Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: Clean Eating, Your Relatives and Criticism

Q&A Wednesday: Clean Eating, Your Relatives and Criticism

by Erika Nicole Kendall

You could also always just laugh, give 'em the #obamaface and ask 'em "Why are you so worried about what I eat?"

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.

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K. October 5, 2011 - 11:30 AM

Great response. That pic though? LMAO!

I just don’t talk about what I eat/don’t eat for the most part. I’m not about the be explaining ish…I just do what I do.

Lacretia October 5, 2011 - 12:17 PM

Great post! I believe that family can be one of the biggest reason some people grow up and become obese because people are creatures of habits and want to stick to what they are used to. I have an aunt and cousin that are big and I have tried to give them tips but they continue their fast food diets and crazy soda drinking. At the end of the day I realize that I can’t make someone eat the way I eat. They have to want to do better.

I have started to add clean foods to my diet and I realize that it is a lifestyle change and can be a problem if you have people in the household that disagree.

DarkAugustChild October 5, 2011 - 1:16 PM

Great post. I HATE when somebody wants to comment on what I’m eating not matter what I’m eating. I’m going to eat “clean” instead of what’s offered I get the “Well what the heck can you eat?”, I decide to eat my first donut in two months even after I’ve budgeted my eating for the day so I could have that one donut I get “Don’t eat that it’s junk etc.” I’ve just gotten to the point I’m like LEAVE ME ALONE! *Woosah* So annoying.

Tiera October 5, 2011 - 7:40 PM

I’m shocked she actually put my post up! lol! I totally agree tho! People think that the only types of food you can eat are either greasy and pork fried or “White people food.” Then if you decide to indulge occasionally, they say “I thought you were on a diet.” That burns my rubber! A lot of times I just want to say “Look, I’m not on a diet for one. I am changing the diet that I already have. To say that I’m on a diet would imply that I’m going to go back to my old eating habits once I lose the weight. I don’t plan on doing that. So, no, I am not on a diet. For two, I never said that it’s wrong to enjoy the occasional treat. Whoever wrote that rule is completely wrong and if it is, in fact, a rule, then it’s about to be broken.” But I’m sure that saying that would only invoke silence and crazy stares followed by some offensive words. I really should learn to let it go, however, people, especially family and “friends” should learn to accept and encourage my new lifestyle. It is not a phase. It is an all around lifestyle change. At this point, I don’t even desire the foods I used to eat. The thought of eating that way literally turns my stomach. I’ve found ways to “hook up” my clean foods and make them “seem” or maybe even “taste” unhealthy without the unhealthy ingredients.

Erica October 5, 2011 - 10:19 PM

This Memorial Day weekend I visited family in South Carolina for the first time in years. A cookout was held in my honor. While the chicken, ribs, macaroni and potato salads, etc. was floating around, I made sure that I had a salad to eat at the cookout. I was able to continue eating clean by having a super big salad and grilled chicken. I’ve been eating clean for years. I didn’t comment on what others ate at the cookout, I just ate my food and enjoyed myself. I show my intent and my beliefs by my actions. My body, my natural shiny hair and my eating habits speaks volumes. Your health journey takes time for you to get accustomed to. It takes time for family and friends as well. Let your actions speak for you. You don’t need to explain why you are loving yourself by eating better! Just do you, take it day by day, and continue your self care journey!

Tiera October 6, 2011 - 1:53 AM

My utmost thanks are extended to you for the encouragement! I am actually much further than I thought in my “transition.” I went to a whole foods market and bought a small container of homemade almond brittle butter ice cream. It was homemade so the ingredients were nothing short of natural. My favorite is actually butter pecan but I couldn’t find any of that. It sat in my freezer for awhile before I popped open the lid and gave it a try. It was like a taste of Heaven! I didn’t just eat all of it in one sitting. So I finally finished the container and decided to give the old Breyer’s Butter Pecan ice cream a whirl for old times sake. I was utterly disappointed. It didn’t even compare to the almond brittle ice cream. It actually made my stomach hurt not because of the flavor of choice, but because I could taste every bit of the “process” in it. Now Breyer’s isn’t as processed as other store bought ice creams. In fact, it is probably among the cleanest. It’s still processed, however. I mean, what are “Lactate Enzymes?” Describe that to me lol. Anyway, needless to say my appetite and even my taste buds have definitely changed.

