So you’ve decided to make some changes? You started buying different foods at home, eating out less, going to the gym but your significant other is not on board yet. In fact, they throw up the “attitude card” when you say “let’s skip our favorite _________ tonight and just do ________”. This subject is almost inevitable for anyone who is trying to improve their health. The biggest problem I see in my counseling experience is that we are living a little too co-dependently and not letting our strengths and ambitions take the stage during times of temptation or challenge by those closest to us.
It’s completely understandable though, because let’s face it, who wants to skip a fun night with friends? Not go to your favorite dessert shop that you’ve been going to every Friday for months? Salads instead of Taco Tuesday?
We are definitely creatures of habit, so despite one person’s decision to make a change, it doesn’t mean these admirable decisions will cause others to follow suite. So what do you do then? Do you never go out to eat? Do you exile your dessert shop friends from your life for the next 3 months? How do you create balance around play with your health goals?
I’ve got all the juicy details listed out here I use in my every day counseling that will help you navigate the best way to maintain your journey without stepping on everyone’s toes. So let’s start with first things first:
ASK THEM WHY AND WHAT SPECIFICALLY BOTHERS THEM ABOUT YOUR CHOICES?
Guys, sometimes this can change the game with little to no backfire just from clear communication and clarification about what their perception is about your changes. Do they think your relationship will grow distant? Does eating at the dessert spot remind them of your first date? Do they cherish the memories you’ve made together when eating out at XYZ place? This simple digging technique can really affirm what the partner or friend is going through and validate their reasoning for being hesitant at first. After you’ve found out some details remind them that your relationship will still be strong throughout these changes! In fact, if you embark on this journey together it may give you the opportunity to build new memories when exploring new places to eat and things to do, ultimately growing your closer (not further) together. The key here is to validate their emotions too, they want to know you changing doesn’t mean leaving them and your memories behind.
REMIND THEM THAT YOUR HEALTH IS NOT A COMMODITY, IT WILL DETERMINE THE LONG-TERM OUTCOMES OF YOUR FUTURE
Maybe going out for drinks at the bar is a great time, but the research is clear that we are getting sicker, having more disease, priming for fertility, cardiovascular and GI issues with these chronic destructive behaviors. When you take the focus off of weight and onto health, you build-up credibility for making this change for the long-term effects that are highly important to you, your partner and your future or current family.
SNACK BEFORE YOU GO TO YOUR FAVORITE FOOD SPOT
Even dietitians love a great fried meal! That’s why I like to incorporate this strategy that builds a really healthy balance of behavior. Research shows we can actually digest food better, increase endorphin productions and improve our mood simply by eating with friends. It would be a shame to lose all these benefits because you feel that eating out with friends will destroy your progress! Rather than using that mindset, reflect on ways that you can eat before meeting up with friends. Maybe you share in the Cheese Curd Appetizer but you only have 3 because you chowed down on a delicious bed of greens before you came. This mindset will not only help you succeed but give you the confidence you need to feel good about eating out anywhere, anytime and no one needs to know.
KEEP CHOICES TO YOURSELF WHENEVER POSSIBLE
This strategy cannot be overstated! Yes we want to have support from our family and friends, but whether you like it or not, the changes you make about food behavior belong to you. In fact, these are personal behaviors that far too often we are divulging to the world and then wonder why the chaos starts to spin? It’s important to remember that making changes for the vanity of sharing these decisions is not only damaging to immediate and acquainted relationships, but it can ultimately lead to animosity, judgement and a slew of other emotions from yourself and others. Stop sharing what you’re doing for the outside validation and start believing and internally taking ownership of your choices. You and everyone around you will be so happy you did!
ASK THEM TO JOIN YOU, BUT DON'T EXPECT THEM TO SAY YES
Maybe it’s time they think about their health too! Be careful- this one is a bit touchy. Think of the last time someone suggested you go on a diet? Yikes! Overall, we are adults and are empowered to make decisions independent of others. Guilt, manipulative questioning and other sharp actions can really get under the other persons skin, so I always suggest asking in a way that leaves their choice independent and un-judged. For example, instead of asking, “why don’t you just join me getting a salad today?” consider asking, “I was thinking of getting a salad for lunch if you feel like joining me?”. It leaves the power in their hands. On the other hand, when they say no, YOU also need to make your choices unconditionally, independently, and without judgement of what they decide. Enough times of this may even influence them to the salad bar one day!
REMOVE ALL EXPECTATIONS THAT YOUR SUPPORT WILL COME FROM EXTERNAL SOURCES
Your choices DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT need validation. If you are still hoping your post about keto lunch will light your fire after 100 likes, it’s time to seriously take a look inside and find the places you are hiding your greatness. Maybe you are still feeling emotional about making food changes, maybe you want to feel recognized for your decisions while you are trying to improve. In any case it is NOT your family and friends job to do this. In fact, it can be really positive to engage with a professional, not only validate your decisions but also guide you to a confident mindset that can help you achieve your goals for life. When you stop expecting your friends to join you, you are taking ownership of your choices and learning to answer to yourself and your reasons for making the change.
SIT DOWN FOR THE HEART-TO-HEART
Last but certainly not least, when all else fails, don’t ever be afraid to stand up and confront for the sake of your decisions. If you feel belittled by unintentional (or intentional but hopefully not) food shaming, you need to speak up. Maybe write it out, maybe call them up, or if you feel bold enough sit down together and talk about how their comments impact you. At the end of the day, it’s not your responsibility to change what they think about your choices, but it is 100% your responsibility to feel great about yours. They will either feel tons of empathy for finally realizing how their comments can sometimes feel to you, or they can not understand, and you can begin learning how to make future decisions independent of their opinion. All in all, it is certainly not easy to break out of your habit mold, but I promise you the discomfort will strengthen you, empower you and leave you with the gift of health that lasts a lifetime.
Linzi Cruz, RD, LDN, CLT, 200-RYT, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and the founder of Whole Cruzine, a private practice focused on functional, plant-based nutrition based out of Austin, TX with 100% remote services. She counsels for weight loss, diabetes management, overall health improvement using actionable techniques and measurement outcomes. Visit www.wholecruzine.com to learn more or follow her story on Instagram and Facebook: @Whole_Cruzine