Choosing to follow a Paleo diet can definitely go against mainstream trends. Whenever you make big lifestyle changes, you will inevitably face an onslaught of questions. Friends, acquaintances, and loved ones are going to be curious about what you’re doing and why. That’s all perfectly natural.
It’s also inevitable that you will encounter naysayers and sometimes, the feedback can be less than positive or supportive. Everyone will suddenly have an opinion about what you are and are not choosing to eat and it can be helpful to have some strategies and techniques ready to effectively counter those who would be critical of your new lifestyle.
5 Strategies To Deal With Naysayers
1. Shut It Down
The first thing to know is that you are not at all obligated to explain or defend your new way of eating. As long as you are not forcibly trying to convert someone else and make them eat some grass-fed beef and a large seasonal salad, your Paleo lifestyle only really affects you, and simply is no one else’s business. You should feel perfectly free to politely (or impolitely, if warranted) tell anyone who is being negative about your choice to worry about him or herself.
2. Have A One-Liner Ready
Negativity and social pressure to your Paleo lifestyle can come at unexpected times and from unexpected people.
One minute you might be ordering lunch at a restaurant, and the next, your waiter makes a snide comment about all the special requests for your salad. This has the potential to leave you feeling embarrassed or getting angry. This definitely does not make for a pleasant dining experience.
You can avoid a lot of these emotionally charged situations by having a one-line canned response ready for questions about your food choices.
A suggestion could be
I don’t eat gluten, grains, sugars, or legumes because that’s what works best for my health.
Keep it short and sweet. Make it easy to remember. Practice in front of a mirror until you can say it with confidence. There really is little need to over-explain your choices or try to justify yourself. That can make you appear defensive or escalate the situation further.
If someone keeps pressing you, one of the best lines to keep repeating is, “it’s simply what works best for my health”. This provides a good way to shut it down without upsetting too many people as it can be hard to argue with a statement like that.
3. It’s YOUR Choice
Even those who are inclined to be more supportive of your new lifestyle changes may, at some point, encourage you to eat something non-Paleo. The lines used may resemble:
It’s just one bite.
Just this once won’t hurt.
But it’s Christmas!
You HAVE to have cake on your birthday!
Everyone deserves to treat themselves sometimes.
Your first line of defense against food pushers should be, once again, 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 loaf of bread:
I can’t. Sugar gives me a headache.
My partner 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.
Meals to tempt the hardiest of skeptics – order this week’s menu here >>>>>>>
If you feel the need to actually defend your new lifestyle, it is importantto be able to educate others about it. That means you need to first educate yourself before you will be capable of engaging and educating others.
While it may be slowly gaining steam in the medical and weight loss communities, a Paleo diet is still a very counter-cultural movement. For decades there has been mass indoctrination with messages that make a Paleo lifestyle seem completely unhealthy – especially when it comes to animal protein and fat consumption. You may have spent a large part of your life believing that fats, especially the saturated, animal-based types are the cause of all ills whilst a diet filled with whole grains, fiber, and processed carbohydrates is absolutely as essential as counting every single calorie and “moving more”. In this context, it can be challenging to fathom the complete paradigm shift that is nutrient-dense Paleo eating because it contradicts a lifetime of professional dietary advice. Remember that and be kind.
If you are here, on our website, you have already found an excellent resource. We have lots of reliable information on adopting and living a Paleo lifestyle, in simple and easy-to-understand blogs. We have fat guides, salad guides, information on eating locally and seasonally, why meat is not a danger to your health, hydrating well, moving appropriately, getting sunshine, raising Paleo children and more…. Peruse through our blog archives and use some of the knowledge and tips at your fingertips.
When you understand more of the why’s and how’s behind your Paleo lifestyle it becomes easier to engage others and explain your point of view clearly and succinctly.
Don’t be afraid to recommend these resources to others either. You might even be inclined to give copies of Chef Pete’s cookbook for holiday or birthday gifts. Go for it!
5. Winning Is Not The Goal
Even if you do everything just right, there will always be that co-worker, family member, or friend who just won’t let your new lifestyle go and 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 begin a heated discussion or ruin a celebration, swallow your pride and your frustration and simply repeat, “this is actually kind of working for me right now, I appreciate your thoughts and hear what you’re saying but let’s get back to enjoying ourselves here!” Sometimes, that is your best option.
That’s okay. You can’t control how other people view your lifestyle. All you can do is focus on what you can control: doing what’s best for your health. You can’t and don’t need to win every little battle. You can be committed to your Paleo lifestyle and continue to enjoy your social interactions.
Be patient—especially at first. The hardest part about dealing with the naysayers is getting yourself (and everyone else) more accustomed to your strange and new food choices. Eventually, most people will accept your new lifestyle as simply who you are now. The comments and judgments will slowly dissipate once they notice your new lifestyle is there to stay.
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