Food is big part of our lives and our society. Many different ways of eating have started gaining traction in the last several years: vegetarianism, vegan, Atkins, paleo, primal, keto, Mediterranean….The list goes on.
You may have decided to change your way of eating but others in your household (spouse, significant other, children, roommates) are not on board with that. When we live with others who do not share our philosophy on food, it can become divisive.
So how can we deal with the struggles of different ways of eating (WOE) in a way in which all parties can be happy?
- If you are contemplating changing your WOE, it is important to have a discussion with your significant other/children/other household residents. Sit down and explain WHY you are contemplating this change. Is it because of a moral issue, like the ethical treatment of animals? Is it a health concern, such as the doctor recommending not eating as many refined carbohydrates at your last appointment?
- Let the others in the house know that you are making the change for you and while you are not going to demand that they change all of their own food habits, it’s important for them to respect your decision. Explain that this is something that you need to do to reclaim your health.
- Be open about stumbling blocks. If a household member is bringing home fast food and that is a temptation for you, ask if they could eat their food elsewhere, as opposed to bringing it home. Let them know that while you are not necessarily requiring them to change their habits, you do need their support to change yours.
- If others in your house are not eating the same as you, it is important to not shame or judge them for their choices. That will make them less likely to ever change. The best thing to do is to make your changes and be an example.
- Talking about your food beliefs in a positive light is more beneficial than knocking someone else’s.
- Frame statements in a positive light and from your perspective. “I’ve notice my skin has really cleared up since I’ve given up dairy!” as opposed to “Your acne is probably caused by the greasy foods you’re always eating.” You-statements put people in a defense mode, while I-statements generally make people more open or curious.
- Instead of making a brand new crazy menu all at once, make smaller changes. Too much change all at once can be intimidating.
- A great way to start is to make family favorites but in a healthier way. You can make burgers for everyone in the family but just leave the buns off of your own.
- Mashed potatoes can be a great comfort food; you can make them with a blend of potatoes and cauliflower, or even sweet potatoes and cauliflower.
- A pan of roasted veggies with homemade ranch dressing (without all of the industrial oils and sugar!) make a great addition. And most foods taste better with ranch!
- If you are the primary meal planner/cook in the household, you will have control over what everyone else eats. Compromises can be struck. If others in the household are not interested in changing, maybe they can assist with cooking the foods that they want to keep in their diet that you will be eliminating. Maybe for the primary cook it’s not too much extra work to make an extra side or some ingredient that can be easily incorporated into the meal.
Find a community
- These days we can create a virtual community of people from around the world thanks to social media. Odds are that you can find a Facebook community or Instagram account for any WOE you desire. It’s great forum in which to share recipes, articles, and tips with others who share your food values.
- Talk to people you know in real life: people in your neighborhood, church, workplace, gym, etc. Who knows – maybe someone in your office is in a similar predicament and is also looking for support. You can start your own support/accountability group.
Make it fun
- Get the kids involved! Watch YouTube cooking videos and then try out the recipe. Teaching them good nutrition habits and how to cook, especially when they are young, is so important.
- Try introducing one new food a week. Make a game out of it with your kids – have them make suggestions of what new food they would like to try and each week try out one from the list.
- When you do introduce new foods, present it like a fun experiment, not something that MUST be eaten. Demands of children are often met with obstinance, while the option to try one or two bites being encouraged is often more inviting.
Have a game plan
- If you’re joining friends at a restaurant, look at the menu online beforehand. You can check out your options ahead of time and decide what you will order there. Or maybe you decide that you will eat a meal at home prior to meeting up with friends and just opt for an appetizer. While food is important in our culture, so is simply spending time with good friends and family. Focus on the social experience you are having and not on what you might perceive you are missing out on.
- It’s okay to eat before going to other social gatherings if you are not sure exactly what will be available for you to eat or simply because you want to be full in order to resist temptation.
- You can still join the work gang for happy hour and just order sparkling water with lime.
- Potlucks are a great way to eat with a group of friends but still have some control over what you eat. You have the control to bring a dish to share that you can eat and introduce something new to your friends.
Be prepared for people to question your choices
- Be strong. People within your circles, be it family, friends, or work colleagues, will question what and why you are doing what you are doing.
- Have a short answer ready. You don’t have to get into a philosophical debate at that moment. A simple “I don’t really feel like drinking/having dessert/etc.” should hopefully suffice. People sometimes are critical of issues regarding health because it makes them self-conscious in some way of their own behaviors/habits/issues and can read a positive change in another’s behavior as a personal attack on their own, whether this is done consciously or not.
- Be open. There will come a time when people are genuinely curious and interested in your “why” and how to do what you’re doing. This is the time to share with them the details.
Keep on your journey to great health! Focus on what you are gaining (confidence, more energy, clearer brain functioning) and appropriately losing (weight, joint pain, lethargy). As others see your improvements, they will hopefully be encouraged on their own journey.