How to deal with well-meaning saboteurs

However well-meaning our family, friends and colleagues might be, they can often be the unwitting saboteurs of our healthy eating intentions. This gentle pressure can ramp up at Christmas-time, making it particularly difficult to stick to our health plans.

While your knee-jerk reaction might be to lock yourself away in order to avoid temptation, or to surround yourself solely with supportive people, this isn’t really a long-term solution. We’re always going to come up against peer-pressure whether we like it or not – the best thing is to have tools in place so that we are able to deal with it.

If you do want to mindfully indulge in some food and drink with family and friends, I would encourage you to wholeheartedly enjoy them! But if you’re constantly feeling pressured, uncomfortable or guilty because of comments aimed at your healthy eating, it might be time to look at putting some boundaries in place.

Here are a few common sabotage phrases, along with some ideas for how to respond to them:

Sabotage phrase

Creating temptation: “Oh go on, one little slice / glass / piece won’t hurt you!”

The special occasion: “But it’s Christmas / Easter / Great Aunt Joan’s Birthday!”

Feeling rejected: “You used to love my Christmas cake, what’s wrong with it now?”

Unwanted gifts: “I’ve baked your favourite cake / bought you your favourite treats”

The put-down: “You are so boring nowadays!” (A phrase commonly used by someone who’s had far too much to drink!)

The unwarranted health concern: “You’ll waste away!”

The subtle dig: “You’re making us all look bad, aren’t you?”

Response ideas

Politely but firmly decline (“no thanks” should do it). You might have to repeat a few times!

If you decide it’s worth indulging on a special occasion, go ahead! Otherwise, politely decline.

Thank them for their kindness. Explain that you’re feeling so much better since making changes and want to stick to them.

Explaining ahead of time that you won’t be indulging can help. Otherwise, thank them for their gift and kindly decline.

Again, making a joke can help. Or smile politely and change the subject. Depending on how aggressive the comment is, you might want to leave the conversation.

Assure them that this is not a crash diet, and you’re making changes for your health.

Sometimes best to just laugh it off. Or explain how much better you feel since making changes to your diet.

You might be surprised that your loved ones are actually supportive once you explain what you’re doing and why. Who knows, they might even want to get involved themselves! Try and get them engaged by talking to them about what you’re doing, offering to make a healthy side dish / dessert or bringing a nice bottle of something non-alcoholic.

And finally – don’t take it to heart! Not everyone will understand what you’re doing or why. And they don’t need to. It’s you that’s responsible for your health journey, and only you truly know your motivations behind this.