I have always endeavored to be healthy, but when chronic disease reared it’s ugly head, I had to seriously rethink everything I had ever believed about my supposedly healthy lifestyle. Intent on healing my body and reversing my disease, I opted for a real food, paleo diet and lifestyle. Excited about my goals for healthy living, I wholehearted embraced the paleo approach, yet my loved ones didn’t necessarily share my enthusiasm for change!
It is a curious fact that when we take on healthier habits, the people in our lives don’t instantly want to get on board. More often than not, they don’t even recognize that a few healthier practices actually would do them good! This is often the reality faced by many who are on a quest for better health. Our families often resit the changes we make, and as they continue to eat pizza and ice cream in our presence, we often feel discouraged at the lack of understanding and support
So, what do we do? Abandon all attempts get healthy? Of course not! Force change on our loved ones? Tempting, but ineffective. There is no simple answer, but I can share several ideas that might just make your life a little easier and keep familial stress to a minimum. Let’s take a look at some strategies and see what might work for you.
Don’t be critical or controlling
Around the time I started making adjustments to my diet, a girl friend who eats paleo for managing celiac disease offered some timely advice. She urged that I resist trying to force my husband to come around to the same way of thinking and to simply allow him to be himself. It is hard not to criticize when your spouse insists on eating their cherished processed foods when you are aware of the negative effects it can have on their body. When you love a person, you really want them to be healthy and really flourish. Watching them remain sedentary or continue eating crappy foods is a struggle when your healthier choices make you feel great!
When you set out to get healthy, it is tempting to do a complete overhaul of the pantry, tossing out all foods that are processed and unhealthy. This is fine if you live alone, but your family will likely freak out! In my home, I’ve pretty much reclaimed the majority of the cooking and grocery shopping, but its ok for my husband to have his bread, cookies and chips. He keeps them in a specially designated kitchen cabinet that I’ve dubbed the “cabinet-o-gluten.” If you have kids, they won’t instantly welcome eating salad just because you do, but you can introduce veggies slowly, such as in soups or blended into sauces.
Allow for compromise
As much as I’d loved to see my husband embrace the paleo way of life, I know that I can’t be a nazi about it. He pretty much eats what I cook, but I’m ok with him adding to it, like topping his broccoli with melted cheese, or using condiments that have questionable ingredients. Because he doesn’t feel pressurized to be an exact replica of me, he is free to appreciate that I serve him meals that not just tasty, but also nourish his body.
Make meal preparation a joint effort
Recruit your kids or other family members to assist you in the kitchen. Not only is this fun, but when they’ve had a hand in meal preparation, and have seen what has gone into putting it all together, they’ll feel more inclined to eat it. You can also use this time together as a teaching moment and get your kids interested in fruits and vegetables by getting them to pay attention to shapes, colors, scents and textures.
Bring on the deliciousness!
It can be a challenge to convince your loved ones that green vegetables or foods that haven’t come out of a package are not gross or bland! As the primary cook, you are in a powerful position to create some mouthwatering meals that stimulate them to think differently about what it means to eat nutritiously. Make your meals visually appealing by adding lots of variety and color, and use herbs and spices to jazz up simpler ingredients.
Share nuggets of information
It is nigh-impossible to get my husband to read books or articles about nutrition or other health related topics. I don’t expect him to get excited about learning the ins and outs of ancestral health just because I am, but I have found ways to cleverly interject little bites of learning into the conversation. He is glad to listen to my “food facts” and discuss how these relate to my health condition. By keeping it light, he respects my convictions on topics such as consuming pastured meats or excluding gluten, or how dietary changes have brought about healing.
Find your tribe
When you make lifestyle changes on your own, without family support, it’s even more of a challenge. As such, you need to find other sources for encouragement. I’ve joined online paleo groups for people with autoimmune disease, and other similar groups. Facebook and other social networking tools are helpful for finding online support. Meetup is a great resource for finding local groups for individuals striving for greater health and wellbeing. You’d be surprised at how many people in your community are seeking fitness buddies or offer free meditation meetings!
Committing to get healthy is always a great thing, but just because you have gone through the entire thinking process to arrive at the this decision doesn’t mean that others are on board. It’s unfair to expect them to share your enthusiasm when they haven’t had the opportunity to go through the same thinking process, consider the reasons for change, or find the motivation.
Instead, ask them support you in your efforts to get healthy, and tell them how this is really important to you. Let them know they are always welcome to join you, but it doesn’t change how you feel about them if they decline. As your loved ones notice changes in you, and witness how fantastic you feel, over time you will inspire them to contemplate changes they wouldn’t normally consider, just by setting a good example!