How to Win Friends and Influence Paleo

Note: This is a repost from the Whole9 archive. We felt it was time to pull this one back out, as we have so many folks new to the Whole30 and the Paleo lifestyle. 

One of the first struggles you’re likely to encounter with your first Whole30 isn’t the cravings, or the energy fluctuations, or even the grocery bills. We’re talking about the negative reactions of your friends, family and co-workers. “All that fat can’t be good for you.” Or, “Like Atkins, right? That’s just a fad diet.” Or, “It so restrictive – you can’t eat anything!” We’re sorry, but you’ll probably hear all these statements and then some during your Whole30. And Oprah knows, it can be tough enough to stick out the 30 days on your own, never mind if you have to defend yourself against the negative reactions, doubts and criticisms of your spouses, friends and co-workers. So what’s a Whole30’er to do?

Here are some of our best tips for dealing with the nay-sayers (in a way that won’t get you divorced, de-friended or fired).

Lead by quiet example.

This one is first for a reason, people, and it’s your most powerful ally. Your Whole30 results will speak for themselves. After 30 days, when your energy is rockin’, your skin is clear, your aches and pains are gone and you’ve shed some fat or built some muscle, people will notice, and they will ask you what you’ve been doing. It’s kind of hard to doubt the method when the results are right there in front of them. So let your experience shine through, answer questions if asked but don’t waste your breath trying to convince, cajole or persuade others before they’re ready. Just be a living example of what this way of eating could potentially do for them.

Pick your battles.

We guarantee one thing – you can make people feel bad about themselves just by rolling up to the lunch table. The way you eat may very well remind people that they aren’t eating the way they should, or could, or might want to. As such, they’re on the defensive the minute you plop your salmon and vegetables next to their Lean Cuisines or Hot Pockets. But beware – now is not the time to point out the dangers of grains, or comment on the study you just read linking diet soda to obesity. Keep your lunch to yourself, and encourage others to do the same by not responding to blatant pokes, jabs or attacks on your “weird diet”. If someone is truly interested, have the conversation away from the crowd, when you can speak privately and not be interrupted by the haters.

Educate yourself.

You know you’ll have to deal with questions, comments and straight-up challenges from time to time, so you’d better be prepared. If we asked you right now, “Why aren’t you eating grains?”, how many of you would have an immediate answer for us? That answer could range from the documented inflammatory properties of lectins to the fact that as soon as you stopped your daily oatmeal, your stomach stopped looking pregnant – anything from reference to personal experience. The point is – you’d better have an answer – and it can’t just be, “Because Whole9 said so.” (Although we really like that answer.)

So, do your homework. Figure out the difference between Atkins and Paleo. Learn from your Whole30 Success Guide why certain foods are excluded on the program. Understand how a diet adequate in healthy fats helps promote long-term health. Prepare some remarks based on your own experience. Just don’t show up empty-handed, because if you do, you’ll lose any chance you may have had to get the other party to buy in. (And if that other party is your Mom who shops for all the food, your husband who cooks all the food or your roommate who pays for half the food, you really can’t afford to lose that chance.) On that note, however…

Refer to “scientific evidence” cautiously.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t research and cite information from the likes of Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf or, well… us. What we are saying, however, is that for every science-y article you find that talks about, say, why dairy is bad… there are a hundred just as science-y articles that will say the exact opposite. Our recommendation? Unless you’re totally on the ball with scientific references (and able to smartly refute the opposing side on the fly), don’t let the scientific research be the only leg you choose to stand on. Refer back to point #1 – lead by example, and cite real people who have had real results. (Heck, point ’em here.) We’re not a clinical study – but we’ve got thousands of comments (literally) from real people who can attest to the real benefits of eating this way. Kind of hard to argue with all that, you would think. Which brings us to our final point…

When outnumbered, fall back.

You may very well find yourself stuck in a battle that you just can’t win. It’s a family dinner, your parents, siblings and children are at the table and you’re being hammered with doubts, skepticism and outright criticism. Take a deep breath, smile and simply fall back. In the end, the only person whose health and wellness you are responsible for is YOU. And while it may pain you to see the unhealthy behaviors exhibited by your (grown-up) friends and family, ultimately, they are responsible for their own lives, and their own choices.

So rather than spark a bitter feud or ruin a birthday party, swallow your ego, your pride and your frustration and simply say, “Well, this is actually kind of working for me right now, but I hear what you’re saying and I really appreciate your thoughts. Now let’s get back to enjoying this delicious meal!” Sometimes, that’s all you can do… and that’s okay. Refer back to point #1… if people are open to change, eventually THEY will come to YOU, and you’ll get that opportunity to help them.

Spread Your Influence

We hope some of these ideas clear a wider path for your 30-day and beyond journey. We’re sure some of you have also arrived at your own strategies for dealing with negative reactions to all of the wonderful and healthy changes you are making in your life. Share them here with us, so that we can all learn and benefit from some of the difficult and painful conversations you may have had along the way. And, as always, thanks for reading, and thanks for contributing. Our community rocks, and we are super proud to be your host and hostess along this journey.

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  1. Wendy says

    Great post, thanks for digging it out of the archives! I heard you guys on Robb Wolf’s podcast #26 yesterday (I’m working my way through those archives, too), and am really enjoying the blog. (Shout out to Dallas from another British Columbian!)

  2. Heidi says

    You all are frickin’ mindreaders!

    I was hymming and hawing About asking for help as to how to work with an unsupportive spouse. At wit’s end. So thx for the timely repost.

  3. says

    I’ve found the anecdotal and non-arrogant approach to be extremely successful, both in individual conversations and when speaking to groups. Explaining that you’ve given this lifestyle change a go, and you’re feeling and seeing changes is often enough to get people off your case, if not on your side. The more casual and honest I am when I explain why I’m eating this way, the sooner people just accept it and move on. All we can do is be ourselves–others will be just fine.

  4. Abi says

    Love this article, I remained more or less silent while doing the first 30 days of my paleo diet. Just last week I had 3 of my friends bombard me with questions, “So what are you eating? How much weight have you lost? Don’t you get hungry? Isn’t eating alot of meat bad for you?” It was so exciting because I was FINALLY able to talk comfortably about my new lifestyle and how amazing it is making me feel. The results are truly speaking for themselves :)

  5. Brenda says

    Post Whole 30 and getting the “are you still on THAT diet?” and no understanding from anyone about the grain relationship to our bodies.

  6. says

    This is excellent advice. It’s so tempting to want to preach to the masses about how great this lifestyle is but having been doing paleo/primal for over a year, leading by quiet example has consistently been the best approach for me.