If your family doesn’t want to eat what you want to eat, you are not alone.
That’s definitely part of the challenge for many of us with diabetes or who are trying to lose weight.
But for some of us, there’s a different obstacle on top of that. Some of our family members say things or have judgments about our food that make it even harder.
Have you ever had anyone say:
You shouldn’t be eating that.
That looks disgusting.
I don’t care if you have diabetes, I’m not eating that.
Our family member’s comments about our food or our health can have us feeling anything from shame to anger. If you’re anything like me, you might start feeling sorry for yourself and overwhelmed with everything.
You might think things like:
I can’t do this. It’s too hard.
I’m the only one that has this problem.
My family doesn’t support me.
And then there’s always the “helpful coworker” with the tips on how well they can manage their blood sugars with insulin while still enjoying ice cream every night. 🙄
Unwanted advice. Too much advice. The wrong advice. Or outright deriding comments.
No wonder we’d rather not deal with our diabetes in these situations.
Food is such a major part of our culture that needing to stick to a certain diet can make you feel different and, sometimes, downright lonely.
A very common thing I hear people say when we are talking about food is, “I just want to feel normal again.”
I want to address this today because I want to offer you 2 gifts:
- Helping you see that your desire to feel normal is rooted in your human brain’s wiring.
- Helping you see what you REALLY want, which is NOT to be normal. 😆
Why we want to feel normal
Nobody wants to be the weird one. Especially in middle school.
It might be helpful to know why this is important to you. When you understand your human brain, it gives you comfort to know that WE ALL have a basic human desire for the same thing.
We want to BELONG. We want to be ACCEPTED. We are evolved to prioritize this because it was essential for our survival.
We are social creatures who evolved in tribes. We thrived in communities of people who kept us safe and shared resources. Those of us who collaborated effectively reproduced and prospered.
Much of our habits are learned from our families. The culture we are raised in shapes our expectations and norms, like how many children we have, what kind of career we choose, and what kind of car we drive.
Being “normal” means we fit in. It’s attractive. Going against the norm can be disastrous.
We can be rejected, isolated, and vulnerable to harm. No bueno. 👎
The biggest influences on what we think is “normal” or ideal comes from three main groups:
- Our closest company: the people who surround us most of the time like family and friends
- The majority: mainstream popular opinion
- Our idols: the people who we want to be like because we admire and respect them
We NEED to feel connected to people we care about. Feeling accepted by them is a critical piece of our human experience. As James Clear says in Atomic Habits, “Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.”
This is why it’s comforting to have others join you when you’re indulging or making bad choices. It’s an unsaid endorsement. “Everyone’s doing it.”
Now that you know why your desire to feel normal is simply how your brain is programmed, you might have a little compassion for yourself when you feel “different” or “weird.” It’s just your brain telling you you are in danger.
Next, let’s take a look at what’s ACTUALLY normal. What if you are completely normal?
Is normal the goal?
Here are some population norms in our modern American culture:
- More than half adults have prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes
- Up to 85% of adults have insulin resistance, the problem that defines Type 2 diabetes
- Expected to rise since last measured in 2016, 71.6% of adult Americans were overweight or obese
What are normal dietary habits in the U.S.?
- The average adult consumes about 57 lbs of sugar every year
- Most Americans now eat 5 meals per day rather than the traditional 3
- Portion sizes are double and even triple what was typical in 1970
- Almost 60% of an American’s daily calories comes from “ultraprocessed” food
So now I want to ask you: Are you normal? Do you want to be “normal?”
If normal is unhealthy, is “normal” a good thing?
Maybe the truth is, you want to be healthy.
Thinking “I just want to be healthy” feels completely different and drives different decisions than “I just want to be normal.”
Words matter. Choosing intentionally can make all the difference.
What to do about your family’s expectations or comments
When your family isn’t supportive of the decisions you are making to take care of yourself, you have 2 choices:
- Think thoughts that feel terrible and drive unwanted actions
- Think thoughts that feel good and drive desired actions
Most of us are not making the choice intentionally but rather are thinking on default.
When our partner says, “This dinner is terrible,” we think it means we have to cook and eat food that is bad for us. We feel resentful.
When our coworker says, “Aren’t you a diabetic? You shouldn’t be eating that,” we think that is what makes us feel ashamed or annoyed.
The truth is: there is a step we are forgetting in between.
Our partner’s or our coworker’s words don’t make us do or feel anything. They don’t mean anything until we have a thought about them.
We hear the words. We have thoughts. We feel bad, and then we act from this place.
Your power is in your thoughts. You can choose to think anything you want about the “rude” or “annoying” comments.
What you want to do is choose thoughts that feel better and move you toward actions that you want to take.
Let’s take an outrageous example for fun.
Let’s pretend that your sister or mother brings dinner over to your house that is simply awful for your diabetes. And it’s your birthday. Everything you don’t normally allow in your diet: pizza, cheesy bread, cookie dough, cake with ice cream, coke, all the things.
You know you can’t and don’t want to indulge because it’s not only going to wreck your blood sugars, but you’re going to feel horrible after you eat it. So you politely decline.
You say something like, “I really appreciate you doing this for me on my birthday. It’s so thoughtful and makes me feel loved, but I’m not going to eat because I know I’ll get sick if I do.”
Your mom or your sister flips out. They get really upset. They say mean things like, “You never told me this. I’m so disappointed. I feel so bad that I did all this, and you don’t even appreciate it.”
This is the moment you get to choose thoughts about their words that serve you and your goals. The thoughts you choose have to be true for you. You know if they work by how they feel when you think them.
Here are some suggestions that you can try on to see if they would work for you:
Eating this food is not going to help me or them.
They don’t understand, and that’s OK.
Their thoughts and feelings are about them, not about me.
It really doesn’t matter what thought you find. You know it works if you:
- Feel good and like your reasons for your decision
- Take the action that is in alignment with your goal or what is important to you
- Keeps you in integrity with the commitment you have made to yourself
The truth is that if this person who is not liking your food or your decisions truly cares about you, it’s your company and well-being that they value most. Not what or if you eat. They wouldn’t want you to make yourself sick with the food.
If they do, why are you caring what they think anyway? This might be the right time to examine the answer to this question.
I want to open your mind to the possibility that you can make decisions to take care of yourself no matter what your family thinks, says, or does.
You can cook a wonderful, healthy meal for your family, and they can throw their plates in the trash and order pizza to eat in front of you, and you can experience this without self-pity, offense, or resentment. Because it’s the thoughts you have about this situation that cause suffering, not something outside of you. Accepting that is where you claim your power.
Is this easier said than done? For most people, yes. That is because it’s hard to get outside of your own mind to see the thoughts that are painful. I coach people who want to reach their goals no matter what happens.
Instead of getting sicker over time, my clients are controlling or reversing their diabetes and getting off their medications forever.
Questions? Reach out here and I will reply in 1-2 business days: