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Unsupportive People with Health Journeys: Food Pushers

After sending out the blog Surviving the Holidays, I received a question that I touched on but didn’t touch on in the last blog. What do we do when we’re in situations where we are managing ourselves well, but the people around us are challenging our ability to stay aligned with our intentions?

Unsupportive People or Self?

Not everyone is going to understand what it is that you are doing. And not everyone is going to see the impact of what they say or what they do regarding what you’re doing. And more than likely, is not their intent to upset you or to challenge your systems.

You are going to offend some people or you are going to offend yourself.

That’s what happens when we make some choices. Of course. Not everybody is going to get to the level of being offended because some may respect the boundary that is placed or respect the answer that you give that aligns with what you want. But the thing about your health journey is, this is about you, your life, and your body. Are you going to be OK with offending yourself?

First: Let’s get clear on the first part of this… What do you really want?

We mostly deal with the challenges of others in our actions. When we are heading out to work, to social events, on vacations, when we’re around our bigger families, when we meet up with people that we haven’t seen in a long time, and situations like that. I like to narrow things down to moments when working with clients in this aspect. I do this because in each one of these situations, we may want to show up differently.

I asked my clients first and foremost, what do you want to do here?

  • Do you want to strategize some thing?
  • Do you want to go into this situation and just try to see what you can make happen that has been similar to the different eating habits that we’ve already been working on?
  • Do you not want to do anything?

That is where it begins. You have to first get clear on how you want to show up. If you do not want to do anything because you see this situation as one that’s easy to navigate or maybe you’re feeling overly stressed and burdened, that’s OK. That’s your choice. But you have to also be OK with what follows.

If you decide on a strategy of what you want to do in this situation, then we can try to prepare for the environmental stimuli and help give you confidence with strategy. Please refer back to surviving the holidays for some great strategies on how to navigate social events.

Once we get to this point, whether you have chosen something or not, you have now made a commitment to yourself. You’ve made a promise. This is how you want to show up at this event. And that is what we’re going to expand upon.

Second: Things change. People change.

Change is something that happens all of the time. And right now, some changes are happening within you. And this is not the first time. This will not be the last time either. Think about all of the other things that you may have done or others have done that have sparked change that rippled throughout their life.

  • You may start working out and going to a gym every day.
  • You may decide to quit drinking and stop going out to the bar.
  • You might meet some new friends that you enjoy hanging out with.
  • You may decide to go back to school.
  • You might change the style of clothing that you enjoy wearing every day.
  • You may go and change your hairstyle.
  • You might decide to change career course and go into a totally different industry.

Truthfully, any one of these may challenge the people around you to question, to support, to challenge, and maybe to support, but not support at the same time. And this is because you have changed something about yourself and now value something new. The people around you might be taken by surprise. They may not understand. And that is OK. This is a choice that you made for yourself.

What if we think of things this way?

  • Everyone is responsible for themselves and their own actions.
  • I need to do what makes me happy because sometimes when I try to please others it makes me unhappy. I am not willing to sacrifice my own peace and joy.
  • When it comes down to it, I want people to do what they like. I should also think this way for myself.

The Positive Food Pushers

I want to start off with this section and just let you know that I’m not a big fan of this terminology. I use it here because it is the one that has been used and is recognized. I think the phrase “food pusher” gives us a negative thought about what this person is doing, but it’s not always their intent. Food pushers have commonly been thought of as people who insist that you try something that they have made, make you a plate, ask you to join them in a bite, or other things like that. These are all situations that actually display that they care and the intent is good.

I like to think of most food pushers as people who want to bring us joy, share joy with us, or are looking for joy through appreciation. However, this is their perception of what will bring us joy, and not ours. This is similar to being a person who doesn’t enjoy receiving gifts as a love language and is constantly given new gifts. Or someone who doesn’t feel good receiving words of affirmation and is constantly paid compliments and maybe those compliments are expressed openly in public settings.

A kindness that we can provide to that person who is not aligning with how to speak to us, is to tell them what does speak to us. Like Brené Brown, PhD has said, “Clear is kind.”

The Negative Food Pushers

There’s definitely a flipside to the people that have been included under this umbrella term of food pushers that does support the negative connotation. Think about the people who comment like this…

  • “I cannot believe that you are only going to eat a salad here. You should order something else too.”
  • “I don’t even know why you’re dieting. You really need to eat much more than that.”
  • “You’re too skinny already. Please go eat some thing.”
  • “You need to eat one too, so I don’t feel bad having one.”
  • “You can just have one and it won’t be cheating on your diet.”

Most times the comments that are made like this have nothing to do with you. I’m going to repeat that because of how important it is to understand this… Most of the time, comments like this have nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the person who is speaking them.

What do I say?

  • Practice your boundaries with kindness but assertiveness. Say “no, thank you” and repeat this however much you need to.
  • Possibly change the subject to help divert the conversation. “No, thank you. Hey, what are your plans for the weekend?”
  • If you are reaching the point of fullness that you feel comfortable with or simply are not hungry, say, “No, thank you. I am not hungry right now” or “No, thank you. I am already getting to the point of feeling stuffed, and I simply wouldn’t enjoy it. And it looks amazing. May I take some home with me?”. If they persist, continue with the statement. And do not change your answer. You are speaking for yourself and a boundary that you have for how good you feel inside of your body.
  • Avoid negative comments regarding your choice of food or your body and say, “This food helps me feel my best” or “I’m eating foods that help me feel great”. This also helps speak to the fact that there are no good or bad foods. There are only foods that we choose, or don’t choose in certain moments that will align with how we want to show up.
  • Praise the chef or caterer and say, “Thank you! I will have some later” or “I’m good right now, but thank you!”.
  • If someone mentions that they made something for you specifically, you can say, “Thanks for thinking of me! Do you mind if I take it home with me to enjoy later?” and enjoy what was made later on when it better fits your plan.
  • If the person is somebody whom you feel comfortable, having a heart-to-heart with, talk to them about the goal that you have set for yourself, and what that goal has entailed. Ask them if they have any questions and allow them to ask them freely. Sometimes it’s simply because somebody doesn’t know what it means to somebody else and you may be surprised by their willingness and initiative to possibly help support the goal at the next event.

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