As someone who is in her third year of an eating disorder recovery, I can tell you that I'm more than familiar with having to learn many ways to deal with eating differently than others. As a health food nut, nutrition major, and someone going through this recovery struggle, it can be so tough dealing with social situations, or even family situations where food is concerned. First, there’s the issue of me trying to eat healthy and get enough calories, while knowing that others might think I’m “dieting.” Because I choose not to eat junk food or a cheeseburger, people often see me as “perfectionist,” or someone who has a “problem.” The thing is, you can still choose to eat healthy, and even differently than others, without it becoming a social problem. Case in point? Though I eat the opposite of my family, I still eat with them and have stopped isolating myself from meal times because I eat differently. I also follow some ways to deal with eating differently than others that I began implementing three years ago at the beginning of my recovery. It wasn’t easy, but I found it to be very effective, and people accept me better for it, than me getting defensive. I hope they help you too, if you eat differently than your friends, family, or co-workers.
1. Be Confident
One of the very most important ways to deal with eating differently than others is to be confident in what you’re doing. Don't eat a food you love and then shrink back in embarrassment. I used to do this, hiding my food prep time away from others and even feeling ashamed of myself! Crazy, right? Now, if my mom is frying bacon, I'm right there beside her blending up a green smoothie or fixing a huge salad with some salmon. If we go out to eat, I'm ordering exactly what I want while the rest of my family does the same. Confidence exudes health, so be confident!
2. Ignore Criticism
People are bound to be critical of healthy eaters or people who eat differently than they do at some point. This only shows that they either don't understand, or they're afraid of anything different. Here where I live, fast food is normal for most people, but not for me. I can buy a week's worth of lunches for what I could spend on 2 or 3 fast food meals. No thank you! Simply tell whoever is criticizing you that you're sorry they don't understand but how much you enjoy eating the way you do and move on about your meal, or consider eating somewhere else if they make you uncomfortable.
3. Give Your Testimony
One tip I have for the best ways to deal with eating differently than others is to tell people how well eating the way you do works for you. Then, go about eating your meal. If someone won't even let you eat in peace without nagging you about what you’re eating, or why, consider telling them you don't appreciate how they are talking to you, and that your food choices shouldn't affect the way they choose to treat you.
4. Address Concerns
If someone around you is concerned that the way you are eating is unhealthy, give them the facts. Tell them what types of nutrients you're getting through your foods, how much energy you have, and be sure to be honest. If you're dieting and not consuming enough calories, be sure to be honest with yourself and them before getting defensive. Yet, if you're eating regular meals and nourishing your body through healthy foods, tell them that you are perfectly fine and offer to talk to them about your diet. Criticism is different than concern, so be sure to understand someone's perspective before you become defensive.
5. Be Open for Discussion
The best way to deal with someone not understanding your eating preference is to be open about why you eat the way you do, and be open to their questions. They might be interested to try it themselves, so be sure to be kind and open if they want to discuss it. You might be able to help them find a new food they love!
6. Listen to Your Body
Sometimes, no matter what you do, other people still won't understand, and that is okay! Don't live to be a people pleaser, but instead, listen to your body. If you don't like sandwiches and eat them everyday just to seem normal to others, quit eating the darn sandwiches! Listen to your body and eat what makes you feel good, helps you look good, and what helps your mind function the best. Too much caffeine, sugar, and nasty fats won't do that, but real, clean food will. Listen to your body. If it isn't digesting food well, listen to it. It is trying to tell you something. If you get headaches, tummy aches, are tired and fatigued, then listen to your body.
7. Remember Why You Eat the Way You do
Sometimes, when people make fun of your diet, or they question it to death, it can make you start to doubt yourself. Consider why you eat the way you do. Does it make you happy, feel good, work with your budget, etc? Remember, what you put into your mouth and the manner you eat can either enhance your life or harm it. If you eat on the go, or are stressed all the time, you're not going to feel well, or get the most benefit out of your food. Or, if you eat foods that don't agree with you, just to please other people, you can't expect to feel well. Remember why you eat the way you do. Nobody has to deal with the repercussions but you, so eat the best way for your body!
If you eat differently than others, how do you deal with it? I know it can be tough, and I’d love to hear how you handle this situation.