Saturday, March 30, 2013

Overcoming Challenges to Eating Healthy: Part Two

A few weeks ago, I posted Part One to Overcoming Challenges to Eating Healthy on: 'Finding Time to Prepare Meals.' Check out that post for an introduction to the series as well as 10 Tips to overcome that challenge, 10 Quick n' Easy Meals and 10 Make-ahead Items.

Part Two of Overcoming Challenges to Eating Healthy is on 'Living With Non-Healthy Eaters.' In this post, I will attempt to tackle why this is a challenge and strategies to overcome it.


Overcoming Challenges to Eating Healthy: Part Two

Challenge: Living With Non-Healthy Eaters

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside." 
-Mark Twain

When I asked the question on my Facebook page on challenges to eating healthy, one reader posted this:

"The fact that the rest of the family refuses to eat like me and still sticks to their greasy processed foods..." 

They way I see it, there are a few things at play here.  One or combination of these may be true for you.

1) You feel judged for your healthy-eating habits
2) You are tempted to eat their non-healthy foods
3) You feel obligated to make separate meals/options or non-healthy alternatives for everyone else
4) You judge them for their non-healthy eating

Overcoming Feeling Judged 

First we must understand WHY we feel judged. Do we feel guilty? Do we feel undeserving? Do we feel unappreciated for our efforts? Do we feel pretentious?

We shouldn't have to feel badly about making healthy choices for ourselves. It seems that food is the area where this is often the case. You don't hear about people getting ridiculed for washing their car, getting it's oil changed and getting new break pads do you? So, keeping your car healthy is acceptable and keeping your body healthy can somehow be misconstrued. 

Getting to the crux of why you feel judged is key so that you can come up with a counter and affirmation. To do this, we must take ownership of the statement. For example, 'I feel judged because they look at me like I think I'm better-than,' is putting it on them. When we put something on others, we lose the ability to change anything. To take ownership we can change that statement around: 'I feel judged because I feel like when I eat this way, others give me looks which I interpret as them thinking I have a better-than attitude.' There are subtle changes here. I feel. I interpret. We can't possibly know what is really behind a look, to say that the way that they look at you invokes a judgement is making a lot of assumptions and taking power away from you.

'I feel judged because I feel like when I eat this way, others give me looks which I interpret as them thinking I have a better-than attitude.'

Change in thought process, even subtle changes can turn a situation where you feel judged, attacked or negative can be very powerful. What this does, is places you in charge of your feelings, regardless if others are involved.

Some strategies...

1) Breathe, know that everyone is doing the best they can with the knowledge, understanding and resources that they have at the time.

2) Smile. Smiling among other things, can relieve stress, boost your mood AND it can be contagious ;)

3) Process your thoughts before you speak or react.

4) Take a step back and decide how you can change your thought process so that you own your feelings rather than others

5) Strike up an interesting conversation, suggest an activity etc. What this does, is take the focus off of food, and on too a new healthy subject.

Overcoming Temptations 

When you are doing the best that you can to ensure that you are eating healthy. Temptations can be a struggle. And often times, a scary struggle. We get into a place of not understanding our temptations and cravings or not understanding if you are actually hungry our not.

Allowing yourself to indulge and falling into temptation are two VERY different things.

Allowed Indulgence vs. Temptation & Craving

Peaceful, empowered and conscious. Allowing yourself to indulge comes from an empowering place within. It is a very peaceful, conscious act. "When I go out to eat tonight, I am going to have a piece of chocolate cake and glass of red wine." You may not be hungry, you may not be making a choice you would otherwise deem healthy though, it is a conscious choice that you are at peace with and in this way, it is healthy! Allowed indulgence does not foster guilt but rather, satisfaction.

