If you’re having a negative reaction to someone else’s food choices, try to take a step back and see what it would be like to be in their shoes.
Food and holidays are forever entangled, and unfair assumptions can easily lead to hurt feelings. Any of these sound familiar?
“You don’t need to diet; you’re beautiful!”
“I cooked all day long and you won’t even try it?”
“A few bites aren’t going to kill ya.”
“It’s bad luck not to have cake on your (birthday/wedding/holiday/BBQ)!”
“Just try it!”
“I heard that diet is really bad for you."
If you’re the one with the new lifestyle, should you try to hide that you are eating differently? What if people notice and ask what you’re doing? Will your explanation result in expressions of concern, criticism, or negativity that might set you back? Is it better to indulge on special occasions and get back on track afterwards? Or will a minor indulgence reactivate a food addiction that you have fought to keep under control?
So you have gone out on a limb, done your research, sacrificed the feel-good-now foods for the feel-healthier-in-the-long-run foods, and this is what you have to face?
You have every right to be proud of yourself. Yet, you will undoubtedly face criticism from well-meaning, good-hearted people who are important to you. That kind of response can make you less committed to your goals, because it can feel like you’re turning your back on people.
I’d like to offer a way of explaining things to address the negative assumptions:
What I’m doing is a solution to MY problems. I want to live a long and healthy life, and I’ve found what I feel is the right way to get there. I’m not criticizing you or your food choices, and I’m sorry that I can’t indulge in everything you worked so hard to provide. I appreciate that you did it.
You can help make this easier by not pressuring me, especially in front of other people, to indulge. And by taking no for an answer. It’s stressful to be pushed to overeat by someone I care about when it’s already hard to stop myself. It would feel so much better if you could accept it the first time when I say, “no thanks, I’m full,” or not ask a lot of questions that make me feel like I’m doing something hurtful when I’m just listening to my body.
Finally, it would help if you could still love me even though I make choices that are different than yours. Our relationship and how we treat one another is so much more important than what we eat. I’d like to know that you'll still be there if there comes a time that this way of eating doesn’t work for me anymore. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m still learning, and it won’t always be easy to stay on track. I only ask that you respect my choices and support me either way to be healthy, just as I will support you.
A few notes for family members:
If you’re having a negative reaction to someone else’s food choices, try to take a step back and see what it would be like to be in their shoes, because facing criticism from someone you love can be very stressful.
Besides, it’s a lot more positive that your loved one is making changes to be healthy rather than sliding in the opposite direction!
Written for you, by local therapists.
NWO’s source for all things relationships, mental health, wellness, and lifestyle: Kelly Magazine is a mental health outreach initiative created by Kelly Mental Health and supported by Kelly Mental Health Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the community in the area of mental health.
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