Everyone knows we should all be eating healthier, working out more and generally making better life decisions. Problem is, once you actually start doing those things, nobody wants to hear about it.
As ridiculous as it sounds, people don’t like to know when other people are taking the initiative to do things they know they should be doing themselves but haven’t had the discipline to start. If you aren’t careful about it your best efforts can earn you enemies or worse, lose you friends.
No one likes to be reminded about their own failings, so how do you maintain your healthy habits without offending the people around you who don’t appreciate your efforts?
Over the past several years I’ve used a handful of different tactics to deflect the worst intentions of naysayers. Here are the one’s I’ve found to work best.
How To Eat Healthy Without Being A Buzzkill
1. Don’t get defensive
The worst thing you can do when some criticizes you for ordering a salad is to get defensive and start preaching your nutritional superiority. I’ve seen this done, and it doesn’t end well. Whatever you do, keep an upbeat tone and maintain perspective. Not everyone understands the importance of their daily food decisions, and it’s not your job to educate them.
“At least I’m not going to have diabetes by the time I’m 40!”
“Actually the salad here is tasty as hell, have you tried it?”
2. Use humor
Without getting defensive, you can still jab back a bit so long as it is clear you’re being playful and joking. If someone asks why you aren’t eating from the giant Costco tub of brownie bites, cracking a joke about how it isn’t your vice of choice today can break the ice and get the attention off your healthy decision.
“Eeeewwwww. Haven’t you ever eaten a REAL brownie?”
“Thanks, but I’m saving my heart attack for the weekend.”
3. Creative ordering
No one will make fun of you for making healthier decisions if they don’t notice. Ordering a burger and dissecting apart the meat from the bun is certain to draw attention, but there are plenty of things you can order that won’t attract a second thought.
“Do your meatballs have breadcrumbs? Ok, I’ll have the spaghetti and meatballs without the sauce and without the spaghetti, and with extra meatballs. Oh, and a side of steamed broccoli please.”
“I’ll have the steak and spinach salad with a glass of your best California cab please. And can I get some blue cheese with that as well?”
4. Happy honesty
It’s hard to say bad things about someone who is clearly happy and at peace with their decisions, especially if it’s clear you aren’t being motivated by your ego.
“I’m choosing salad because I’d really like to lose 10 lbs this year so I don’t end up looking like you.”
“I’m just trying to eat a little healthier these days to see how it makes me feel.”
5. Harmless lies
Honesty is always the best policy, except when you’re trying to get your jerk friends off your back so you can enjoy your lunch.
“I’m eating a smaller lunch today so I can hit the gym later.”
“I had a really big breakfast, I’m just not that hungry.”
6. Share alike
If you know in advance you’re going to be bringing your own food, you have the advantage of having a meal that looks, smells and tastes much better than anything your friends will find at the corner sandwich shop. Show off your amazing new flavors by bringing enough of something delicious to share.
“Yuck, I can’t believe you’re eating that disgusting excuse for a calzone.”
“Have you tried the mandarins from the farmers market this season? They’re freaking amazing! Here, I have an extra one.”
7. Accept and nibble
Friends can be very crafty and sometimes try and force you into eating unhealthy food by offering it to you point blank. Cheap office birthday cakes are particularly offensive. Politely turning down the objectionable substance is one strategy, but can easily backfire. Just gratefully accept the food and pretend to eat it.
“Just a small piece for me please.”
Take one bite, then keep smiling and continue the conversation while leaving the food nonchalantly on the table. When everyone else if finishing up, subtly drop it in the trash without making a fuss (trust me, nothing is going to waste). By that time, no one will care what you’re doing. If someone does say something, just blame it on how big the piece was.
8. Don’t offer unsolicited advice
No matter how tempting it is, don’t be the reverse jerk. Only offer nutrition advice to friends if they explicitly ask you for it, otherwise keep your trap shut. The best thing you can do to help your friends is show them what good healthy food looks and tastes like by setting a good example, then let them watch for themselves as you lose weight and get in shape.
“You know, that Lean Cuisine isn’t going to help you get rid of those thunder thighs.”
“Wow, I have lost weight! Thanks for noticing! Yeah, I’ve been reading this site called Summer Tomato. It’s great, you should check it out.”
How do you deal with friends who don’t want you to eat healthy?
Originally published January 26, 2011.