It’s always amazing to me how people closest to us can make us feel so uncertain or even guilty about making healthy changes. Everyone from partners and kids, to friends and extended family, and even our work buddies delight in convincing us to forget our goals in the moment to make them feel better. There’s a lot of psychology around behavior change; not just for the one making the change, but for those forced to witness or be a part of that change in any way.
Watching you cheerfully put together your salad in the breakroom can be construed as an all-out insult to a co-worker reaching for their Lunchables from the fridge. Failure to avert your eyes at this juncture could get you the “Well we can’t ALL be as healthy as YOU. Some of us don’t have the time or money (insert excuse) to eat healthy EVERY SINGLE DAY.”
Same thing with family at holiday gatherings feeling sorry for you (and dear Aunt so-and-so) for skipping the cookies and every other goody on the table. “Wow you sure have a lot of willpower to be passing up Aunt Myrna’s chocolate pie. It’s so sad! I could NEVER deprive myself like that….and she puts in SO much work to make it. I know she’d be just HEARTBROKEN if it sat there uneaten.”
Some folks feel SO strongly about you declining the food/drink in question they go ahead and just plate/pour up a serving for you anyway. In front of everybody. With a grand exclamation about how they just can’t BEAR to watch you go
without and INSIST that you join in on the fun and gluttony. Passive-aggressive much?
If you’ve experienced similar scenarios you know how challenging they can be. Guilt, embarrassment and outright rage can come into play, ruining an otherwise excellent experience. I haven’t personally dealt with this to such an extreme as I’ve illustrated here. But MANY of my clients have, and I’m here to tell you it’ll all be OK.
Once you understand where the behavior is coming from, you can take it less personally. You see, THEY know what they’re eating is crap. And they sure as hell know that YOU know what they’re eating is crap. They say you’re judging them for it, but in reality you’re not judging anybody. You’re just minding your own business; working on self-care. You’re the innocent salad-messenger bringing that hard truth to the surface in the moment. The reality is they’re actually judging themselves and using you as their scape goat to justify their actions.
Having been a junk food junky for most of my life I completely understand this tactic. It stings to admit the reason you look and feel like garbage is all YOUR OWN DOING. But it’s also completely toxic and unfair to try and pin the blame for your bad habits onto someone else. ESPECIALLY when they’re in the throes of major lifestyle transformation. It’s hard enough to turn and stay on course without the whole world ganging up on you at the intersection.
So. Whether it’s food, drink, workouts, sleep or simply some time alone, you have to get really good at drawing boundaries around your needs and standing firm. It also helps to try and find a positive spin for those uncomfortable situations. Maybe you won’t be eating Aunt Myrna’s famous confection, but you can still show her some love with a big hug or your undivided attention while she shows you her vacation
pictures. Maybe your co-worker still has daggers for you at lunchtime, but perhaps you could invite her to share your salad and offer up the dressing recipe.
There will be the haters who flat out never get it and refuse to support you. Just remember they’re projecting their negativity onto you, so get used to being The Healthy One. The best medicine against poison people, I’ve found, is modeling great habits and standing your ground. Not everybody will like it, but you’re not here to please everybody.