What do you do when your partner or other family members don’t support your health choices?
When we change our lifestyle, which might include our diet, personal care products, home cleaning products, kitchen cookware and equipment, bedding, and many other elements that contribute to a healthy home, it isn’t just us that’s affected. Our partners, children, parents, friends and other family members are affected, too. No person is an island and the choices we make ripple and spread outward.
Making shifts in diet and lifestyle are not always easy, but they also don’t need to be complicated. If there are things we can do to support our wellbeing and for happiness and optimal health, why wouldn’t we do them as much as possible? Why wouldn’t we want to take action that reduces our risk of degenerative health issues or complications from what could otherwise be a mild and temporary illness?
One of the biggest challenges people have is getting family and friends on board when they make both small and major lifestyle changes. Change is exciting, but it can also be scary. Sometimes, the people we love become frightened that we will morph into someone unrecognizable. Maybe our health changes magnify our partner’s or family members’ own insecurities or health worries. Sometimes family resists change because it’s more comfortable to stick with what they know – even if what they know isn’t serving them.
So is there anything you can do if your partner or family doesn’t support your health habits? While you can’t change people or convince them to bend to your will, there are ways you can address this issue and create more harmony in all your relationships.
What To Do When Your Partner or Family Don’t Support Your Health Habits
1. Listen without judging
If your partner or family members don’t support your health habits, it’s important to have a two-way conversation about it. Listen to what your family has to say, as their feelings are valid.
Instead of constantly thinking of rebuttals to what your loved one is saying and attempting to prove that your view is right, try to listen without judging your family’s opinions, and be kind and compassionate.
2. Lead by example
The best way to inspire others is to lead by example and live your life in a way that is true to who you are and what you believe. So go ahead and eat your kale chips and meditate and skin brush and do yoga in the living room or whatever else helps you feel your best.
Often when partners or family members see what you’re doing (or smell the deliciousness you’re cooking), they’ll begin to ask questions, enjoy taste testing, or want to join in on the fun. If they don’t, that’s OK too. But don’t let their views drag you down or alter what you want to do. We should never compromise our health or eat anything we don’t want to just to be polite or make someone else feel better.
Now, I’m not saying we should never compromise or negotiate in our relationships – that would be foolhardy. What I mean is if your partner is chowing down on deep-fried Twinkies and you don’t want to eat them, you shouldn’t have to in order to keep the peace or make your partner feel better.
The important thing about leading by example is being as consistent as possible. You can’t eat deep-fried Twinkies with your partner one day and then say they’re disgusting and criticize him/her for eating them the next day. That’s sending very mixed messages and will confuse your partner about what you value and what you want. Be clear about your ‘never evers‘ and stick to them.
3. Don’t offer unsolicited advice
When we feel excited and passionate about our health and nutrition, we often want to share everything we know at all possible opportunities. This can quickly become irritating and can feel like criticism or nagging to your family members, even if you have the best intentions.
Don’t tell your best friend they shouldn’t eat potato chips or candy bars or French fries. In all likelihood, they already know that these aren’t the most heath-supportive choices. Don’t tell your partner to go for a walk or lose weight or whatever else you don’t like to change him or her. This isn’t helpful or constructive.
I know it’s hard to keep your mouth shut, but unsolicited advice isn’t going to change anything or improve your relationship. If your family’s health habits are worrisome, there are alternate ways to express this – giving unwanted advice isn’t the way to go.
4. Don’t take your family’s behaviour or eating habits personally
Let’s say you’ve had open and honest discussions with your family about your diet and lifestyle choices, you’ve refrained from giving annoying advice, and have mastered your own health habits like a boss. Shouldn’t your awesome example mean that everyone you know will soon follow suit?
Not necessarily. Sometimes our friends and family get it immediately and jump on board. Others might take months or years – and some may never come around. Don’t view your family’s decisions as a personal insult or affront to you, or that you’ve failed to help. Your family’s health choices are about them and not about anything you’ve done or not done. As I mentioned earlier, we can’t force people to change or convince them to do what we want. We can only lead by example.
Everyone has their dealbreakers and you may decide that healthy living is one of yours. If it is, it’s important to communicate this with your romantic partner. Don’t give ultimatums, but let them know how you feel. Most couples I know are able to find common ground and give and take in this area, so don’t worry that your relationship will be destroyed!
5. When asked, offer help/advice in baby steps so you don’t overwhelm your family
Most of the time, when one member of the family makes a health change it inevitably influences the household (or family who live outside the home). Remember that if your family asks you for help, they may not be as practiced and adept at this whole healthy living thing as you are.
So when asked, offer help in baby steps rather than demanding people make drastic changes. Assess what they are willing to take on, what they need most, and where you can be the most helpful. Don’t assume or guess – ask them!
Your family might feel ready to eat a more nutritious breakfast, add a few fermented foods to meals, install a shower filter, or experiment with a new potent spice. Be encouraging and meet your family wherever they’re at and then work up from there.
How to Navigate Social Pressure
There are times when you may be confronted with social pressures from friends or family, encouraging you to eat something ‘just this once, it’s a special occasion’ or make other demands that are in direct conflict with how you live or simply don’t feel like the right decision for yourself and your wellbeing. It’s a challenging space to be in, as you don’t want to constantly have to defend yourself – especially to those you love the most.
These are some things to consider when navigating social pressures.
- If offered food you don’t want to eat, a simple ‘No thank you’ will suffice. If pressed further, saying something like ‘I’m working on my health’ can be effective. If your family member is asking questions out of genuine interest, consider it an opportunity for you to share what you know if you’d like – as they are inviting in the knowledge.
- Change the subject. Ask them about their kids, pets, newest hobbies, the last book they read, etc.
- If the gentler tactics aren’t effective, don’t hesitate to be direct and set firm boundaries. Stating that you don’t want to talk about something, or sharing how a family member’s judgment is affecting you, can be difficult. We all deserve respect and if you’re not getting it, it’s fair to point that out.
- It’s absolutely wonderful and OK to be who you are. If someone is pressuring you to make a choice that isn’t in alignment with what you believe or your way of living, that is more to do with them and where they’re at in their lives. You’re doing just fine.
I also have a few resources that you might find handy when dealing with social pressure:
When your partner or family don’t support your heath habits, home life and family gatherings can be challenging. By implementing some of these tips, you can work it out with your family and come out on the other side with stronger relationships.
If you have any tips to share that have helped you in your relationships, please post below.