Have you ever ordered a light salad at dinner and looked around the table to see your friends shifting uncomfortably as they dig into a plate of ribs? Perhaps you’ve deliberately chosen to wake up early while on vacation to get in a workout, only to face some not-so-subtle teasing from family members. Maybe you’ve even been the one who “ruins it for everyone” by declining a second round of drinks.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle comes with many challenges– some even in the form of unsupportive friends and family members. There are few things quite as discouraging as attempting to make a healthy decision for yourself only to be ridiculed by a person whose opinion you value.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be miserable, or change your choice to comply. Here are some ideas to help you handle your response better and perhaps end those hurtful jokes and disapproving glances altogether.
Step 1: Understand Where the Peanut Gallery is Coming From
The sad fact is that many of us have spent years secretly building an over-eaters support network. We often find solace in validating each other’s eating habits or skipped workouts. Before long, every social outing revolves around food, you're celebrating a birthday every week (someone’s), and your friends have convinced you that not only do you deserve that drink, you need it.
So, when you finally embrace a healthier lifestyle, it’s not unusual for coworkers, friends and family to feel threatened, or even judged by you. You’ve robbed them of your complicit validation, and now they’re at a loss as to what you’ll do together. Who are they going to share late night cookie dough with? Understand that the root of this frustration and stress actually has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the individual who is feeling poorly. Don’t let someone else’s insecurity undermine your own health. Be understanding but within your healthy choices.
Step 2: Be Honest
If you value your relationship with the person who has been hassling you about being healthy, the quickest way to put a stop to the teasing is through honesty. The next time they make a disapproving comment, don’t laugh or shrug it off. Give them a prepared speech. Explain exactly why you’ve chosen to make your health a priority. Be serious, and tell your friend or family member that their support is really important to you. If they care about you, that should be enough to tone down the negative feedback you’ve been receiving.
Step 3: Look for Patterns
Occasionally, there is someone who just can’t seem to get over your healthy lifestyle. Maybe they continue to make negative comments after you’ve opened up to them and asked them not to. Or perhaps their sabotage is more subtle, even driven from a place of love. Many family members show that they care about you by feeding you. If your mother has made your childhood favorite desert, it can be hard to say no, even if that bowl of gooey chocolate is definitely not on your eating plan for the day. In those scenarios, it might be best to accept the food but ask to take it home with you instead of eating it there. Then, you can do with the food whatever you please and your family member still feels like you’ve accepted their show of affection. Whoever your naysayers are, remember that you can empathize with them without allowing them to affect your choices. You and you alone are in charge of your health.
Step 4: Be Proud of Progress and Choices
Regardless of what anyone else says, you should always, always, feel positive about what you’re doing. When someone teases you or calls you out on your healthy choices, don’t get defensive. You don’t have to be defensive, because what you’re doing is good for you and everyone around you. Making your health a priority isn’t easy. It’s something you have to re-commit to every day. So give yourself some credit! By pursuing a healthy lifestyle, you’ve proven that you’re both brave and strong. Wake up everyday and tell yourself that – shout it from the rooftops if you want to. At the end of the day, your opinion is the only one that matters. Make sure it’s a positive one, lead by example, and reap the benefits.