Erika October 5, 2011 - 10:29 PM

I have the same problem, but it’s mostly at my job.

My co-workers do this to me all day. They see me munching on cherry tomatoes or eating yogurt & granola, and they’re like “are you sick?” or “do you need money for lunch?” When I explain I’m eating healthier, I always get a laugh and good luck. I hate even going to meetings because everyone brings donuts. I politely refuse and bring green tea w/honey with me to sip on to keep the sweet tooth at bay.

Temptation is oh so hard though….

Tiera October 6, 2011 - 9:14 PM

Same issue here lol. A few weeks ago my company decided to order pizza for everyone. I put in a request for an all veggie, cheeseless pizza. I paid, of course. Well, I forgot all about it and brought something from home (it was clean). I ate a slice of the pizza that I requested and a lady asks me “Are you allergic to cheese?” “No, I’m watching what I eat.” “Oh.”

Keydra February 22, 2012 - 10:38 PM

True story: A few years ago I was sharing an apartment with my first cousin who has always been the textbook beauty queen, slim and gorgeous. At the time I was beginning the vegan Daniel Fast along with a few friends of mine. (I know now that fasts only work in the short term, and that gaining the weight back is inevitable, but that’s a conversation for another day). Anyway, I did really well. I came up with all kinds of creative ways of enjoying fruits and veggies. It was a struggle, but man I felt great.

About a week into our 30 day fast, I went in our freezer for frozen green beans and find that my cousin had purchased my fat-girl kryptonite: Mayfield German Chocolate Ice Cream. *cue gasps from the audience*

It took a lot of will power but I calmly pushed it to the back of the freezer and grabbed my beans. I finished my fast without even a second look at that ice cream and eventually forgot that it was there.

So, a week or so after my fast was over, I go in the kitchen to find my cousin fixing herself a bowl of that evil ice cream. And once she removes the lid, I noticed that she was opening it for the first time. I asked her was that the same ice cream she’d bought last month.

She replied, “Yeah, it is. I actually put it up there for you to see if your were gonna to break your fast. You surprised me though, because i just knew you were gonna dip into this ice cream. You did good.”

Man… I can’t count the number of expletives I deleted as I told her that maybe I was stronger than she thought.

Erika Nicole Kendall February 22, 2012 - 10:46 PM

Unbelievable. And gross. Ugh.

Annette April 2, 2012 - 2:23 AM

I totally agree about the whole respect issue. I was always a vegetable eater, yet because of time issue my Mom as a working Mom and did what was best. Now that I have been more conscious eater. My body just won’t do the mac and cheese, collard greens in bacon or the fried chicken. I get sick digesting it. My body loves raw food or food that is very close to raw, also soups, and vegan meals. I do a combination of both raw and cooked. The body needs some salt, and water to flush toxins out properly. I noticed it’s a balancing act. If I don’t have enough sodium I am dehydrated, the water I just drank seems to flush through my system quickly.

Now that my parents have outlived their own mothers, fathers, grandfathers, and grandmothers, and even great grandmothers and grandfathers. They have changed their diets, to live a healthier life style.

Yet there is an issue with sabotage. I have noticed it with my Mothers friends and women of her generation. Not sure what it is about. Is it the wish for more time to change their lives to live a different life? Or is it because you are changing and going a different direction and creating your own path? I just don’t fight with my mother it just gets me upset, if I am totally committed to myself she can’t shake me. Isn’t it more about our commitment to ourselves? When my grandmother changed her diet because of health concern she quietly did her own thing. I remember going to spend time and having to eat what she made which was great. I came back 10 pounds lighter. My mother was so upset she didn’t want to change the way her family eat I was her child and she decides. I never saw her so upset and shaken. So now I don’t go to eat just to visit so it doesn’t become an issue. Add foods and prepare it the way I like to share usually their curiosity gets the better of them.

