As soon as people find out you’re on a healthy diet, starts the peer pressure to eat unhealthy. Here’s how to deal with them, politely but firmly.
Peer pressure to eat unhealthy is very real, and can actually influence your food choices. So it’s important to be very aware of this, and fight back.
I’m not sure why people do this, but whenever we sense that someone does something different, we do our best to make him toe the line and conform. This is true in all areas of life, I think (have you ever seen a married couple try to convince another couple they should get married?), and it’s also true when it comes to people’s choice of diet.
Ever since I started eating a low carb, mostly paleo diet, whenever someone learns about my choice, they become alarmed and do whatever they can to convince me that my ways are very very wrong.
How people pressure us to eat unhealthy
There are many ways to pressure you to stray from your healthy diet. People might voice concern (feigned or real) for your arteries, for example. How is your cholesterol? They might ask. Isn’t all this fat dangerous? And if you’re on the paleo diet, aren’t you worried about lack of calcium?
We know the answer to that – fats are harmless and even beneficial (except for trans fatty acids and industrial seed oils), and dairy is not necessarily the best source of bone calcium, but do people really want to listen to our answer? In most cases, they don’t.
Sometimes people will say “well, fine, but just once won’t hurt, right?”, in an attempt to convince you to try whatever it is that they want you to eat – a generously frosted birthday cake, a wheat-crust quiche that Mom made especially for this meal, or even a fast food meal that everyone else is partaking in.
Of course, this is a lie. “Just this once” can spiral for many of us into days, weeks, even months of out of control eating. And for some, such as those sensitive to gluten or those that are pre diabetic or diabetic, “just this once” can be very harmful. For many people who choose a healthy diet, “just this once” is simply not an option.
Why do our peers put pressure on us to eat unhealthy?
I think it’s evolution. We are social creatures, and as such, we are threatened by people that act outside the norm.
Things will get easier as paleo and low carb diets becomes more mainstream (it’s already happening), but in the meantime, well meaning friends and family will continue to try to make us conform to their ideas of a healthy diet.
How to deal with this peer pressure to eat unhealthy?
It helps if you actually enjoy being an outlier and doing things your way. In most social situations, more than anything, I’m amused at people’s attempts to make me behave as they do. I find it endearing, really, and feel no obligation whatsoever to actually do what they want me to do.
After all, I’m sure your mom has told you this many times: “what if everyone jumped off a bridge?” As annoying as that was when you were a kid, you must now admit she had a point. If everyone insists on eating 300 grams of refined carbs per day, slowly killing themselves and increasinfg their risk of developing diabetes, alzheimer’s and even some types of cancer, does that mean you have to do as they do?
Even if you don’t enjoy being different, you need to remind yourself that when following a real food, paleo, and/or a low carb diet, you are doing the best thing you can do for your health. You are saving yourself from terrible diseases, and you are saving your loved ones from watching you deal with these terrible diseases.
No amount of social pressure should make you eat poison, and rest assured, refined high carb foods are a slow-acting poison.
Practical tips for saying no to unhealthy food
Here are a few things you can do or say when offered an unhealthy food:
1. “No thanks, I’m full.”
2. “Wow, this looks amazing. Thanks.” Take some, put on you plate, then eat what you want to eat and leave the junky item behind.
3. “I wish I could, but my doctor said I can’t eat refined starches anymore or I’ll develop diabetes.” Even if this is a white lie, it’s not far from the truth (all doctors SHOULD say this to all their patients!), and people tend to respect “my doctor said” more than they respect “I choose to.”
4. “This looks so good. I’ll have some later, when I have more space on my plate.” (Be sure to fill your plate with healthy goodies).
I’m sure there are more ways to deal with people’s wish to make you go off your healthy diet, but these are the tactics I use most often.
Stay strong! There’s no reason to succumb to peer pressure to eat unhealthy. Remember that you’re doing something wonderful for yourself AND for your loved ones by keeping yourself healthy; Bring healthy goodies with you to share at events and parties, a great way to make sure you have something healthy to eat; and don’t be afraid to simply say “No, thank you.”