soup and crackers. This is definitely not the time to discuss the dangers of grains, or comment on the study you just read linking diet soda to obesity. Keep your lunch to yourself, and encourage others to do the same by not responding to their pokes, jabs or attacks on your “weird diet”. If someone is truly interested, have the conversation away from the crowd, when you can speak privately and not be interrupted by the naysayers.
At some point, and from time to time you will have to deal with questions, comments and snide remarks. Be prepared. If someone were to ask you why you don’t eat dairy or why you avoid grains, it is best to have a response ready. Your answer could be anything from a reference to a personal experience and range from the documented inflammatory properties to the fact that as soon as you stopped, your skin cleared up or your digestion calmed down. “Because I read it on XYZ website is not a valid answer. Do your homework. Understand the difference between Paleo, Primal and Keto. Learn why certain foods are excluded. Understand how a diet high in good fats helps promote body fat loss. Prepare some remarks based on your own experience. Having no responses sets you up for losing any chance you may have had to get the other party to accept your choices or even buy in. If that other party happens to be the person who shops for all the food, who cooks all the food or who pays for some of the food you are eating, losing that opportunity is not an option.
For Food Pushers
Your first line of defense against food pushers should be deflecting them with prepared scripts about your choices. It may or may not work, but is a simple strategy that is worth trying first before you do anything drastic.
A few lines to try when someone tries to force-feed you a box of cookies, a piece of pie or a load of bread:
I can’t. Sugar gives me a headache.
My husband and I are doing this together. We promised each other we’d stick with it, and I can’t break that promise.
My doctor said I need to cut back on the sugars and starches and eat more whole foods, or I’ll have diabetes and heart problems within a few years. This is something I really need to do for my health.
Honestly, I haven’t been doing much. I just notice myself eating more meats and vegetables, and not wanting dessert as often as I used to.
I need to stay healthy if I want to be able to go skiing with my grandkids in ten years.
This eating plan isn’t as hard as I thought. It includes a lot of foods that I love, and I can still find something to eat almost anywhere I go.
I didn’t think I would like salad, but I actually love it now that I’ve found a kind I like. Here, try some of this. No, I swear you’ll love it- try it!
Using these types of statements makes your choice about you and not about the person offering (pushing) the food. This will ensure you avoid riling up their insecurities any further.
You are also making your choices about health rather than attractiveness or confidence. Again, that aims to skirt around their insecurities, but can also make them back off for fear of sabotaging your health. You are also appealing to authority by mentioning other people you have a commitment to.
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Know When to Keep Quiet
You may very well find yourself stuck in a battle that you are unable to win. It’s a family dinner, your parents, siblings and children are at the table and you’re being hammered with doubts, skepticism and outright criticism. Take a deep breath, smile and simply fall back. In the end, the only person whose health and wellness you are responsible for is YOU. And while it may pain you to see the unhealthy behaviours exhibited by your friends and family, ultimately, they are responsible for their own lives, and their own choices. Rather than spark a bitter feud or ruin a birthday party, swallow your ego, your pride and your frustration and simply say, “Well, this is actually kind of working for me right now, but I hear what you’re saying and I really appreciate your thoughts. Now let’s get back to enjoying this delicious meal!” Sometimes, that is your best option
Negative comments rarely have anything to do with you!
The concept of unconditional positive regard, means that despite a person’s self-destructive or not so nice behavior you believe they are trying their best. ‘Negative’ behavior is often a coping mechanism so that people don’t feel bad about themselves.
When your co-worker says:
“Oh, never mind, we can’t get pizza for everyone because Mary is on some Paleo kick”
Remember that the comment has nothing to do with you. While this person may be coming across as a completely insensitive it’s not because they don’t like you or really intend to be a mean person.
Whether or not they consciously realize it, your attempts to change may be psychologically damaging to them.
Your effort to change reminds them that they have insecurities with themselves. In order to deal with their issues, they cope by making passive aggressive comments. This does not imply they are a bad person, they are simply trying their best to cope in the situation they are in to not feel bad about themselves. Remembering that the negative comments people make have to do with their own problems can help you feel grounded and committed to your choices.
Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com