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Dealing With Diet Sabotagers

November 7, 2013
Eva M. Selhub, M.D.

Have you noticed that every time you attempt to eat healthy, live healthy or think healthy, someone you know and love sabotages your efforts?

Recently, I entered a challenge with my other CrossFit pals where we follow a strict Paleo diet for eight weeks in conjunction with doing specific work outs, meant to improve our strength, flexibility, muscle mass and tone, and energy level. Gyms across the globe participate as teams and within each community, individuals help one another out with recipes, encouragement and support to stay healthy and "clean."

It really is a wonderful experience so far... that is, when I am mostly surrounded by CrossFit people and those folks who look at me with awe and intrigue and ask questions of interest.

Then, there are the saboteurs:

"What it heaven's name can you eat?"
"Look at you, you are wasting away!"
"You are no fun anymore. I am not sure I can hang out with you."
"Don't you think you are overdoing it?"
"You are making me feel bad. Will you stop talking about what you can and can't eat?"

Sound familiar?

It really is an interesting phenomenon that people you respect and love may feel threatened by your being healthy. Why would this be? There could probably be many explanations.

Competition: Anyone who has always been competitive with you, consciously or not, like best friend or sibling, may feel like they are "less then" or not as successful as you. You are "upping" them, in other words.

Feelings of Inadequacy: Your healthy presence is serving as a reminder to others that they are unhealthy, causing their own feelings of inadequacy or negative health habits to become more obvious, triggering them to feel badly about themselves.

Missing the old you: The old you who was not so health-conscious is sorely missed. They associate you with comfort, along with the "comfort foods" you indulged in together that are rich in fat and sugar.

Guilt: They know they "should" be healthier and feel guilty that they are not as motivated as you.

So what do you do about it? Show yourself and them some love.

You started this program to better yourself, so keep loving yourself for it. Remember that you are indulging in a program that will benefit your health and you. You are not following a plan to be a perfect size four or get into your skinny jeans. You are embarking on a program of self-love. This means you want to only bring into your body and your life foods, people and activities that fuel you to be at your best. This is how you do it:

Get support: If you do not have a support system or community that can help you stick to the plan, then perhaps you can gather a few friends or people to do so with you. You can usually find some sort of support group or start one on Research does show you are more likely to stick to the plan when you have social support.

Exercise and have fun: You want to move your body because it feels good. Find people to exercise with or do it outdoors. If you are not enjoying yourself you will not keep it up. Studies show that it is best to keep your exercise regimen straightforward, fun and with some set goals.

No judging yourself or others: There is no failure. If you feel good, you are doing well. Do not judge yourself, only congratulate that you are loving yourself so much. In turn, do not expect the people you love to join you in your efforts and do not judge them for not doing so. It will not serve you to stay the course in the long run. Practice compassion.

Ask for help: Ask your friends or loved ones to help you and let them know they are welcome to join you any step along the way, should they choose. No pressure. They will feel less excluded and may even join you a bit.

Be responsible only for you: You are not responsible for getting anyone else to be healthy.

Smile: Whatever you do, wherever you go and whatever you put into your body, do it because it fuels you to feel good and happy. Remember, food is not for comfort, it is fuel. If you are unhappy and seeking comfort, call a friend, walk out in nature, play music and dance like you don't care or find some other form of healthy activity to get that smile back on your face. If it is your loved ones that are triggering you to put a frown on your face, open your heart and love yourself and them anyway. Breathe deeply in and out and ask your heart to open. Then say, "I choose to love you and me anyway." And put a smile on your face. Studies have found that optimism is a factor in sticking to your diet plan.