Negative, hurt and reactive. When you fall into temptation and cravings, it is coming from a  negative or hurt place within. Temptations and cravings often come on fast, are reactive and leave  us with a sense of lack of control. This may be brought on by outside influences, but the craving itself is still coming from within. We must learn to understand what we are feeling before we reach for the food. These cravings and temptations are trying to satisfy an emotional hunger vs. a physical hunger and will no doubt leave us feeling guilty and unsatisfied.

Questions to ask:

1) Am I really feeling hungry? Check-in with yourself to see if you are physically feeling hunger. (Refer to this post for my suggested hunger scale.)

2) Would this item (doughnut, cookie, piece of pizza) satisfy my emotional hunger?

3) What happened that is causing me to want to fulfill an emotional hunger with food? (i.e. did your friend say something that upset you? Did you have a bad day at work? Do you miss someone in your life?)

4) What can I do satisfy my emotional hunger? Activities may be to engage in a conversation, call someone you miss, change your environment (i.e. move from inside to outside), get a glass of water, read, go for a walk, write, take a bath or listen to music.

5) Is there something healthy that I can eat to curb my craving? Sometimes we just need that taste on our palate. Try some almonds, dark chocolate, coconut or sunflower seeds. These are all low in sugar but are super tasty and have healthy fats and proteins to satisfy any real physical hunger.

Overcoming Feeling Obligated  

Doing something out of obligation is rarely satisfying. Harboring resentments, negative energy and feelings of being forced. No one wants to walk around with those feelings hanging over them. If you are making separate meals for others in your home and feeling negative about doing so, stop. 

Easier said than done?

First of all, do some due diligence to really discover why you feel this obligation. Are they asking you to? Are they complaining about your meals? Are they under the age to prepare meals and cook for themselves? Do they lack the ability to prepare and cook meals for themselves?

Some Steps... 

1) STOP preparing separate meals

2) Prepare enough of what you are having for everyone

3) Accept constructive criticism and feedback! Maybe your salad and chicken breast is awesome but maybe it could be even more awesome! And don't forget that smile ;)

4) Include the family/roommates in your meal planning and cooking

5) Experiment! Branch out with new flavors and ingredients. Being healthy does not have to boring.

6) Allow some 'unhealthy' every once in a while. Trust me, the every once in a while part, won't kill you. I promise.

7) If there is still a tense situation, prepare your meals and leave the rest to them. Allow them the space and time in the kitchen to prepare what they want and remember the other points in this post to help you with that situation. 

Overcoming Judging Others

But these people should be eating like me!

Ha, that may very well be true. In part. But know and understand that it is THEIR body and positive change will NOT take hold if it is not done out of place of doing it for you.

Think back to when you first started to make healthy positive changes in your life. Food or otherwise. Was someone pushing it on you? Did you feel forced? Perhaps at first, but if this change has become engrained in your life then you are now doing it for you.

Take someone struggling with alcoholism for example. If they walk into that AA meeting and do all twelve steps because they feel like they have to for their family, friends, the law etc., then chances are, they will relapse. Though if they walk in to that meeting and begin doing the steps for their family and friends and then realize that THEY want to be healthy, happy and honest and begin to do the steps for THEM, then chances are they will make their way into recovery.

Things to remember... 

1) What you consider to be healthy may be different than others. There is no good or bad. Right or wrong. You choose to eat the way you do for your body. Others are simply doing the same.

2) Know and understand that change is a process. If they want to change, they will. Love and accept them through this process and be there to support them.

3). Learn from them. You may be excited about your healthy food choices, but take into consideration that you may be missing out on some allowed indulgence. Enjoy a cookie with them every now and then ;)

4). Drop your pride. Your 'way' me be fantastic. Awesome. Lovely. Enlightening. And all of those other great words. And that is very cool. But it is your way. That's it. Your way for you. Allow being an example and support system your contribution. And know that you are still learning.

If you have found absolute perfection in healthy eating- let me know. I'd like to meet you.

And with that, I'll close.

Stay tuned for Part Three of Overcoming Challenges to Eating Healthy!



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