I recently had afternoon tea with a couple of close friends in Sydney. It had been about 8 months since we’d last seen each other, during which time I knew they had made some dietary tweaks. Being the curious health coach that I am, I wanted to ask them how it all went.
They told me that by making a few simple lifestyle updates — and bringing just a little more awareness to what was going on their plate — they’ve landed on a way of eating that makes them look and feel great.
I was thrilled! I love hearing that simple strategies bring great results, as that’s my philosophy through and through.
Yet as we chatted more about food, our conversation revealed a challenge that my friends had been facing. It was something that I’m also intimately familiar with and it rings true for many friends and clients who have chosen to shake things up in the healthy living department.
It’s been my experience that when you change how you eat – specifically, when you choose to become a more healthy eater – it’s not uncommon to feel isolated, teased or even ostracized by people that you know.
That’s why in today’s post I wanted to talk about how to handle this situation, as you may experience it too.
Let’s start with WHY “changing your diet” is such a touchy subject.
At its most fundamental level food is nothing more than a source of energy, vitamins and minerals. But we all know that it’s more than that.
Food is culture, family tradition, memories, and at the heart of many (if not most) social events.
This can make it a tricky subject to talk about.
You see, when you decide to change your diet it can send a message to the people around you that you no longer agree with something that you used to do. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that what you’re changing is most likely something that they’re still doing. You’re upsetting the status quo, and they might see you as judging the lifestyle choices they’ve made.
In short, your personal development choices might make people uneasy.
Let me give you an example:
In 2009 one of my best friends was diagnosed with Chron’s disease and placed on a strict anti-inflammatory diet. Despite already being a healthy eater, this was a major lifestyle change (especially for someone who was only 21).
Back then, anti-inflammatory diets weren’t really a big thing. Paleo and veganism lived on the fringes of society, and many people thought autoimmune diseases sounded a little woo-woo…a little “all in their heads”.
So one day my friend told our group that she would no longer be able to participate in our Friday night habit of drinking gin and tonics, and eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
That didn’t go down so well.
Without minimizing my own culpability — I can remember using the expression “you can’t even have one?” — I can tell you that another member of our group (let’s call her ‘Z’) was absolutely shattered.
“What good is it to live in a world where you can’t eat ice cream?” she cried dramatically.
The next Friday night my friend arrived at our house with an apple, a carrot, a bag of nuts and a bottle of water. Z was appalled and couldn’t stop talking about how “dangerous” and “extreme” this diet was.
(Apples, it seems, can have that effect on some people.)
You see, by changing her own diet my friend was challenging the shared Friday night experience that we had come to know and love. Her choices made us all question if we should do things differently too.
To be honest, we weren’t even thinking about WHY she was making those updates (and in hindsight, offering to support her through the process would have been the preferred reaction), but we were only thinking about ourselves. We didn’t like feeling guilty about our own choice to be less than healthy on Friday nights and it seemed to us like she no longer wanted to be part of the pack.
But the silly thing is, that wasn’t her intent at all. She was just making the best decision for herself, and for whatever reason that made us feel uncomfortable. I learned then and there that everyone is responsible for their own choices, and we all need to take ownership of our individual lifestyle decisions.
Since then I’ve been blazing my own healthy trail, which means that I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of healthy living criticism, and while I don’t believe that people do it maliciously, after a while it does get pretty old.
So in the video below I’m sharing three strategies that you can use to minimize these sorts of experiences, which will allow you to eat what you want, when you want, without feeling judged OR making other people too uncomfortable.
Once you’ve had a chance to watch I’d love to hear from you. So stick around and join in the discussion at the bottom of the page.
What To Do When People Criticize Your Healthy Lifestyle
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Have you ever felt shunned for making healthy lifestyle changes? How did you handle it? Let me know by leaving a comment below.