March 07, 2017 by Kathleen Renner, L.C.S.W.
An obstacle often encountered in the journey to healthy eating is family and friends, who, perhaps while well meaning, can sabotage one’s resolve. “A little cake won’t hurt,” or “don’t be such a downer,” can demean your efforts and can deter your good intentions. Whether family members or friends, they may feel threatened by your changing lifestyle and attempt to disrupt your new Nutritarian diet. I refer to these people as saboteurs or food bullies.
The answer is to be confident in yourself and your goals and set boundaries to what is acceptable from others and what is not.
Why is setting boundaries so important? Personal boundaries protect our individual interests and shield us against harmful influences. Learning how to create healthy boundaries is a critical social skill. Finding a balanced approach, however, is essential because it’s important not to ruin otherwise good relationships. When we learn how to create boundaries from a place of self-love and wisdom, it serves us well. Setting clear personal boundaries is key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, caring, and supportive. Boundaries are a measure of self-esteem and they help set limits for acceptable behavior from those around you. Establishing healthy boundaries helps empower you to make healthy choices, feel respected and understood. Otherwise, not setting such boundaries often is fraught with fear of rejection or abandonment.
The key to boundaries is consistency. People in your life are used to you being a certain way, when you change, often you will encounter resistance. It’s important to continue to stick to boundaries even when entrenched in your new healthy lifestyle.
HOW TO SET BOUNDARIES:
•COMMUNICATE: I highly recommend sitting down with family and friends and letting them know you have started a new health journey. Ask for their support and help. Don’t be defensive or accusing, just ask for their understanding during this transitional time.
•SET PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES: If your family is unwilling to change their eating lifestyle, insist on separate kitchen space for your food. Out of sight and out of mind is key. Tell them not to offer you SAD foods and to be respectful about eating foods not acceptable in your healthy diet in front of you, especially in the beginning of your transition. Many people will be very interested in this new life change and want to know more. This may make you feel defensive, but never get into a debate or try to justify yourself to anyone. Simply stating that you are excited about your new journey is enough. If people have questions, answer them, but do not get stuck in a cross examination or argument.
•GIVE A HEADS- UP: If people typically tend to serve or bring you SAD foods on special occasions, reach out to them in advance and say you are on a special diet that restricts these foods, but you would love to see them!
•BE CONSISTENT: You set the tone for your new lifestyle. If you are wishy-washy about it and are not consistent, people will not take you seriously.
•Your success is up to you!