Dealing with Social Food Pressure

plant based, vegan, vegetarian, dieting, fat loss, food pressure

“Are you still eating just air for a diet?”

“C’mon, stop being boring, live a little!”

“No, yuck, I don’t want to try that cardboard!”

“Man, sucks to be you!”

 

This is just a sample of the phrases directed my way when the topic of food comes up in social environments. Reading them has little impact…but in those moments I have, at times, found myself with a range of feelings from humiliation to dissonance, assurance to affirmation.

The journey of self-discovery has been long and unpredictable, and friends and family have had to get used to many layers of me.  I’ve realized that I cannot take these statements personal. My choices can be confusing to others, and being steadfast in them will get me through the convoluted questioning and criticism I’ll likely always get.

In the Beginning

My parents neither pushed nor restricted my diet, as a child; I was a self-determined and self-professed vegetarian for most of my years. Mom was happy to oblige in the kitchen with home-cooked plant-based meals and, as I can recall, my choice was rarely a subject of discussion. My individualism was tolerated, but I was definitely labeled picky!

Candy, pizza, and fast food, were demonized in my household. However, those foods were in abundance in classrooms, academic meetings, and at all celebrations — my sports teams winning games, birthday parties, and holidays.  Social pressure to engage in the festivities came not only from my peers, but from adults as well; so to protect myself from being ostracized by an entire community I indulged, and also began lying to my parents about the things I consumed when out of the house.

Choices Catch Up

I lived a very disharmonious way for many years: at home, cooking and preparing my own food, and when with others excessive food ordering and substance debauchery.  Being raised by a mother that packs your lunch everyday for school, cooks dinner and tucks you into bed, I felt extreme guilt for my social behaviors.  I continued to lie about my lifestyle when speaking with my family; yet I’d find ways to rationalize the issue, because ultimately I liked feeling accepted by my peers.

I’ve shared my story many times so I won’t get into the details now, but all that dissonance caught up and I knew I had to take steps to overcome it.

Pure Aesthetics

When I entered the world of fitness competitions, my life was lonely and isolating at first. I knew I couldn’t eat and live the way my peer group was, if I wanted to see dramatic changes in my body and have a shot at a trophy. So I rarely hung out with friends. I quit my job, because it did not support my healthy choices, and opted for another in sales and marketing. I became a homebody, and very neurotic about cooking my own meals… but boy did I look great!

Many people attacked me, saying I was becoming an extreme dieter, a fitness fanatic, and obsessive about health. I didn’t know how to respond, so I often lashed out.  I hung out with more and more people in the fitness community, but I began seeing how out of balance I had become. I had cut so much out of my life, to look my best! Winning competitions was my only goal, and a lot of that came with winning the acceptance of those in the fitness community.

Long-lasting Empowerment

It all came crashing down after back to back health scares. At one time I had to give up the gym and competing entirely, because my gut was so severely damaged.  I lost so much weight, and desperately needed to heal so I hired a team to help get my body back. Through a thyroid and adrenal diet coach, a naturopath, and an integrative medical doctor I learned about the foods, supplements, water, therapies, meditations, affirmations, and mindset I’d need for total body wellness. However, I was back to my old isolation strategy.  It became clear to me that I lacked the skills for communicating my needs and my motivations for change with people around me!

Rather than inviting people into my experience and giving people opportunities to relate to me, I was always on to the next. On to the next set of people that could help me achieve some new goal. Always looking for happiness in circumstances rather than in my core values, and that’s probably because those values were not defined well. After getting flip-flopped from here to hell with my health, I have discovered that wellness is a core value of mine, and that has been a huge breakthrough for my power over social pressures!

I’m back to being a picky eater, and that means either preparing most of my meals the way I have to enjoy them for my health or asking for modifications/substitutions at a restaurant so I’m not only satisfied but also supported by their menu. I’ve spoken to all my friends and family about my health and my dietary needs, and they are on board! People have gone above and beyond to honor my lifestyle at get togethers, when picking restaurant to eat at as a group, and even when buying gifts.

I’m sure my abstinence from drinking or eating something that doesn’t serve me well can be annoying at times, but they’ll live and so will I. I just try not to take comments personal, and when I do I rely mantras, meditations, and affirmations to restore my peace and regain my clarity.  If you are going through a challenging time with a lifestyle transformation or health overhaul, feel free to shoot me an email at swhite@somafitness.com!