We were at breakfast in San Diego earlier this week at one of our favorite restaurants – The Mission. While we did not indulge in their famous French toast on this trip, the table of four women next to us were sharing one large portion. All but one of the women were taking bites and pronouncing it delicious, but one was politely declining. (I stole a look at her plate – eggs, avocado, side of salsa, no toast. Mmm-hmm.)
Her casual “no, thanks” prompted a strong response from the group – everything from, “Oh, come on, you can have just one bite, can’t you?” to “This stupid diet you’re on is making you less fun.” Finally, the woman gave in and helped herself to a few forkfuls of the sweet stuff, and conversation and laughter carried on.
This experience probably feels familiar to most of us who eat a Whole9 or Paleo-style diet. Avoiding bread, desserts, pancakes, or alcoholic beverages while dining out in a group often draws unwanted attention and disparaging comments from those we consider our friends. Sometimes well-intended, sometimes not, these comments can make a dining experience less than pleasant, and puts us in a lose/lose situation: either stand our ground and sit in uncomfortable tension for the remainder of the meal, or give in and eat something we really don’t want to.
In this situation, there’s only one thing to say (and to believe in your heart of hearts). It’s not me – it’s YOU.
FRIEND OR FOE?
Of course, not all of your friends are going to eat and live the way you do – but despite your differences, a good friend will be supportive of your efforts to lose weight, improve your medical condition, or better your quality of life, even if they don’t agree with your specific choices.* So if the scenario we describe below is your “friend” situation, perhaps it’s time for some honest self-evaluation:
- Your friends are constantly trying to tempt you with things you “can’t” eat or drink.
- They make not-so-friendly remarks about your diet and lifestyle, trying to make you feel bad for choosing healthy foods and passing on less-healthy fare.
- They go out of their way to make you feel different or “weird” for your eating habits.
- They always choose locations for social gatherings that are not conducive to your health concerns, like pizza parlors or the local neighborhood bar.
- When dining at their homes, they never prepare options that you can enjoy (or bother asking if there is anything special you need), even though they know you’re on a special eating plan.
Do these sound like good friends to you?
*Of course, if your friends are honestly concerned for your health, suspecting that you aren’t eating enough, or assuming you aren’t getting adequate nutrition, it’s normal for them to ask questions to make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. That’s not the situation we’re talking about here.
TAKE A STAND
One of the first things they tell you in rehab (whether it be for drugs or alcohol) is to change your environment. If you’re trying to avoid alcohol or drugs, you cannot continue to hang out with the same people who are still using, and still pressuring you to “let loose,” “relax,” and “have fun” in ways you no longer subscribe to.
Why shouldn’t it be the same with friends and food?
Of course, we’re not saying you should drop all your bread-eating friends the minute you start your Whole30. There is no reason you can’t dine with others who eat differently than you do! But there is a difference between those who make different choices, and those who go out of their way to make you feel bad for the choices you are making. Why subject yourself to criticism, peer pressure, taunts, or ridicule from these so-called friends? Especially when you know that their efforts to sabotage your healthy eating plan makes you far more likely to give in and eat things you don’t really want to.
If this is your scenario, there are a few things you can do to address it, and potentially save the friendship and your healthy lifestyle efforts.
- Directly confront the behavior of your friends. Point out their peer-pressure ways, and let them know it’s not cool. You don’t judge their choices, and you expect them not to judge yours.*
- Refuse to engage in the conversation, and change the subject immediately. Be clear that your food choices are not up for discussion at the dinner table, but if they’d like to ask you questions another time, that would be welcomed.
- Socialize with friends outside of food. Go for a hike, hit a fun exercise class, or take a class together – but make the activity time something that doesn’t involve desserts or drinks.
- Invite friends to your house for the next social occasion. Serve them delicious, tasty, decadent meals that all fall within your healthy eating parameters, and show them you still indulge (and enjoy) tasty foods that are also good for you.
*Make sure you’re actually not judging their choices, whether intentionally or not. Maybe they’re just reacting to your disapproving glances when they order that dessert! Be honest with yourself here.
FALL BACK AND RE-FRIEND
If none of those strategies work, it may be time to fall back and find some new friends – those who are supportive and encouraging of your efforts. You can find like-minded folks anywhere and everywhere – in the gym, at a Primal or Paleo meet-up, at the beach, on a hike, or dining next to you at The Mission. (Restaurants are the perfect way to connect – if the plate of the person next to you looks like yours, strike up a conversation!)
Our Whole30 Forum is another great place to meet like-minded folks – who says all your friends have to be in your town? Virtual support and friendship is another great way to stay on track, especially when you’re not getting support at home.
Either way, it’s time to take your own health by the horns, and do what you need to do to set yourself up for success. Whether that’s redefining your relationship with your friends or finding new friends, just be sure to remember one thing:
It’s not YOU.
You’re not the weird one, you’re not the un-fun one, you’re not the one spoiling the party by passing on the pancakes. You should never feel bad about taking steps to make yourself healthier – and you should never let anyone (friend or otherwise) suggest otherwise.
Have you had to change your friends (or change your relationship with your friends) because of your healthy eating habits? How have you dealt with these issues? Share with our readers in comments! (For more of our thoughts on talking to friends and family about your new healthy eating habits, read Chapter 20 of our new book, It Starts With Food.)
Photo header image: Take a Megabite