How To Eat Healthy Without Being A Buzzkill

by | Jan 30, 2013

Photo by Monster Pete

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.

Instead of:

“At least I’m not going to have diabetes by the time I’m 40!”

Try:

“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.

Instead of:

“Eeeewwwww. Haven’t you ever eaten a REAL brownie?”

Try:

“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.

Instead of:

“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.”

Try:

“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.

Instead of:

“I’m choosing salad because I’d really like to lose 10 lbs this year so I don’t end up looking like you.”

Try:

“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.

Instead of:

“I’m eating a smaller lunch today so I can hit the gym later.”

Try:

“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.

Instead of:

“Yuck, I can’t believe you’re eating that disgusting excuse for a calzone.”

Try:

“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.

Instead of:

“Just a small piece for me please.”

Try:

“Mmm…thanks.”

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.

Instead of:

“You know, that Lean Cuisine isn’t going to help you get rid of those thunder thighs.”

Try:

“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.

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32 Responses to “How To Eat Healthy Without Being A Buzzkill”

  1. Mike says:

    That is a world class plug at the end of your article. Well done. : )

    This is my new favorite post on your site. Finding healthy food and changing your life is one thing, but gently educating other people through example is quite another. These are great examples, and I know I’ll be using a few of them in the future.

  2. matt gordon says:

    love the ideas. i get my chopps busted by others when i ask for the salad dressing in a small dish so i can dip my fork into the dressing prior to spearing the salad. i eat about 1/10 the dressing and i also dont have a sloppy and oily plate to get all over my hands and clothes.

    love all the tips plus the plug at the end. mike is right, you are one sly blogger

  3. sarah beth says:

    this post is a lifesaver! I’m in college and catch nothing but flack every time I don’t gorge with my friends on a 4th slice of pizza or a tub of brownie batter. I hate how they try to make me out to be the bad guy for treating my body right. I’m going to have the memorize these awesome comeback lines!

  4. Robert says:

    This is the best post ever. I especially love “Mmm…thanks.” Hahahaha. But seriously, great advice.

  5. Carolyn says:

    Hey Darya, I know I’ve said it before, but I’m really enjoying your site these days! I visited recently because I read Gary Taubes’ latest book and couldn’t help wondering about your take on it. Then I got hooked…. Keep up the good work, lady!

  6. Eleanor says:

    Oh boy, this is one of those subjects I wrestle with all the time. For some reason, people take it personally when you decline to join them in making themselves sick. You’re right, getting defensive and/or lecturing doesn’t work. Humor is the best strategy. Some great ideas here – thanks for this post!

  7. Alice says:

    Love the part about “creative ordering.” My hubby accuses me (playfully) of being like Sally in the movie “When Harry Met Sally” who always is high-maintenance when ordering anything at a restaurant. Sometimes he tells me I should just go into the kitchen and stand next to the chef and tell him exactly how I want it. :-)

    Hey, whatever works!

  8. Sean Kelley says:

    Love eating healthy, but hate holier-than-thou healthy eaters. Great list!

  9. Tash says:

    Thought this article would be about eating healthier and not having the food be a buzzkill for me. A la good foods to eat. But I see its not being a buzz kill for my friends who I tell to stfu when they bother me anyways.

  10. jean says:

    Wonderful! These conversations can be frustrating. Great ways to turn them around!

  11. It’s so easy to feel like a buzzkill! People ALWAYS comment, no matter how subtle you try to be with alternative food choices. Thanks for the great tips!

  12. AJ says:

    Thank you, Darya. =]

  13. Janice says:

    If you are with people who don’t know you well, allergies is a great excuse. Everyone is very respectful of a person’s allergies.

    When you are at someone’s house and they insist that you take some food home, try to “forget’ it on a table on your way out. If that doesn’t work, stop at the nearest service station on the way home and drop it in the garbage.

  14. Steph says:

    “How do you deal with friends who don’t want you to eat healthy?”
    I just cry. I break into loud, uncontrollable sobbing. I can produce tears at will so it’s easy. People don’t know what to say or do. They end up apologizing profusely and it never happens again. It’s particularly effective in public.

