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Most of my family get-togethers revolve around meals. We even have our own family cookbook and the “desserts” section is half of the book. And I’ve used the phrase “calories don’t count on vacation” more times than I can count. I say all of this to let you know that I love to love food.
But I also realize there’s this thing called “balance” and I probably shouldn’t eat an entire box of extra-toasty Cheez-Its in one sitting. (I totally just made that example up. So random.) In my quest to find this balance, I’ve tried my fair share of diet fads and trends. Let me give you a little sample: Hollywood diet, 5:2 diet, Eat-Your-Heart-Out diet, Whole30, and a good ol’ juice cleanse.
If you’re like me and you’ve ever tried some form of diet or healthy eating, you’ve probably experienced some sort of diet shamer. You know who I’m talking about—the person who keeps waving sweet treats in front of your face reminding you just how great it tastes, the friend who insists one drink won’t hurt your diet (and to be honest, I’ve been that friend before), or maybe it’s the person who uses a condescending tone when asking, “Is that all you’re eating?”
And, if you’re like me, you feel a little uncomfortable when you’re put into these situations. I’m a people-pleaser to my core, and when someone challenges my actions or opinions I have a tendency to back down. When it comes to my diet, this means I’ve caved a time or two just to avoid anyone judging me.
While I don’t have all of the diet secrets figured out (I’m in my mid-twenties; there are very few things I’ve “figured out”), I can share some of the tips I’ve picked up along the way to fight off those diet shamers.
1. Don’t Make Someone Feel Guilty for Not Being on Your Diet
Often, simply letting your friends know you’re eating healthy gets them to stop harassing you about not splitting that pizza. (It might not always, but we’ll talk more about that later.) But don’t venture into the humble-brag territory. When your friend orders cheese dip as an appetizer, it’s probably not the time to go on a 30-minute rant about why she should be cutting out dairy from her diet. If she feels like she’s being attacked, she’s more likely to strike back about your diet. Let a girl eat her cheese dip. Just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean she has to be.
2. Have a Buddy
Like so many things in life, I think having a buddy makes dieting easier. This isn’t necessarily someone who is on the same diet as you are, but someone who will support you and even hold you accountable. Knowing you have someone to tell you—whether it’s in person or a quick text—“You can do this!” makes staying on track and fighting off negativity much easier. If you know you’ve got someone in your corner, you’ll care less about those who challenge your opinions.
3. Make Them Feel Comfortable
I am both a bargain-hunter and an old soul. I love to save a dollar and I like my social engagements to end by 7:30 p.m. This means that I find myself going to a lot of happy hours when I leave the office. Going to a happy hour with a friend is one of the trickier situations to navigate when I’m eating healthy. Not necessarily for me, but for the person I’m meeting up with. When you’re not drinking, or even just making an effort to eat healthier, there is often an automatic assumption that you’re sipping on your club soda judging the other person at the table. The times I’ve found myself encouraging my friend to cheat on her diet are because I feel uncomfortable—I don’t want to be judged for my choices! To avoid making anyone feel bad, I usually give my friends a heads up that I’m on a diet if we’ve made plans. A couple of ways I’ve slid this into a conversation:
“Wanna grab a drink this week? (water for me, marg for you)”
“Mexican sounds great! I’m actually on a health kick right now, so I can’t split cheese dip tonight, but I’m always down to see you!”
Once I’ve made it clear that I’m not here to judge my friend for her cheese dip or marg, I can feel an immediate sense of relief. There’s a slim chance of diet-shaming if my friend is content with her choices and I’m content with mine.
4. Don’t Let Them See You Sweat
Alright, it’s time to talk about that person who won’t stop harassing you about your healthy eating. They’ve asked why you’re on a diet (or what you’re eating, or what diet you’re on, etc.), you’ve explained yourself to them, and they still won’t let it go. The best way I’ve been able to handle a situation like this is to be prepared for the situation and also a little bit of criticism.
If I’m going out to lunch or dinner with people, I scout out the menu beforehand so I know exactly what I can order to stay on track. This helps me to walk into a situation more confidently and in-control. Not everyone’s going to agree with you or your choices, and that’s okay! If you’re the type of person—like me—who doesn’t like criticism, it doesn’t hurt to have a response to this criticism ready. Maybe it’s a reason for your healthy eating, maybe it’s a joke to laugh off the criticism, or maybe it’s a deliberate subject change. Knowing how you’ll respond in a situation takes away the fear of uncertainty. Have I practiced my response while driving? Yes. The more I’m prepared, the easier it is for me to let criticism roll off my shoulders.
Remember that someone’s criticism or negativity may be fueled by their own issues and insecurities. As one of my heroes, Robin Roberts, says, “Everybody’s got something.” Who knows where their criticism is coming from, but you can’t let it get in the way of your progress. Bottom line: You’ve got to be confident knowing that you’re doing something positive for you.