Is It Rude To Eat Differently From My Family and Friends?

by Courtney on June 20, 2014

banquet-453799_960_720

Are these scenarios familiar?

You go to your family member’s house and they have prepared food for everyone, which is the kind of food they eat, but not the kind you eat (or want to be eating). You feel like you’d be rude not to eat what they prepare, or inconsiderate to insist on eating your own way. Perhaps they even tell you that you are indeed rude, or inconsiderate, or difficult. So you eat what they make, and it makes your body feel bad, or it brings you a conflict morally (ie. if your different way of eating is vegan or vegetarian for ethics).

Or perhaps, your friends or family want to go out to dinner, and all the suggestions are places that don’t offer what you want to eat. What do you do then? Eat whatever kind of food the restaurant serves? Eat a bland salad that isn’t satisfying? Not go at all?

Or you are at home, and the family you live with (which might be your own partner and/or children) eat completely differently than you want to be eating. None of them understand or are interested in the same level of healthful foods that you are. Perhaps you’re the main person who prepares food for everyone, and perhaps not, but either way, even in your own home, you are the black sheep. The meals they want are totally different than what you’d prefer, and there’s lots of food around that you don’t want to be eating.

Whether these scenarios are ones you regularly face, or if there are other situations where, when you are with certain people, you struggle to remain on the kind of diet you want to eat, you are not alone in struggling with social situations, pressures, and judgements.

I’d like to unravel some of these and what I believe about them. I have been eating quite differently from most people since about 2005, so I can safely say I have had a lot of experience. By the way, related to this blog might be a blog I wrote a while ago called “Why You Deserve To Change Your Diet“.

Society’s Unloving Expectations

A lot of families and friends are products of society in the ways that they expect you eat. There are a lot of unquestioned beliefs about food and eating that affect us. Here are some of them:

  • If you don’t eat what someone prepares for you, you are rude/inconsiderate/ungrateful.
  • If you don’t eat what others want you to eat, you won’t be able to connect with them. ie. food as a means of emotional connection.
  • If you eat differently than others, you are just “too good for normal food” or overly indulgent and prissy in some way.
  • If you choose to make certain arrangements to provide food for yourself, you are being difficult/inconsiderate/rude.

The truth is that your wanting to eat healthier is not ever inconsiderate to other people. It’s not ever ungrateful, and it’s not rude. You’re not indulgent or frivolous. You’re not difficult. Your choice to eat a certain way is your right, and it has nothing to do with other people. If other people do take offense or accuse you of any of the above, then it means they have unkind, unloving and disrespectful expectations of you, and that is their problem only. What you do or don’t put in your mouth is not the concern of a single other person. You’re not hurting anyone else by eating healthfully.

It is a false belief that you need to be eating the same things as other people in order to somehow have a connection with them. You don’t! And truth be told, if you need to both be eating the same thing and eating differently would impede some kind of special connection with someone, then it may be that that connection really isn’t that strong inherently.

I have had immediate family members, extended family members, friends and strangers who have accused me of every single thing above (and still do!). It’s a widespread experience for those wanting to be healthy, and the cultural beliefs and expectations around food are also widespread. But just because they’re common doesn’t mean they’re true.

If we do sabotage ourselves in the company of others, the first step we need to make to change that is to recognize that we too still believe a lot of these myths around food, love, respect, and appreciation. If you didn’t believe them yourself to some degree, you wouldn’t struggle with it. So first, recognize that you believe some of those tales, and next, consider that they are not necessarily true. Question those beliefs that others have, and that you might partially agree with.

black-sheep-142727_640

People-Pleasing

When we do not eat healthfully when we’re with others, and it is primarily due to what other people might say, it is actually a form of people-pleasing. It certainly is something that people who know they are people-pleasers in many situations, but I have found it can also be true for people who do not consider themselves people-pleasers in other areas of their lives. In other words, many people find it odd that they don’t always care what people think in regards to other things, but when it comes to socializing and food, suddenly they are affected by those things.

