Q: I remember reading a story that you posted about your aunt complaining about the food at your daughter’s birthday party. I’m having the same issue. Ever since I transitioned to my new lifestyle, I have been receiving flack from friends and family about the way I now eat. I know they are just teasing but after awhile, I get tired of hearing “You eat rabbit food,” or “I like eating REAL food.” This past weekend my family decided to have burgers from Culver’s and I told them I didn’t want anything. So we leave the drive-thru and my grandma says, “Tee, you really didn’t get anything?” They must not think I’m serious. Then my mom offered me lemon cake and I refused. I was at my mom’s house and was not prepared to stay as long as I did so I didn’t have my “clean” dinner that night. The only “clean” food item mom had was a can of green beans. I ate that with some seasoning and a glass of water. My mom then teased about how the house smelled like “bland” green beans. I said “I put seasoning in it.” She says “No, you don’t understand what I mean.” I, then, knew she was talking about fat and pork, etc. Then my grandmother goes on to say “Yeah I can’t just eat green beans all the time. I like REAL food.” I know she was teasing but it bothered me how ignorant they were being. I wanted to say “No, I am the one who IS eating real food. YOU are not! You eat over-cooked, fried, baked in fat, processed foods. I don’t!” I didn’t say that, of course. My mom said “Yeah I couldn’t eat that either.” I said “Well you just have to know the right combinations in order to make a good, nutritious, and filling meal.” My grandmother says “No, what she’s eating is good. She just has to watch her portions.” Now mind you, my mother is not at all overweight or even pudgy for that matter. She works out often and drinks lots of water. However, she has not made the changes that I have made. She is aware of what clean eating is. I guess she just doesn’t want to make the necessary decisions. I never once openly criticized what they ate but they teased so much about what I ate. Like I said, I know they were just teasing, but it bothered me. Friends tease me as well. How do I deal with it? Am I taking it too personally?
In short, yes… but so are they. Methinks the ladies doth protest too much.
I have my qualms about your grandmother saying “No, what she’s eating is good. She just has to watch her portions.” It smacks of that annoying little “everything in moderation” phrase that drives me nuts. No, what you’re eating isn’t always good especially if you have suspect ingredients.
It makes sense that our elders would take offense to us flat out rejecting what they grew up eating and blaming that for the misfortunne we are facing, especially if they’re not overweight or experiencing health problems. Now, mind you, they’ll still bristle at it even if they are overweight and experiencing health problems too – they’ll claim “well, I’m still alive, so…” and wonder what the big deal is. Our elders don’t really know why our traditional food has “turned its back on us,” but what they do know is that its hard to give up what they’ve always loved. It’s not your responsibility to put on your cape and try to save them. Besides, that’s only possible after they’ve had their “come to fitness” moment, and not a second before. (And I know that’s a hard approach to take on this, but think about if the shoe was on the other foot – would you want someone beating you over the head with how to change your life at every turn even though you were quite happy with how you life was going at that time? I don’t know too many people who would appreciate that. I, actually, don’t think I know too many people who wouldn’t toss you right out of the room after the fourth or fifth go at it.)
Let’s face it. They feel judged by our decisions, and they’re trying to make themselves feel better by derailing you. I don’t want to say that’s human nature, but to take the path of least resistance IS, in fact, human nature… and it’s easier to change YOUR mind than it is to adjust the history of how they’ve lived. It’s as simple as that.
At the same time, you’re letting this get to you far too much, and your inner masochist is coming out a bit – why are you sticking around for this? If I set down at a table and start to eat, and in comes the tag team to try to throw shade? Deuces. I set the terms of any conversation in which I participate. And while I certainly won’t try to end the conversation among myself and my elders, I certainly can remove myself from it. If they walk in talk in’ that ying yang, I’m only going to sit through so much of it. I leave.
That’s my advice to you – leave any environment that makes you feel less comfortable, less secure, and less welcome. It sends a distinct message to the other participants in the conversation without making the situation far worse: suppose you said something to tell them to try to make them leave you alone? Seeing as how that already didn’t work in the beginning – “I put seasoning on it” apparently was an epic and confusing failure – then what happens? You keep going, wind up getting emotional, and then get shamed for being some form of “little girl” or “crybaby?” You get a little TOO buck wild and you say something super disrespectful to your elders? I’m all for protecting and defending myself, but I’m also big on respecting my elders. For me, this is a hand-in-hand type situation.
This is also why I’m big on simply leaving the room. Taking my toys and going home, yes. It’s hard to feel chastised by your elders. Makes you wanna go cry in the car…or is that just me? (Hey, I can admit I’m a punk when it comes to my Mama.) As soon as they start up, you pick up your bowl and head elsewhere. Two things, here, may happen. Either they’ll “Awww, come back!” you or they’ll laugh and continue to crack jokes as you leave, which you REALLY don’t want to be a part of, anyway. Either way, someone – probably your mother – will come back and talk to you, in a different tone, about your choices. If she’s already fit, she should see the value in you becoming more like herself, and if she doesn’t then you can take that time (while you’re leaving) to think of ways to explain that to her. Explain that some of us have to do what we have to do, and for some of us, this includes skipping the fat and salt in order to reduce how addicted you feel to it. Explain that there are a thousand ways to eat green beans or [insert newly-controversial vegetable] and salt and pork covered isn’t the only way to go. Explain that you want her support in this, but if she’s not going to give it, then there’s gonna be lots of “these slippers were made for walking” going on and far less time spent together inside that house. It’s that simple.