This is an article from NF Team Member Staci.
Mom: “What flavor ice cream with your pie?”
Me: “Oh, none for me, thanks!”
Mom: “What do you mean? You love pie! You love ice cream! What flavor do you want?”
Me: “No, see, I’m doing this thing called the Paleo diet, and I don’t eat pie or ice cream.”
Uncle Fred: “Paleo? Like Paleontology? What are you trying to be, a dinosaur?”
Me: “No, not Paleontology. Paleolithic.”
Aunt Sally: “Is that that new fad where you eat raw meat with your hands while hanging upside down from trees?”
Me: “No, it’s a diet where you try to eat like our ancient ancestors…just eat mostly vegetables, some meat, fruit, nuts and seeds. No grains or sugars. It makes me feel good and I love it.”
Grandpa: “Well I’m your ancient ancestor and I eat pie! If you don’t want it, give it to me!”
Does this seem all too familiar?
You’ve probably heard a million different “tips” to stay healthy during the holidays, from filling up half your plate with vegetables first, using a smaller plate, to taking a walk after your meal.
But let’s be honest, the hardest part isn’t always combatting the massive amounts of food that is available to you, for a lot of us it’s the peer pressure from your friends and family, who mean well but don’t understand that they are destroying all of the hard work you’ve built up.
While we’re all for making the conscious decision to eat non-healthy options every once in a while (and drink within reason), you may have finally built healthy eating habits and are psyched to stay on track this year. Or maybe you’re like me, and eating poorly will actually cause some major health implications that not everyone understands.
Today we’re going to take a look at all the tricks our loved ones use during the holidays, and then give you a bunch of tools and tactics to battle them (including some full scripts so you know exactly what to say).
Why people pressure you
There are many different reasons why your friends and family pressure you into making poor eating choices.
While on the surface it may seem like they are trying to sabotage your efforts, much of the time the real reason is something entire different and random.
They may not not even realize what they’re doing is making things difficult for you:
For many families, food is love. The food itself can be a source of affection. How many times has your grandmother made something “just for you” because she knows you love it? They know that it’s a show of love.
Often your friends and family just want to spend time with you. Food is a social centerpiece in almost every culture. And in many holiday meals where the main focus is food, by saying “lets go get some pie,” they may really just want to sit and talk to you.
If you’re being pressured by the host of the party to eat more and more – it may be as simple as they don’t want quite as many leftovers after everyone leaves.
However, there can also be more selfish reasons.
If someone is failing in their own fitness journey, they may be dealing with envy, anger and guilt (even if it is subconscious) when they see someone succeeding. Seeing you fill your plate with meat and vegetables instead of macaroni and cheese and pie may be a reminder to them of their own personal failures. Even if they aren’t consciously thinking it, after watching you eat unhealthy, their failures don’t seem quite as bad.
They could also be trying to justify their extra piece of pie because hey, you are also having one. And if the super healthy person is having one, then it is okay, right?
Especially if you used to share your unhealthy eating habits, they may just want the “old person” back. Rather than better themselves, it’s easier to keep everybody else at their status quo!
So how do you say no?
So it’s the holidays. Are you doomed to overeat and consume unhealthy food?
Let’s go through a few techniques to get rid of as much confrontation as possible.
1) Become a chameleon. Blend in: The first and easiest way to avoid confrontation is to try to blend in with everyone else. If you’ve been to your family dinners before, you know by now how they typically work. If your family always goes up for seconds (or thirds!) try to take less food each time, or only take certain foods each trip. Afraid of people commenting on your smaller portions?
Lay the food out wide (versus high) on your plate to give the illusion of more food than there actually is.
Try only taking certain types of food at a time (“I don’t like when the sauce from the meatballs gets mixed with my green beans!”) and use multiple trips to make it look like you’re eating more than you are.
Eat slower to not only give your body time to decide when it’s full, but keep you on the same pace as everyone else.
2) It’s okay to be weird, but don’t draw attention to it if necessary. Avoid bringing up that you’re eating any differently, unless asked. If you are asked, keep your answers short and to the point. Be polite, but firm – sounding like you’re unsure gives them an in to say “aw, come on!”