    Just kidding. Though I am so tired of it, I’d like to cry sometimes. These are great tips! Thanks for this post. I’ve used a few of your tricks before. And I’m sort of “lucky” I guess in that I have a few food sensitivities which people can’t seem to keep track of and can understand best when described as allergies. So I am often “allergic” to food I don’t want to eat. :)

    • stephanie robbins says:

      Too funny, I do the same thing with the allergies. I don’t consider it lying. I do have a reaction to certain sugary and fatty foods…they make me feel like crap! LOL

  15. Lin C says:

    One thing that has helped me out is that I’ve started cooking for my friends instead of going out to eat all the time. I know this won’t work for everyone, but I really enjoy having people over, so it’s fun for me. This way, I can easily leave out what I don’t eat (dairy and really heavy sweet desserts especially), and my friends are happy because I’m also a pretty darn good cook (and yay for leftovers!). The most difficult situation for me is dates. I’m fairly tall, usually about the same height as the guys I date, and athletic, so they all assume that I can eat like them. Since I’m a very slow eater, I get lots of questions like, “Are you sure your food is okay? You seem to just be picking at it.” or “Oh, come on, you can finish that. Power through!” I don’t try to be a buzzkill, but sometimes being blunt is necessary to get through to some very dense men.

  16. Angela says:

    It is a problem, not the first two weeks of a fresh new year but the next fifty! Little white lies are quite harmless especially for your health ;)

  17. Rian says:

    Most of these tips are very good and provide better alternatives than the normal reflex reaction, but there are some I’m concerned about. The advice to lie about not being very hungry or sneakily throwing food away doesn’t sound like healthy advice to me – these are deceitful habits that make food something of an enemy that you have secretly get rid of. That doesn’t seem like a healthy habit to me.

    My family sometimes comments on my food and how there’s ‘not enough red meat’ and things like that, but I just explain to them that what I’m eating is healthy, in appropriate amounts, and that I enjoy what I eat. I ask them if they’d like to try my alternatives and let them decide.

    • Holly says:

      I have to say I agree with you. I try to eat healthy, but I am by no means a slim girl. I have a friend who drinks diet shakes all week long and then binge eats the entire weekend, I think because she doesn’t want anyone to know how she’s lost those 80 lbs. Anywho….I think her behavior is also deceitful because she is cheating herself.

  18. This was great and informative …I hav come across alot of these same situations, people do hate to see others trying to live a more healthy life style (it is so sad) …

  19. just wanna be healthy says:

    I love this post. Really dislike the weird stares and comments if you order just a salad for lunch – as opposed to a 3-course meal…but, what’s wrong with my choice? Sometimes I’d rather just skip going out for lunch altogether because of that…thanks for the tips! Totally agree with the office birthday cakes!

  20. Chris Campbell says:

    I have been using these tips for years. The hardest thing has been trying to get my husband to modify his diet. I finally realized that it’s just not possible because he doesn’t care, himself. I hate it, but it’s a fact of life. As far as other people are concerned, it took several years but now I feel no need to defend myself or try to hide my choices. I just don’t care about their opinions anymore!

  21. fanny says:

    I love the timing of this post!

    Just the other day I was asked about stuff I eat, I mentioned I don’t eat prepackaged bread or even worse cookies from the supermarket. I said something along the lines of why would I do that to myself. One of my coworkers replied ‘because they’re delicious’. I didn’t say anything else. I just couldn’t understand why they’d bother asking me about stuff just to tell me they’re still gonna eat that. *shrug*

  22. Dee says:

    People see my body becoming skinny and fabulous everyday… So they expect me to be a buzzkill only eating salad fish and no carbs and talking/ complaint about it… But nope I order normal food/ pile my plate but just eat qty to suit my energy needs

  23. Marianne says:

    When someone gives me grief about any sort of food choice I am making, I respond by asking them “why is what I am eating so important to you?” or “the fact that you are paying so much attention to what I am eating is weird, why do you do that?” I don’t say it in a nasty tone or anything, but with a sense of genuine curiosity… it works.

    • Diane says:

      I completely agree with you. Why is what I’m eating so important to people? I have had people get so upset at me because I only ate fruits at a party where all there was available (besides fruits) I didn’t like (cake, sweet stuff, greasy foods..). Everyone was watching me and I felt attacked. I hate that. I want to be able to be myself and for people to accept that I like to eat healthy, and not question/critizice/be jealous/upset/annoyed/suspicious. I think eating healthy shouldn’t affect others! I liked this article a lot. It gave me some ideas about things I can do… It’s very challenging for me because I won’t fake it and eat something I don’t want. If I have a treat I have to like and want it. I don’t like to be pressured. I have also been told I make people feel bad about their food choices and their bodies…. because I don’t eat unhealthy with them. It doesn’t make sense to me :,(

  24. Lois says:

    I used to feel ashamed when I was trying to lose weight; so, I would always parry the “Why aren’t you having cake?” question. Now, I find it empowering to just be honest and say: “I’m trying to lose the weight I gained when I was pregnant.” People might offer me unsolicited advice, but none of it includes forcing cake on me and in the end, coworkers and friends have proven to be really supportive. It’s nice.

  25. Trevor says:

    Love the shameless plug at the end :) There’s a militant vegan at work and he now has been given the nickname debbie downer. Definitely don’t want to become that guy.

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