Think about it: if you completely didn’t care at all what anyone else thought, would others ever be a reason for you self-sabotage? No, they wouldn’t. So, at the core, this is an issue of caring what others think and modifying our behavior to please them. Modifying our behavior, in many cases, to actually hurt ourselves all for the sake of not making someone else feel upset or unappreciated or whatever. Even if it’s really their issue if they feel unappreciated or upset based on our choices!

The next step is you need to start seeing this as people-pleasing. Even if you do realize you’re people-pleasing with your eating, what do you do? How can you change that? Once again, the first step is to acknowledge that you have an issue with caring what others think and with people-pleasing in this area.

Here’s what you do next.

Question Your People-Pleasing

The only reason we ever care what others think, modify our behavior for them, or hurt ourselves so they won’t be upset is because there are some underlying fears. There are a plethora of fears someone could hypothetically have since even with this issue, everyone is different. The most common fears that drive people-pleasing however, are such fears:

A Few Examples of Fears That Drive People-Pleasing:

-I am afraid of being made fun of by others.

-I am afraid of being rejected by others.

-I am afraid of criticism from others.

-I am afraid someone will get angry with me.

Once we discover what the fears are that are underneath our social self-sabotage, we have to experience them as fears. Emotionally. When you are really in these fears, you will experience them physically. If you stick with them long enough, you can actually sometimes have quite an emotional experience that could even include tears.

Generally people-pleasing in any way has some very deep roots in having been rejected, ridiculed, or receiving someone’s anger in the past that hurt so much that we have decided to just pander to everyone else in order to avoid those experiences at all costs. And so to truly change the experience of eating poorly when in the company of others, we have to often go through an emotional healing process that in truth, is actually not at all about food or eating but rather about our own emotional wounds. We have to feel how bad it feels to be ridiculed, criticized, or told we are bad for doing what we want with our own nutrition.

cherries-in-a-bowl-773021_960_720

Even after eating how I do for so many years, I still sometimes get negatives responses from other people who haven’t worked through their own false believes about the relationship between companionship and different food choices. But because I’ve gone through the emotional healing experience of why I wanted to people-please, why I was ok with hurting my body for others, even if people say the same things now, it doesn’t affect me. No matter how mean or angry or condescending someone might be, I never change my eating in a way that I don’t want just for them. And because I’ve emotionally healed people-pleasing around my eating, I actually don’t even really feel upset myself when someone says something. I may choose to distance myself from a person or not spend time with them if they are being unkind or unloving towards me, but it doesn’t make me feel panicky or anxious or angry anymore.

It can be quite a process to resolve the fears and other reasons we have for compromising what we want for the sake of others, but there is such good reason to do it. When you do it, you won’t struggle to stay true to yourself. You won’t sabotage yourself. You’ll be much more clear on how to make decisions in varying scenarios with people and food. And of course, you’ll end up feeling much more in alignment with yourself and happy that you are treating yourself lovingly now. Your body will feel much better and you’ll be healthier. Ironically, you may end up enjoying social situations more, even if others do eat differently. You won’t have anxiety or dread for the event based on what others might think or say.

I would love to hear from you. Do you struggle with sticking to your goals when around other people? What has helped you to stay true to yourself?

Love,

Courtney

Sign up for my Newsletter!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

carrie June 21, 2014 at 4:05 pm

My parents brought me up to be strong in what I believe in. But when I was younger and living with my parents, it was a little more awkward because of other things that were happening in my life. I isolated myself a lot so I wouldn’t annoy or embarrass my family. I didn’t go to family gatherings or vacations because being vegan in Texas in a small town was just a pain to my parents. I chose to stay at home and have the things that I needed, plus I wouldn’t be bored out of my mind and comfortable.

I think people think that I’m being prissy or snobby about my food. I’m super picky along with being vegan, one is bad enough. Even my husband who is vegan just goes with the flow, but I need to have certain things. Sometimes I wish I could just hide somewhere and do what makes me feel comfortable without questions.

