So you’ve been doing an amazing job in your commitment to give yourself the healthy treatment you deserve. You should be so proud – you’re eating types and amounts of foods that feel good, you’re exercising in ways that feel fun, you’re getting appropriate rest and saying loving words to yourself. Awesome!
However, you’ve hit a bump in the road. You’re able to pull this off pretty easily when you’re alone, but you notice that when you’re with others it becomes a much bigger challenge. And you’re with friends/family/your significant other often, either because your job is structured that way or just because you’re a woman and we crave connection.
You’ve heard people say that the biggest predictor of success is the five people closest to you. If that’s the case with health success, you’re afraid that you’re screwed! Your five closest people are sedentary donut lovers and when they’re around, you find yourself acting just like them.
Don’t fret, love! You don’t need to ditch your friends for the crazy bitches in your spin class or resign yourself to a life of jalapeno poppers on the couch. You just need to learn a new skill, the art of making the best choice for you regardless of what everyone else is doing. You can use this useful skill for any number of unhealthy habits (hanging on to your money in a room full of gamblers, keeping your pants on in a crowd of sluts, etc).
You’re at a work event/friend’s party/family function. It’s at a fancy steakhouse. Your companions are discussing which appetizers they’d like to split, and every single thing is deep fried or covered in butter. Within a few minutes, you feel ready to roll all your health commitment up in a ball and throw it out the window. You can’t figure out why – you were fine a few hours ago.
Take a deep breath. This is not a big deal. It is one meal. There’s something that is worse for your health than the butteriest appetizer they’ve got, and that is stress. Certain stress in life is unavoidable. Stress over what you put in your mouth is avoidable, so do whatever you can to chill out.
Send your self a few thoughts of “I love you, we’re fine” and mentally thank your dining companions for the chance to work on this skill.
What You Need to Determine
Each time this situation comes up and you find your healthy intentions slipping away, I’d like you to make a quick determination. Is the root of your urge to dig in to this unhealthy food internal or external?
What It Means to Feel Internal Pressure
Here are examples of urges that come from within:
- You don’t want to eat a spinach salad when everyone else is having potato skins because it makes you feel vulnerable and weird. You don’t want to stand out, it’s uncomfortable.
- You don’t want to eat your sad spinach salad while everyone else is eating potato skins because it makes you feel deprived. You are just plain hungry. You’re tempted to ditch your healthy eating because it does not satisfy you.
How to Handle Internal Pressure
I understand the desire to not stand out with your food choices. If standing out makes you so uncomfortable that you could die, make a conscious decision to eat a moderate portion of what everyone else is eating then let it go. If this only comes up occasionally for you, there’s no reason to make yourself crazy.
On the other hand, if you’re in these situations several nights a week, it’s time to grow a pair and do your own healthy thing. Look at it as an effective “Fake it ‘til you make it” tactic for confidence. A confident woman would not be ashamed of her need to take care of her health. Even if you’re not quite there yet, you can pretend you are. Eventually, the feelings will follow.
If you’re feeling deprived, are you feeling this way often? If so, it might be time to reassess how you define healthy eating.
I used to define healthy eating as staying within a certain calorie count. I’d get in really bad cycles where I’d eat one extra bite over my allotted calories for the day and then binge my head off, eating everything in sight. This was a really sad byproduct of deprivation. It was always the “last” time, so I felt like I had to get it all down my throat while I could.
I know now that for me, a big part of feeling satisfied is listening to my body and not making any hard and fast rules. I just got so tired of beating myself up when I broke them. I have good healthy habits during the week that I relax a bit on the weekends and for special occasions. If I eat too much of a rich food, I don’t have the urge to keep going until I get sick. That’s because there is no “last” time, I can always have the food another day if I want it.
Keep on searching until you find the healthy way of eating that satisfies you, and don’t stop until you do. It is a lot easier to make the most nutritious choice on a menu and say “No Thanks” to the other stuff if you consistently feed yourself in a way that nourishes you.
What It Means to Feel External Pressure
Here are examples of urges that come from the outside:
- Your friend makes comments like “Live a little!”, “You couldn’t pay me to eat (insert healthy food)”, “I’d go nuts if I couldn’t eat (insert unhealthy food)”, and generally pokes fun at your healthy efforts.
- Your grandmother repeatedly tries to feed you junk food after junk food even though you decline.
How to Handle External Pressure
For your friend who can’t stop talking about her cheese habits, have a little patience and don’t pay her too much mind. This is a normal reaction from someone who is not ready to change when confronted with someone who is. Unconsciously, she’s feeling that your commitment to your health is shining a big fat light on her own habits. And it’s making her feel like crap. She’s hoping to turn off that big fat light by bringing you down with her.
People like that tend to shut up when you’re confident and strong in what you’re doing. They either pick up on the fact that all the needling in the world isn’t going to change you, or you feel so fine about taking good care of yourself that you hardly notice them anymore.
Your grandma does not fall in to this category, of course, nor do any of the well-meaning people who like to show you love by feeding you. My great aunt, may she rest in peace, used to offer me roughly eighty five types of snacks per two hour visit.
If there really is absolutely no room in your healthy eating plan for a sensible portion of whatever they’re offering, remind yourself that you’re doing this for you, not for them. Continually draw the focus back to the enjoyment of your time together rather than on food. Be as gracious and thankful as humanly possible for their intentions.
Firmly, lovingly, and repeatedly sticking to your guns should do the trick. I have dealt with many feeders in my day, and noticed that most of them don’t hold a grudge. Or remember not to offer you forty two snacks per hour the next time.
However you decide to handle the situation, make sure you empower yourself in your thoughts. Instead of thinking “I had to eat three of my grandmother’s cookies. I had no choice, she wasn’t going to let up.” Try “The guilt of turning down my grandmother’s cookies is worse than eating something unhealthy. Eating them is the right choice for me today.”
At the End of the Day
Remember, no food, no matter how deep fried, will ever make you “bad”. Well, unless you’re eating fritters made of your murder victims. That’s bad.
Other than that, it’s just a meal, babe. Be kind to yourself as you learn what’s right for you in each situation. Notice the patterns in your behavior and work to gently form new ones. Do the very best you can, one gathering at a time.