For many people, food and drink are a part of identity. They can feel deeply connected with culture, traditions, and entertainment. For some, meals serve as tangible connections to home. Sharing these experiences with family and friends creates a great sense of community — meaning that changes in your diet can sometimes cause friction. They might feel rejection, confusion, or a need to censor themselves. It might also be that they feel conflicted about their own eating habits.
The key to navigating this friction is listening and sharing — along with understanding that different people have different bodies, different metabolisms, and different neurologies. What is fine to eat or easy to resist for one person can be a real challenge for another.
First — and perhaps most importantly — you should invite them to share their concerns and feelings about the changes you are making. Whether it’s a partnership, a friendship, or a kinship, remember that this isn’t a win-lose situation. Both sides have needs, wants, and feelings. Without their input, it can be easy to blow things out of proportion and easier still to convince yourself that they don’t care about you.
Formulate a question like the following, changing it to suit your situation, and rehearse it:
“I know that this holiday/gathering is important to you, and a big part of it is the food we share. Can you share how you feel about the the choices I’m making and how they impact you?”
Give them plenty of time to share: no interruptions, rebuttals, or defenses. Restate what you’ve heard to make sure you’ve understood. Now ask for your own opportunity to share. Describe the positive changes you’ve noticed in your life as well as the challenges you face. If you are comfortable, share your fears. When you both internalize each other’s perspective, you can begin to understand what really matters to both of you.
“After changing my diet, I have more energy, better focus, more confidence…”
“It has been difficult to resist the cravings of my old favorite foods, but I know eating them will put me further from my goal.”
Different Bodies, Different Needs
Sharing the changes you’ve felt since starting keto can open up a discussion about individual bodies and individual needs. Many people have grown up wondering why everyone around them is able to eat the same foods but don’t end up with the same problems. It can lead to a dangerous headspace, full of failure and self-criticism. But when you consider all of the factors that contribute to an individual’s health and relationship with food, it becomes obvious that the same answer can’t apply to everyone.
If you feel comfortable doing so, invite your family member or friend to share their relationship with certain foods. Ask them if there’s any time they’ve felt a physical change when they ate a certain way. Maybe they experience intense cravings for certain foods. Share your own experiences as well.
Disassociating Food, Fun, and Connection
There’s a common assumption that food and drink are the keys to having a good time and connecting with those around you, no matter if it’s a happy hour, dinner party, holiday, or even just a shared breakfast. If you find that your family member or friend is worried about losing a connection with you, explore other avenues for connection. If their home culture is important to them, try reading books by people of similar backgrounds. Perhaps a movie night? A sampling of each other’s music? Invite their friends or family to contribute and share in the experience as well.
While it may seem like the friction is about the food, more often than not it stems from something deeper. Listening to their concerns and experiences as well as sharing your own can help in understanding not only what is causing the problem, but also how to address it.