Reply

Courtney June 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm

I totally understand, Carrie! I have some family who also feel I only eat healthy because I’m prissy, too. And I also have backed out of certain social gatherings, though nowadays what I do is just never expect anyone else to make food for me and I just bring my own. I feel it is important to work through emotions about being made uncomfortable by others.

Reply

Robin June 21, 2014 at 11:44 pm

I find it harder to go out to eat as a vegan, for sure, but am finding that if I ask the wait staff for suggestions, they are usually very helpful. Plus I like to let the restaurants know there are vegans coming that want choices to pick from.

Reply

Philip Madeley June 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Definitely have experienced some of these things… and my own commitment is sufficient to stick with what I do… but I know for many it can be quite a challenge. It was intense when I first began when my energy was one of wanting to change everyone else, even if not your conscious intention this vibration can permeate of you wanting others to be like you… release the need to change others and embrace your power to do what is right for you and the energy will shift. Sure there will be uncomfortable situations in the process…. part of life :)

I see Susan (my wife) have challenges when she goes to see her family as she has years of family associations with certain foods. Emotional associations related to food and family are intense for people. I am lucky because I do not miss the food I ate before raw and vegan… my diet was bland and boring.. :)

At work I see my colleagues on one level struggling and another level wanting to change with being around me related to food … they seem embarrassed going out to eat junk food… and make funky food jokes… I feel for them and find it funny… I get them out to whole foods every so often and give them strange treats like homemade kale chips and sauerkraut. My approach is to say very little and just eat the way I do with confidence. :)

Reply

Courtney June 27, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Thanks for sharing, Philip! You are one of the most loving people I’ve met in regards to being health yourself and just letting that be an example and your generous ways of sharing delicious healthy food. :)

Reply

Connie Webb June 22, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Very good article. I think that “people pleasing” is really a defect all of us could live without! I made a little video, just for myself only, confirming my commitment to the raw food vegan lifestyle. Ever since that day, I have not had trouble with people questioning me. I think just saying it all outloud helped me. I even stated things like “even if I get real thin, I am not going to let people talk me out of this lifestyle”. Well, I am at my goal weight now and much more thin than I was, some people complain about me being thin, but I just say “Yeah, I lost some weight, but I am eating healthy and exercising” and that usually just stops them. I guess they just need the reassurance that I am eating healthy – it seems anyhow.

Reply

Kristin June 23, 2014 at 10:30 am

Thank you for this! I think I stray away from optimal health and eating at times and actually use “other people” as an excuse for my OWN self-indulgent behavior. Even with my clients I find I don’t want to be too intimidating and more relatable to them so I feel confident in sharing the beer I had or this that and the other… When I look at the truth of it… It’s likely just my own beliefs. Because I can also be in the space of not eating those things at all an feeling my best and living my truth. This post means a lot in reminding me to stay on path… And am reminded of a quote I share at my own talks… “If it’s important to you you find a way… If not you find an excuse.” Thanks Courtney!

Reply

Courtney June 27, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Hi Kristin! Yes I think that’s also common – using other people as an excuse for us to not always treat ourselves well with what we eat or drink. I have done that too! I feel we must forgo judgement of ourselves for doing it and look deeper at – as you said – the unquestioned beliefs we have in play.

Reply

Casey @ Casey the College Celiac June 27, 2014 at 10:00 pm

As a celiac, I am medically unable to ingest gluten (wheat) so this immediately separates me from most of my family (my mom also eats gluten free) and all of my friends. For me, it’s easier to deal with eating differently because I have a medical excuse to fall back on. It’s harder when I’m at home and choosing to eat different in the form of eating “weird” vegetables (spaghetti squash vs. GF pasta), or quinoa instead of rice because I feel better about nourishing my body through those foods! It’s hard, but stick with it. They’re our bodies and we deserve to fuel them in the best way for us!