Linda April 25, 2012 - 3:12 PM

great post. i’d also like to challenge folks here though when the writer mentions that her mother’s not overweight or pudgy but just doesn’t eat the right foods. i think size misconception is a big problem in our community and society-at-large. if what’s going in ain’t healthy, it’s still hurting you and making you sick even if you’re not 300 pounds.

Bannef May 13, 2012 - 3:12 PM

I think this is a great post, and that this is a really good point, but the thought of walking out on my mom’s family dinner… *Shiver.* I know I’m a full grown woman and get to make these decisions myself, but damn if it isn’t hard to remember that when I’m at her table.

Altrovise May 16, 2012 - 1:16 PM

I must say all of the stories I read are really helpfull because that’s the problem I’ve been having since eating clean. Why do certain black people think eating clean is a white thing? Growing up I was tall and skinny then I had 5 children and really didn’t watch what I ate in between my having my children. I grew up in a military family and my dad would buy clean foods in order to keep his weight under control. I had my fifth child in May of 2009 my weight reached 228 after delivery at 5’8″ 256 was the heaviest I’ve ever weighted during pregnancy. I was tried of shopping at the plus stores and I wanted to eat clean again.

The women I worked with at time worked out and would invite me too the gym. I started going with my co-worker and eating clean. I lost about 37lbs without pills or frills. I just eat clean and worked out. But then, the problem came with my husband and family. I think he was getting jealous of all the compliments I was getting. I would invite him to exercise with me and he didn’t. But he knew sweets were my down fall so he would put them in front of me as we laid in the bed together at night. I slowly started back because I couldn’t handle the stress but that’s another part of the story. He started compliaining to me and certain family members that I wasn’t eating with the family. And I was exercising way too much. He isn’t working right now so he would fry his chicken but, bake mine. He would put a pound of salt on the food (literally) so I couldn’t eat it. Then, he started complaining I wasn’t spending enough time with the children. Mind you they would go with me too the gym and they like going. I come home from work and the first thing they ask me are we going to the gym.

I changed jobs and those sweets my husband were giving me at night started to become a comfort for me. I was dealing with a lot at one time. I had just found my self spiraling downward again. I’ve gained 23lbs back and I work six days a week. Getting a day off is like pulling teeth. I continue to work out 4 times a week but it’s truly upsetting when I know I was on a role. I was getting to my goal weight. The only person who supported me were my parents everyone else were giving me hell about exercising. Saying things like “You are trying to be skinny like a white woman”. I am just trying to be healthy. My mother is a type 2 diabetic with lupus. All of my maternal aunts had breast cancer and died from complications of the diease or the diease itself. Any suggestions because my husband doesn’t seem to want to change and wants me too tons of fun.

Annette May 16, 2012 - 3:25 PM

I know you have a lot to handle with 5 children but have a heart to heart with your husband. What is really behind the sabotage. Also have a heart to heart with yourself. I was eating a lot of sweets, which was an indication of not enough natural sugar in my diet so now I include fruits with my meals.

If you are feeling lonely and upset about the job find someone you can talk with and work out your stress. Also meditation can start with just 5 minutes a day whenever you feel stressed or under pressure. Before you eat the sweets the next time ask yourself why is it lacking energy or do you need more protein in your diet or leafy greens. Leafy greens diminish stress. Explain to you husband how YOU feel when he does certain things. It’s about you and what you do through your stress and how YOU need his love an support. Just a few suggestions I hope it works.

Lee March 13, 2013 - 8:45 PM

I am catching flack for cutting back (and out) fried foods. Yes, I still eat meat, but its not deep double friend in etc anymore. I have been told “that’s not real food. Chicken isn’t supposed to look like that. Why are you eating all those veggies?” *jeez* Can I eat in peace please? Thanks.
If I am at a family dinner then I simply pick and choose what I eat. I will make certain things myself to ensure it is not bombarded with heart stopping ingredients.
I can say that my mom and dad are getting better about their eating habits too. The rest of the family? hmm…not so much.

Chris May 3, 2013 - 10:48 AM

One of my biggest problems is all the food that is brought in to work as perks from vendors…and yes I do catch some flack also for not digging in but I am winning the battle!

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