Bringing up that you’re eating better and why brings attention to you, and not always the right kind. It can look like you are talking down to the people who are not eating well, as if you are trying to make yourself appear superior, even if that isn’t your goal.
Think about the following statements:
“I would eat pie, but there are grains in the crust, and sugar in the filling, and grains are like poison to your gut!”
“I can’t believe you’re eating those cookies! There have been so many studies that show that sugar acts no different than cocaine in your brain!”
“You’re getting ANOTHER plate of food?”
These statements are no different than someone pressuring you to eat something you don’t want to eat. Remember – the family dinner table is not the time or place to tell another family member that you feel they should be making better decisions.
Even if you are worried about your loved one, there may be a better way to go about it.
3) Never complain about what you’re eating. Saying things like, “I wish I could eat that, but I’m on a diet!” or “Ugh, I can’t believe all I can have is chicken and vegetables” not only brings attention to yourself, but will also raise a red flag of concern from your family members.
They do not want to see you miserable, especially on the holidays, so this will give them an opening to challenge your new healthy habits.
Remember, you’re spending time with your family to spend time with your family. If you choose to eat healthy, that’s great – but don’t think about the fact that you “can’t” have something. Don’t make them miserable because you are. If you think that’s how you’re going to react, consider just eating however you want, enjoying the holiday, and getting back on track tomorrow.
Tread lightly, speak carefully. Now, we all know that being quiet about your healthy changes sometimes isn’t enough. A lot of times family will see that you’re eating different and comment on it.
There are a few different ways we can handle this:
1) Answer the question, then deflect – give a short and to the point answer, and then change the topic quickly.
Example: “You’re doing the Paleo diet now?”
“Yeah, the Paleo diet, it’s great. You know, I made the most amazing chicken dish last week where I …”
By the time you finish talking about the recipe and how great it is, they’ve probably forgotten about the initial question. And if they haven’t, they see how much you’re enjoying it, so any questions after will probably be more out of curiosity and less out of concern.
2) Fib. I know, I know, never tell a lie. But in this situation, we’re really only “stretching the truth” a little bit.
Example: “Why don’t you want any macaroni and cheese?”
“You know, cheese just hasn’t been sitting well in my stomach lately. Not sure what’s going on. “ *shrug*
3) Tell the truth. This could either give you a “oh, well that’s great” answer or a other, less positive answers.
Example: “What do you mean you don’t want pie? You love pie!”
“I’m putting a big effort into getting healthy, and diet is a major part of it, so I’m working on cleaning it up a little bit at a time”
4) Shrug their question off like it’s nothing.
Example: “You’re eating more broccoli than anything else!”
“Yeah, I know! I just CAN’T get enough broccoli lately! It’s SO GOOD! I was so excited to see it here.”
5) Recruit them. Explain to them that it’s important to you, and that you need their help. With some family members, you may not need any special strategies. Other family members may not let up with questions. In either of these cases, explain to them that this is something you need to do for you, and ask for their support. This lets them know that you’re serious, and that you need them to help yourself along your journey.
6) Push back. If they keep pushing, won’t let up, and are starting to make you uncomfortable, feel free to make it uncomfortable for them.
“I don’t know, I keep getting this bubbily rash, so we’re doing all of these allergy tests and my doctor’s asked me to only eat stuff of a specific list for a few weeks” *scratch arm*
No matter what, don’t make them feel inferior for eating what they’re eating. Don’t tell them there’s anything wrong with what they’re doing, because that will just make them defensive. If you do want to talk about why you’re eating a certain way, talk about it, but be sure to frame the conversation about changes YOU are making for your own well-being:
“My doctors and I…”
“It’s working out really well for my body…”
Actual Scripts to Use
Now, you may be thinking: “That’s great and all Staci, but what can I actually say to my family members to get me through dinner?”
Don’t worry, we got you covered.
Let’s go over ten common questions and comments, and SPECIFICALLY how to respond.
1) “But you LOVE ________.”
“I know, crazy huh? I just haven’t really wanted them lately.”
“Yeah, I don’t know. Just not really in the mood for them today!”
2) “Just one won’t kill you! Come on, it’s the holidays!”
“Oh, totally, it definitely wont. Hey, did I hear you went to France a few months ago?”
“I know it won’t, I just really don’t want one right now.”
“It being the holidays doesn’t make my stomach like it any better!”
3) “It’s just one day! You can go back on your diet tomorrow!”
Yeah, maybe I’ll have some later. I’m just really full right now.
“No, I know – but ___ just doesn’t sit well in my stomach any more, so I’d really rather not.”
4) “But they are your favorite! I made them just for you!”
“Thank you so much! I’m just so full right now, would you mind if I packaged some up and took it home?”
If you’re lucky like me and have a huge family, use something like: “Actually, they’re Sue’s favorite. You’re probably confused because I used to always take extra and sneak them to her when you weren’t looking.” This is an actual line I’ve used with my grandmother before. Yes, it worked!
5) “Come on, just sit and have one with me!”
“I’d absolutely love to sit and chat with you, I’m just completely stuffed right now. Lets go!”
6) “Oh come on, you’re already fat!”
“And if I continue on with that attitude I will always be fat, so I would like to ask you to support my decision so that we can spend many more holidays together in the future.”
“And I would really appreciate your support in my weight loss journey”
6) “You’re so thin! Why are you worrying!”/“You’re wasting away!”/”Do you think you’re fat?”
“This really doesn’t have anything to do with me being underweight or overweight, it’s just a decision I’ve made (along with my doctors) to improve my overall health.”
“No, I just have some thing with my stomach and I’m just not feeling it today”
7) “But you work out so much!”/ “Didn’t you work out yesterday?”
“Yeah, and in order to continue to do well with my workouts I need to eat right! Muscle builds when you’re resting and eating, so I need to make sure I’m eating the right things.”
“And eating poorly today would undo everything I just did, so I’d like to eat healthy so I can do better when I go tomorrow.”
- “Yeah, but I’m absolutely stuffed, and can’t possibly eat another bite!”
8) “Are you on a diet?”
“I’m just trying to eat a little healthier and make some better decisions when it comes to food.”
- “We’re actually doing some tests to see if I have some food allergies, so my doctor has asked that I don’t eat a few specific things for a few weeks.”
9) “I’d rather die than not have pie!”
- *laugh* “I surprisingly don’t miss it that much. Plus, I love turkey, another helping is dessert enough for me.”
- “My doctor thinks I might have an allergy to X, so until we figure that out it’s probably better that I don’t.”
10) “But I read a study that says you need X”
“You know, every study says something different, so I’ve really just been going with how my body feels, and this is working for me!”
How do you manage the holidays?
This should give you all the tools you need to survive the upcoming holiday season with unhealthy family members.
Remember a few key things:
1) Practice the scripts above if you are nervous about what your family will say. You hopefully know your family well enough to interact with each in a way that makes everyone comfortable.
2) Relax! Don’t freak out if you decide to take Thanksgiving off and eat whatever you want. Steve plans on eating rolls and other ‘unhealthy foods,’ and drinking beer and watching football with his dad. He doesn’t worry because he subscribes to the “never two in a row” rule.
What other tips and tactics are you going to use to help survive the upcoming holiday season?
Matt (BigM141414) is our new Community Manager for the Nerd Fitness Rebellion! If you’ve spent any time on the boards at all, you definitely know BigM (or, you should, he has over 7,000 posts!). He’s been a member of the rebellion since 2010 and has not only been a moderator/guild leader but has been helping out as an admin since April of 2012. Matt can always be seen helping out rebels left and right and making sure no one gets lost!
Danielle (nightlight) is coming on board as our new Community Manager for the Nerd Fitness Academy women’s course.
If you’ve spent any time on the Nerd Fitness message boards, you’re familiar with Danielle – she’s always around, always helping, and always kicking ass. We’ve enlisted Danielle’s help to make sure all Academy members are looked after – her sole focus is the women of the Academy.
So please take a second to welcome both Matt and Danielle (pictured above when they got their USAW L1 Certifications) to the Nerd Fitness Team!
PPS: You know my friend Saint? The guy who’s inspired thousands with his success story? Well he’s a kickass app developer, and his team made it to the Global Startup Battle finals! If you have 3 minutes today, you’d be my hero if you head over to this link, watch the video for his startup’s team (sHairStyle), and give him a vote if you think it’s worthy. You have to register quickly, and then scroll down quite a bit, but it’s there 🙂 THANK YOU in advance!