Reply

The Vegan Version July 1, 2014 at 7:26 pm

This totally resonates with me. I have experienced this with my immediate family, extended family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. I have come to the realization that it is not about me, it is about them. I try to be accepting of others and the differences in preferences, ethics and views on nutrition. I find it hard to understand why people get so upset, or even mean, because what I choose to regularly eat is not the same as what they do. I think to some degree it forces others to consider their own choices, which can be uncomfortable, and the result is to interpret others as difficult or rude in order to avoid questioning their own consumption and habits. I have largely moved beyond this. If others want to engage in the conversation of “why” then I am happy to do so. If they don’t, then that is OK too. For my own family, I am the one who prepares food- for two omnivores, one vegetarian and myself, a vegan. I refuse to let food be a point of contention around our dinner table and as such I often prepare multiple meals but I do so smiling so that we can enjoy one another and not quibble about who is eating what and why, though I do cook thoughtfully and healthfully as possible for all family members. And, now, all of them do understand that vegan food, when prepared well, can be a great meal. After all, good food is good food!

Reply

reed marcottte April 26, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Hi Courtney, nice article. I had to wonder though as I read, what about someone like me who isn’t into the whole health kick thing. I do understand the offences taken by vegans and such as I’ve seen and experienced the same taken by Muslims who have certain beliefs and not just about food, where some are confronted by the use of drugs or alcohol, dress or even high-gene issues when one might use someone else’s bathroom, for example. I feel, it’s not just about people pleasing. I have felt as though I had hurt peoples feelings in some scenarios because they wondered if they’ve offended me. I have felt overly self righteous many times based on my religious and or moral beliefs. Was it worth hurting somebody’s feelings? They didn’t mean to offend me or cause me ill feelings. It was awkward many times as you and your readers indicate.

A few months ago I started changing up my diet. Trying not to eat meat. When I started this I realized, unless I was terribly sick, there was not a day since I was a kid that I didn’t eat meat. Why have I decided to not eat meat? It’s not because I’m on a health kick all of a sudden. It’s because something has come over me about the nature of life itself. The fact that I got a couple of pets and started seeing the value of life, finding DT and the beauty in God’s creation. I know it sounds weird but this is what’s happening. I can’t even smash a bug now! lol… It feels very genuine to me unlike when I stopped eating pork as a Muslim. Like there is real value behind my decision and it has helped make it easier. For me, it has to make sense. I rarely do things or don’t do things based on what somebody else thinks. Being genuine and true to myself, I find, works best and seems to make for a better outcome when scenarios present themselves. Like, I’m not offended and neither is the other party, somehow. Idk, it just seems to work itself out. My wife, just yesterday went and bought what looks like about $75.00 worth of meat. It’s not bothering me at all. She doesn’t seem to be bothered by doing it. Anyway, just thought I’d mention a perspective from a less healthy attitude :)

Reply

Nick August 30, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Whoah! Great Post! This hits a nerve w/ me. I’ve been vegan for 10+ years & my family see how healthy I am & that inspires them to make changes too. Veganism makes a good filter for finding if family/friends/lovers really loves you — those who do try to accommodate. Those who don’t avoid you anyway, and this is not a bad thing, Haha!

I also only drink water (no soda, alcohol or coffee), which makes it interesting when dating: I always make a point to tell the other person I’m doing this for health reasons & they’re not expected to follow the same diet. I also try to find one healthy food we can both enjoy. It’s a great natural selector, as people who enjoy drinking heavily or eating fast food every day simply cannot consider having me in their life anyway, Haha! This gives everyone a way out of a potentially bad situation. See: veganism has only positives!

Reply

Emer September 4, 2015 at 10:21 am

i join in with what is offered to avoid coming across as a fusspot. It means that 10 or 20% of the time I don’t eat as well as I might but because I am very healthy and never sick I seem to be able to weather it well. You could call it people pleasing or just going with the flow? If family query why I never get colds or get ill I might discuss my food choices with them but it’s such a tedious conversation topic as I’ve always lived like this.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: